by Todd Youngblood
Manufacturing executives said it didn’t apply to them. (They were dead wrong.) Software development executives said it didn’t apply to them. (They were dead wrong.) Business & technology services executives said it didn’t apply to them. (They were dead wrong.) Sales executives, managers and professionals KNOW FOR SURE it doesn’t apply to them. And of course they are right. Right?
Right off the top… If you already know that “Lean” management concepts don’t apply to sales, STOP reading right now and go do something else.
If you’re still with me, you have at least a vague inkling that a visceral understanding and application of Lean principles can have a dramatic effect on sales effectiveness. (…and, oh baby, can it!!!) Think about your sales process in terms of the 5 Lean basics:
- Value – Answer two questions about each activity you perform. What value does it provide to the customer? What value does it provide to your company? If your answer to both is something like, “not much,” stop wasting time on that activity.
- Value Stream – Write down the key milestones that must be reached to win a deal. Take it from identifying a potential opportunity through verifying that the customer is satisfied with what you delivered. Put them in the proper sequence. (In other words, write down the stages in your sales process.) Consistently follow the steps in sequence.
- Flow – Identify the major factors that keep an opportunity from flowing smoothly and continuously through your sales process. Work with your colleagues to figure out ways to reduce the impact of those factors.
- Pull – Identify a few situations where it was the customer that drove your sales process. Why did that happen? What caused it? What can you and your company do to re-create those circumstances? Does this thought process suggest any changes that should be made to your value stream?
- Perfection – Repeat the above four steps until your sales process is perfect. (Obviously you will never attain perfection, but you just might achieve excellence if you do it well and keep at it long enough.)
As soon as you get comfortable with “Lean” thinking applied to your sales process, start applying it to the customer business processes affected by your products and services. Your customers already familiar with Lean will be impressed. You’ll be one of the few sales reps with that kind of knowledge. Those not already familiar with Lean will see in you a whole new source of value. They will see a sales rep that genuinely adopts a customer perspective and is dedicated to making them more efficient and effective.
Pick up a copy of Lean Thinking by Womack and Jones. Read it. Apply its principles. Become more valuable to your customers.
Think about it…