3 Keys for Selling in the Midst of Supply Chain Disruption

The great supply chain disruption spans across industries and sectors. For sellers at the head of the supply chain — and their buyers who want the end solution — this has amounted to unprecedented delays and price hikes. Even service-based industries have not been immune to these disruptions; they have been experienced in the form of talent shortages, where there just are not enough people to serve clients and customers.

Accenture has found that 94% of Fortune 1000 companies are feeling these disruptions. Another 55% are downgrading growth outlooks in response. The August 2021 Chief Executive CEO Briefing likewise notes vastly different outlooks for the future from leader-to-leader.

Many issues have contributed to this situation. From initial lockdowns in 2020, to cargo container shortages, to shipping costs rising to 13 times more than pre-COVID levels, to shipping vessels remaining 2.5 times longer at anchor before they can port — these issues are revealing how expansive, close and fragile these links are in the supply chain.

Albeit a mega-monster of a challenge, sellers are not powerless to manage these issues until longer-term resolutions are found and market order returns.

Supply Real Value

Supply chain disruptions have caused massive frustrations for sellers and buyers alike. But there are ways sellers can effectively navigate this to best Seek to Serve™ the buyer.

1) Control: Sellers must come to terms with what is within their control and what is not, regardless of their wishes. Focus on what your team can manage — and then, manage it.

As a seller, you do not control the availability of your supply. You do not control finished goods, raw materials, production capacity, shipping timing in the manufacturing sector, or talent availability (either capacity or capability) in a services sector. What you do control is what you sell:

  • Work with your buyers to identify the solution they need but also a contingency plan that you know you can provide and have available.
  • Go the extra mile and validate supply for the product or service.
  • Identify alternatives the buyer can employ (even if they don’t result in your direct compensation).

2) Communicate: Buyer frustrations are valid. Listen to these and let your buyers know you are listening and that you understand. Then be willing to have the difficult conversations about what is and what is not realistic for timelines, budgets and supply in the current environment. Beyond that, commit to Seek to Serve, Not to Sell™ for real value-exchange.

3) Compromise: There may be some situations where Seeking to Serve between market limitations and buyer needs will lead to compromise. Be willing to figure out solutions with your buyers and meet them in the middle if necessary. Maybe you can adjust pricing with premiums or by extending projects. Perhaps there is an alternative source for your solutions, between different warehouses, different components or different talent resources.

E2open found in its “2021 Forecasting and Inventory Benchmark Study: Supply Chain Performance During the Covid-19 Pandemic” that service levels for manufacturers fell 12 percentage points to 87% — representing a 13X increase in service risk for the year. For a $100 billion company, this drop in service could translate into a loss of about $12 billion. If this is true in your business, whether billions or millions, every percentage point you can help save matters — not just for your company but for your buyer as well, who is likely dependent upon your solution.

Inspire your teams to serve buyers with real value in these challenging times. Download our Seek to Serve, Not to Sell eBook.