The promise of lean sales – reduce major idle sectors

senior manager is Giving a lot of work

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When running a business in fast paced markets you cannot afford long idle sectors. Sectors where a response to a question are held up by waiting times. A central element of lean sales is to eliminate sectors without value add and long waiting times.

Two different ways of dealing with travel expenses

Without a personal admin you have two options for how to deal with your travel expenses. A resource efficient way is to pile them up until you have a critical mass, and then do many at a time. A flow efficient way is to deal with the one at a time immediately after a business trip.

In the resource efficient way you focus on minimizing the time it take to do the actual work. But time between when the expenses occur and paid bills are longer and varies between expense reports. Even though you have minimized the time to do the work, it might drive negative side effects for a bigger issue. You need to get paid in time to settle expenses in time. The total handling time in this case could be several weeks.

In the flow efficient way you focus on minimizing total processing time. By handling all issues related to the expense report immediately you eliminate the time your receipts idle. And the total handling time is down to hours.

The value of eliminating idle sectors in sales

Customers are more and more demanding and expect faster and faster responses. With a higher degree of uncertainties in their own business they will ask vendors more questions and does it later. In addition to increasing volumes and later submissions you can expect the issues to be more complex. Complex questions with contributions from different stakeholders drive hand-over points. Each hand over point between silos in your organization represents a potential idle sector. Idles sectors have a negative impact on the buying experience. Clients can perceive you as slow, irresponsive or even lacking knowledge.

To deliver a 21st century buying experience you can come far by attacking your idle sectors. By eliminating the idle sectors you can kill three birds with one stone. You can handle large volumes of requests. You can handle more complex issues and you can address them with faster turn-around times. You can argue it is possible to handle higher requests volumes with a resource efficiency centric approach. But in reality the variation between requests is also greater. This make a flow efficient approach your safest bet.

Identify your major idle sectors

Advancing complex B2B opportunities requires a tighter co-operation between all contributing stakeholders. As you already run your sales activities efficiently you need to find the idle sectors in your team. Areas in your flows where information sit without immediate actions. You might have a critical competency that is driving idle sectors. You might have a growing number of contributing stake holders with unclear hand over points and criteria. You might operate with a mix of on/near-off-shoring driving location and time-zone related idling.

A good starting point is to look at both the demand and the supply side. A demand shift driven by how customers request information and what. A supply shift defined by where you have your major idle sectors. As a sales leader you want to focus on finding the major aspects of the demand and supply issues. Start by addressing the low hanging fruits for longer idle sectors with larger impacts first.

Questions for you and your team

1. How are changing information demands affecting your sales activities – look for changes in volume, timing and complexity in client requests.
2. What are the major idle sectors in your current operations – look for the largest ones with the biggest impacts.
3. What is causing the idle sectors in current flows – Think broad to find the best solutions.
4. How can we reduce the largest idle sectors – leverage your strongest process innovators for this stage of the development.
5. Which feasible targets can we set up for reducing these idle sectors – aim for quick wins.
6. Which incremental improvements are needed to sell in the digital domain – plan from the start which sales activities you envision as going digital soon.

Additional reading

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