Blog / Sales Process Improvement Forum

Do We Have the Bandwidth to Implement Process?

by Michael Webb | Comments (0)

John Wooden claps his hands in encouragement of his players in a practice session

A founder and CEO of a global transportation services company asked this very interesting question:

• Do we have the bandwidth to implement
process while the selling wheel must keep
turning?

Every company faces conflicts with time and resources when beginning to implement process excellence. Their people tend to perceive process as extra work they are being asked to do in addition to their “regular” work:

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What is the most effective way to get sales leadership to buy into lean process excellence in sales?

by Michael Webb | Comments (0)

A reader asked:

This is an important question,  and I’ve ansMichaelwered it before  (link1, link2, and link3).

An interesting experience with an editor recently relates directly to this issue. The fellow did not have much background in B2B selling much less lean or process excellence. His first comment on a piece I sent him was, “The text contains a lot of abstract nouns. Try to find ways to use figurative language to ‘concretize’ abstract concepts.”

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Why are improvements difficult to create in sales and marketing

by Michael Webb | * Comments (4)

A reader asked: 

  • Why do improvements seem so difficult to create in sales and marketing?
Leadership listening and acting

Leadership listening and acting

This is a good observation and a good question. The VAST majority of attempts to improve in sales and marketing don’t improve anything in the end. Scratch the surface of most consulting interventions, and you will see this.

Yes, there may be a new kind of sales training, or a new kind of CRM system, or whatever. Yet, in what way did productivity improve? Does the organization even measure productivity? Do they know how to measure productivity? Can they measure value to the customer? Can they measure anything, besides end results (orders, revenue)? Maybe the managers can rank order the effectiveness of their salespeople. So, what are they doing to make sales easier, to improve productivity of the team as a whole? 

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How Do You Sustain The Lean Process Initiative Long Term

by Michael Webb | * Comments (4)

A reader asked, 

  • How do I sustain the Lean process initiative in the long term?
Leadership listening and acting

Leadership listening and acting

This is sometimes referred to as “step-after-next thinking,” and it is one of the most important things you can do. “Once I make such and such change, how will I sustain it? How will I improve it?” This is especially interesting for sales and marketing.

First, lets assume you are able to create measurable improvements in sales and marketing. This is challenging enough in most companies, but doable. To learn simple things you can do to make improving easier, read “Why Are Improvements Difficult To Create In Sales And Marketing?“. 

Now, lets use the “5 Whys” approach. Why is it hard to sustain improvement in sales and marketing

Take a moment, and think about your answer.

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How To Take Time Needed For Lean Strategies When You Have Few Resources And So Little Time

by Michael Webb | Comments (0)

A reader asked: 

  • How can we take the time needed to identify, plan, and execute Lean strategies when we have so few resources (no one has any time)?
Time marches on!

Time marches on!

We often hear this question when we start working with clients. Leaders ask it in our early discussions. Then workers involved in improvement work also ask it.

Believe it or not, feeling this way is a sort of prerequisite for success.

First, without pain around your current condition, you and your team might not have the motivation to create an improvement. So, pain and pressure of some kind are a necessary ingredient.

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How To Turn Sales Around In The Shortest Possible Time

by Michael Webb | Comments (0)

A reader asked: 

  • What is the first thing you would do to turn sales around in the shortest possible time?
Prince William tries blindfold archery at new centre, Feb 2010

Prince William tries blindfold archery at new centre, Feb 2010

The first thing anyone has to do is to define their problem. Disappointing sales are never the problem; they are the symptom of a problem. Without realizing it, we in the North America tend to get confused around the term “problem.” That is because we do not have a tradition of defining our terms. In marketing and sales, most businesses engage in a form of blind archery. Unwittingly, they shoot solutions at problems they have not defined. That’s why nothing improves, and it feels like you are in a rat race.

What, exactly, is happening in your situation? Can you express it through observable, measurable data and evidence? Are sales going down from previous levels? If so, what has changed? Are they not rising fast enough? What made you think they would go up in the first place? There are tons of questions to ask, and they are all about defining what you know about the current state. That is how of find clues to potential causes.

Defining the problem differentiates process excellence from traditional management approaches in marketing and sales. You should never try to solve a problem you have not defined. Traditional sales and marketing tries things that sound good. This compounds the problems and makes it difficult to see what is going on. That’s why sales training doesn’t work, CRM systems don’t improve results, lead generation programs don’t increase sales, and on and on and on. 

