Lean sales – what prevent you from accelerating sales now

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Your ability to develop an opportunity into sales has been limited by five main sales obstacles. But as the pace and risk is up in most markets a new factor is coming into play as the main obstacle. Learn how your sales team can become more agile by leveraging lean sales principles.

Add own agility to the five classic sales obstacles

Five obstacles have always hindered your ability to drive sales. Clients with no need, no money, no hurry, no desire and no trust. The interest to achieve a gain might be there, but the pain is not big enough to pursue change. The business improvements are quantified, but other more urgent investments are prioritized. The timing can be tomorrow, in a world where today’s pains get the biggest attention. Your client understands the opportunity to buy, but the emotional desire is not strong enough. And finally all the rationales are in place, but the trust to buy now is not in place.

Besides these five obstacles your ability to act fast enough is a new obstacle. Your ability to help your clients throughout their buying process is changing. Your clients contact you later and later, after having done proper web research. Their business reality is more complex than in the past. The need for supplier enabled innovation and new business models affect most industry sectors. The sixth major obstacle is your ability to offer an agile client interface.

Lean sales adopt principles from manufacturing

Toyota pioneered Lean principles in car manufacturing many ago. The basic ideas are applicable to sales challenges too. The central aspect for sales organizations to leverage is the shift to flow efficiency. An organization centered around flow efficiency aim to reduce hand-offs and cut the lead times. Sales organizations face two new challenges, increasing amount of questions and shorter and shorter time to respond.  To meet you need to can adopt lean principles in transforming your sales. The front line needs to be lean to support your clients. And your sales support teams need to be as lean as the front-line to achieve the desired agility.

The art of lean manufacturing is well analyzed and understood. The emerging art of lean sales is less developed. It is tempting to start from the lean manufacturing end and implement process improvements for existing flows. But since lean sales is about how you better serve your clients, the client end is the best starting point. The better you understand the drivers for increased agility from the customer end the higher are your odds to succeed. With the righ focus you eliminate the risk of spending efforts on optimizing flows with little or declining client value. An outside-in starting point increases the chances of doing the rights things.

Important building blocks for lean sales

The first insight when implementing lean sales principles is perhaps that is not a complete suite of things to do. Rather a suite of things you can consider where each building block could be relevant in your organization. You can implement a lean sales operation in many different ways. And the best way can differ between your teams depending on which clients and markets they serve.

Each team is responsible to define the lean building blocks that they can benefit from the most. And lean is not just an objective. To become lean a lean approach in implementing lean sales is desirable. You are likely to implement lean in a sales organization already running at full steam. And with the shift from resource efficiency to flow efficiency you are likely to increase the initial resource need  when adopting lean. Here is where you prioritizations and judgments come in handy.

Questions for you and your team

  1. Understand the idle sectors you have in your current sales set –up – flow efficiency will come from eliminating idle sectors in your processes.
  2. Find the right balance between resource efficiency and flow efficiency – a too strong shift towards flow efficiency can be costly
  3. What are the lean structures we need to put in place – lean sales is not a quick fix rather the constructing of long lasting capabilities.
  4. What are the lean support flows we need – a lean front-line without a lean support flow or vice versa cannot be expected to deliver expected results.
  5. How do we want to use the KanBan boards – regionally diverse team need digital rather than physical boards.
  6. What are the swim-lanes representing our most important flows – if you end up with more lanes than an Olympic pool you need to prioritize harder.
  7. Which lean sales metrics do you want to adopt – it is important for your team to see if they win or loose when adopting something completely new.
  8. How do we compose a multi-faceted team – lean is hard to realize across silos and multi-faceted problems need a team of similar composition.
  9. Start by focus on establishing trust – significant improvements in initial turn-around times is the best way to build credibility for your program.

Additional reading

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