Pull Opportunities Through Your Sales Process – Don’t Push

By February 15, 2011Lean, Process Thinking

This post is second in a series about applying “Lean” concepts in sales.  Read the overviewThis post will also provide useful perspective.

The idea of “Pull” as applied to the sales process is very counter-intuitive at first.  And realize, by the way, that to really make it sing, you first need a “perfect process,” which of course none of us has.  So it’s not a silver bullet.  It is, however, a dramatically different way to look at your sales process, and:

  • It forces a customer-centric perspective
  • It relentlessly reveals wasted effort
  • It reduces sell cycle time

Humor me and assume the funnel portion of your sales process is:

  • Identify Opportunity
  • Meet With Decision Maker
  • Establish Interest In Investigating Your Recommendations
  • Conduct Discovery
  • Present Recommendations
  • Close

Think of yourself standing at the “Close” end of your funnel and pulling opportunities through vs. standing at the “Identify” end and pushing them.  Typically, if not enough deals are getting closed, we focus on cranking up the prospecting engine.  We get a whole bunch of opportunities stirred up and start “working” them.  Let’s turn things upside down.

If not enough deals are closing, focus on finding the flaw in your recommendations.  Why isn’t this customer pulling you to close ASAP?  If the recommendation truly is a good one; something that will save or make money for the customer; it must be poorly stated.  The value of the recommendation needs to be clarified.  It’s something the sales rep didn’t execute well enough.  It’s not that the customer is too busy or too dumb to see the value.

Not getting enough audiences to present recommendations to?  Why isn’t this customer beating us up to hear what we have to say?  I’ll tell you why.  It’s because we haven’t stirred up enough enthusiasm with our discovery.  What else needs to be done to get everyone in the decision network to clearly see the problem and what it’s costing?  (…or see the unexploited opportunity and what it could mean?)  It’s something the sales rep didn’t execute well enough.  It’s not that the customer is too busy or too dumb to see the value.

See where I’m going with this?  Let’s flip back to a push mentality.  Let’s say we’re pushing on 10 opportunities trying to get them from “Interest” to “Discovery.”  We get one of them to pop forward.  Now what happens?  Yup, we start discovering the daylights our of that one.  Oooops!  We lose focus on the other nine.  Which of those will go stale first?  Get lost to a competitor?  Every time, it’s the one with a customer pulling on it.  The one with the decision maker feeling pull from the rest of the buying network.  When you’re busy pushing, it’s really, really hard to feel the pull from somewhere else.  Especially if I’m pushing on a deal close to closing and the pull is way back at “Interest.”

Counter-intuitive?  You bet.  Effective?  Don’t take my word for it.  Try it for yourself.  Then tell me about how much more customer-focused you become; how much wasted effort disappears; how much shorter your sell cycle becomes.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Sameh says:

    To establish Pull system, I believe we should have WIP limit set per stage at the value stream.

    Also, Pull from my view has a strong human dimension which make the down-stream stage eager to pull from the up-stream stage once it has available capacity.

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