Solving a problem begins with data and evidence, and proceeds in a systematic way from there. It uses the data to identify potential causes for the situation, and it seeks to find the root cause of a problem. When you confirm root causes with data, it tends to point to potential countermeasures. Countermeasures can then be tested. This is a scientific approach, and any other approach depends on blind luck. You either know what you are doing, because you can use evidence to trace the symptoms to root causes, or you don’t. 

The traditional approach is more “instinct” oriented. Often, executives commit enormous time and money based on gut reactions and “instincts.” Have you worked for years on “opportunity management,” “lead generation,” or “selling solutions”? Have the problems gone away? Then it is a safe bet you have not defined the problem. You only think you know what needs to change. You might not be able to know if improvement happens. B2B companies whistle away millions doing this daily. 

If you want to learn more, consider these articles:

Those should give you a good start. I look forward to learning how things go.  

Michael

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How Do You Transfer What You Have Learned In Manufacturing To Sales

by Michael Webb | Comments (0)

A reader asked: 

  • How do I transfer what I have learned in manufacturing to sales?

This is a worthy challenge, and although there is a lot to the answer, it can be divided into both good news, and bad news. 

Good News and Bad News

Good News and Bad News

The good news is that all the logical, critical thinking skills you learned how to apply in manufacturing also work in sales and marketing. In addition, the leadership and management skills you used in manufacturing are also applicable, and sorely needed. 

The main issue is that in sales and marketing: the value you are creating is entirely different than it is in manufacturing, and so the means of creating it is entirely different too. Value exists between the ears of the prospects and customers you are trying to influence. You can’t see it being created, unfortunately. However, if you think about it, this is really no big deal. You didn’t used to be able to “see” the value being created inside an injection mold or an annealing furnace either. Sometimes product came out right, other times it came out wrong. Engineers had to develop methods – basically sensors and computers – that enabled them to detect what was happening inside those manufacturing processes.

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How To Add Customer Value Throughout The Sales Funnel

by Michael Webb | Comments (0)

A reader asked: 

  • How do you add customer value throughout the entire sales funnel?

You already know value is in the eye of the beholder: It is what your prospect is interested in, what gets their attention, what they will pay for with their time, cooperation, and ultimately their money, and their testimonials and referrals.

The Buyer-Seller Disconnect

The Buyer-Seller Disconnect

 Nobody wants to have to deal with a pushy, self-interested salesperson. The diagram to the left is a bit of a simplification, but you get the idea (click to expand).

Think back to a time when you had to solve a business problem that involved depending on an outside company. You probably knew what a hassle and a risk it could be.

You may not have consciously identified the things you were looking for, but chances are they included such things as:

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What Is The Best Way To Get Buy In With Lean And CRM In General

by Michael Webb | Comments (0)

The founder of an innovative $3 million manufacturing company asked:

  • What’s the best way to get buy in with Lean and CRM in general?

It’s a great question, which goes to the challenges of leading sales and marketing. Since you used the words Lean and CRM in the same sentence, I’ll assume you have heard the stories about how Toyota’s production system supports the line workers. They really are at the top, responsible for quality. And they famously have the ability to stop the production line if they find defects. The entire management team’s job at Toyota is to find ways to help those line workers improve quality for the customer, while consuming fewer resources and less time doing it.

For Toyota, the value stream is assembling seats or body panels on a production line. In sales and marketing, the value stream is enabling prospective customers to take actions you want them to take.

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Do Highly Successful Companies Use Process Management Tools in Marketing and Sales?

by Michael Webb | Comments (0)
nail's victory over a hammer

A reader asked this question:

  • We’re wondering if highly successful, well-known companies use process management tools in marketing and sales?

By “process management tools,” I assume he means “Do successful companies use ‘5S, Kanban, work cells, Andon lights, etc.’ in sales and marketing?” 

The answer is yes, many companies have tried this, sometimes successfully.

However, as the old saying goes, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” And in this case, applying the tools of lean manufacturing is not the same as actually improving things, so often nothing useful happens. Many of these efforts are wasted, and sometimes the practitioners take a beating.

First, you want to understand the reasons for this. Then I’ll explain why process excellence in sales is such a fantastic growth and profit opportunity. 

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