I recently attended the International Compliance Professional Association (ICPA) annual conference and one of the common themes I encountered was the need to sell compliance internally. This was not a surprise to me, as this has been a constant challenge that I have observed over many years. Customs and compliance represents a very small cost on most companies profit and losses (P&Ls), especially versus what is spent on freight. The risk of a new cost - not budgeted for - can become a new addition to the P&L should something go wrong.
I spoke with one customs leader who told me that getting audited was the best thing to happen. It put an immediate spotlight on what her team does and the importance of having a living compliance plan. She called it “The why we do what we do”. The good news was that their intentional planning, process and consistent evaluation paid off and they were able to avoid any financial impact. This short term stress on, and time it took away from people conducting their day-to-day jobs was also a wake-up call. This audit gave her and her team exposure to the leadership on the great work they are doing to protect the company and more importantly, an opportunity to sell the importance of compliance throughout the company.
One excellent presentation outlined the keys to selling compliance internally. After completing an assessment of their current state of compliance, they built a risk and opportunity matrix. Following this, they began their pitch consisting of an:
Opportunity & Risk Overview
- Cost savings through Free Trade Agreements, Foreign Trade Zones and Duty Drawback
- How having a smooth inbound supply chain benefits her company and their outbound supply chain benefits their customers
- Avoiding fines, penalties, audits, legal fees and keeping their importer privileges
Field Trip (Walking a mile in their shoes)
- Invite leaders and people from other departments to sit with their team, observe all of the parties involved and actually perform some of the function
Get Buy in
- Identify process improvements that benefit the other departments
- Start at the top of each department and get sponsored down
She said it took her over two years to accomplish this and when new leaders came and went, she had to take each person through this sales process.
The toughest job in selling compliance is to get buy in prior to something going wrong.
Understanding your risk profile and comparing that against the cost of commitment, training and focus on compliance will give you the most effective proposal.
Tod Walton - VP of Sales and Marketing