Wheres My Cash? Sales & Ops Planning Overview + FREE Checklists

Kevin Mannering

Trying to grasp where your money is a brand owner can feel a lot like this...

Our COO, Kevin Mannering, did a great webinar in partnership with Branchfood on sales + ops planning which is included below.

We've also distilled the highlights in this post. Link to the FREE Checklists are at the bottom.

Key Definitions

S&OP = Sales & Operations Planning

A monthly business management process that integrates quantitative data from different parts of the business with the goal of driving better decisions around production planning, PO management, sales strategy, and product development. 

Bottoms-Up Sales Growth Plan

A velocity driven plan, by SKU by month by key account, that is developed by the sales team for their own benchmarking. Useful for generating an idea of what sales growth could be months or years in the future. Best updated, at least, bi-annually, if not quarterly.

Demand Forecast

A forecast of future demand based on past performance. This is your “baseline” forecast.

Demand Plan

A demand plan is based off of your demand forecast and any pertinent information from the sales & marketing and research & development teams, such as: new account resets, discontinuations, significant promotions or marketing events, changes to product launch timelines, etc.

Production Plan

A production plan lays out what finished goods you are producing and when, taking into consideration your co-packer’s requirements (or your own facility’s capacity constraints).

Material Requirements Plan (MRP)

An MRP takes into consideration what you need to order and when to meet production timelines.

Checklists To Help

The Process

S&OP process, illustrated

Success of your S&OP process depends upon proper preparation and communication from all stakeholders. 

  • Sales needs to have all new account launch information, discontinuations, and authorized promotional activity. 
  • Marketing needs to have an updated calendar of marketing events.
  • Analytics needs to have any new insights into velocity. 
  • R&D needs to have their updated product development schedule.
  • Operations needs have their baseline demand forecast. 

The team can coordinate schedules and collaborate with each other to decide what is going to be layered on top of the demand forecast (lifts due to promos, marketing events, or seasonality) or if anything needs to be taken out (low velocity at store level requires a negative adjustment, discontinuation of some SKUs is upcoming, etc).

Together, you will have built the Demand Plan, which the Operations team can take downstream to production and procurement with the security of knowing all stakeholders feel good about the numbers.

How This Process Impacts Your Financials

financial impacts of S&OP process

  • An updated demand plan enables you/your finance team to better predict revenue for the month. 
  • An updated production plan ensures you’re procuring the right amount of raw materials and spending money in the most effective way possible. 
  • Understanding the information that’s in your distributor agreements and what promotions are happening ensures that you don’t get hit with a large, unexpected bill for trade deductions. 

What Info Should Your Sales, Marketing, and Analytics Have? 

  • Marketing campaigns, both in-store and digital, affect your sales velocities so it’s important to understand when they’re happening. The rule of thumb here is, “If you approved it on Monday, you spent it on Monday.” 
  • There are many free/cheap sources of data via the big distributors like KeHe and UNFI that will give you an idea of how your products move by account and time of the year. Digging into this information is critical for planning. 
  • Quantitative data from brokers/sales can be gathered via regular communication about what products are in which accounts. 

What Info Should Your Product Development and Operations Have? 

  • All of your purchase orders should be all in one, organized place. 
  • When you’re sending products to distributors, think of it as an extension of your finished goods inventory. If it doesn’t sell, you’re on the hook for it so it’s important to have a conversation about optimal volumes so they don’t over order and you don’t over produce. 
  • While it may not always feel this way, your interests and your distributor/co-packer interest are aligned. Especially early on, where you need them much more than they need you, it’s important to create a good relationship that’s built on trust. 
  • Once again, regular communication with the other facets of your team is a key component to proper planning. 

Where it Goes Wrong

Spoilage Deductions


To avoid this in the future, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do we evaluate PO’s against our demand plan before fulfilling them?
  • Do we understand how much product is moving through our distributor’s DCs and where it is going?

Produced Too Much Inventory

To avoid this in the future, ask yourself a few questions:

  • At current demand (demand forecast), how long will this product last us vs. its production shelf life?
  • Are there other mitigating factors from sales & marketing that are telling us we have to make this product and have we measured those quantitatively?

Produced Too Little Inventory

To avoid this in the future, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Are my sales and operations teams communicating effectively?
  • Do we evaluate PO’s against our demand plan before fulfilling them?
  • Are my key account partners communicating effectively and is there anything I can do to help that process?

Negative Distributor Balance

Often times, a brand will get their invoice paid and the deductions for a promotion will come, after the fact, causing them to have a negative balance. 

To avoid this in the future, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Am I sending a monthly accrual report to my finance team?
  • Is my finance team reconciling deductions against that report so there are no surprises?

Need Help With Your Sales & Operations Planning Process?

This sort of thing is our bread and butter.

Drop us a line today!