What can be said about sales. It is that mysterious department located away from everyone else. You see them come and go, but you don’t really know what goes on behind closed doors. They are never seen at meetings or training because they are “out in the field.” So, there is the common misconception that they are not really part of the operational organization and are left alone to their own devices. If that were true, then why the heck are they even here? How possibly could you get the sales staff “back into the fold” for the organization, hold them accountable and apply lean principles to their workflow? If you step back from the misconceptions and emotions of the situation, you will find that accountability and lean principles can apply to a sales force and can be very effective.
One thing you must keep in mind is that sales is about revenue, which is the lifeblood of any organization. Whether you like it or not, without sales, an organization will dry up and wither away. Organic sales from existing customers will only support things for so long. New business or fresh sales must be consistently infused into an organization to keep growth moving up. Most CEOs from Fortune 100 companies will tell you that every young leader in an organization must spend some time in sales. It is crucial for building a successful leader. It provides a unique perspective and understanding of how the entire business holds together from start to finish. With that in mind, it takes certain skills and a mindset to be a successful sales representative. However, those exceptionally successful in sales will also tell you that the core of the sales cycle depends not only on relationships, but using the same processes every time to close deals.
When applying lean principles to sales, we need to be thinking about who are our customers, how do we value them, and how do we create value for them? Then you must understand what experience do we want to create through the entire journey from before they buy, through the buying process, and implementation. You must have a clear idea of this philosophy, or you can’t make the decisions that enable you to implement the philosophy through our organization to the customers. You must align sales with the customer’s buying process, maximizing their ability to win is fundamental. There are any number of ancillary processes in the sales process, which must be aligned.
Lean principles from manufacturing can be directly applied to any sales process, across any industry. It is really just about understanding the customer thoroughly and then applying the processes that are unique to a sales organization to achieve results. It takes a constant focus with a dedication to continuous improvement to achieve results.