How can Lean and Six Sigma help us increment our market share?
Hector, a sales and marketing manager for a company that makes heating equipment asks:
I called Hector, and he explained his problem this way:
“Our product has great market share in the residential market. My job is to grow the business in the commercial market. How can Lean Six Sigma help me to do that?”
Lots of B2B companies wish they had a starving market. Instead, they have competitors, and the market may even currently prefer those competitors. That’s the bad news. The good news is process excellence can help by breaking the problem down into smaller pieces, and then improving the pieces.
So, how do you break down the problem of growing market share? First recognize what we have to get people in the market to give us:
Attention – How do we make them more aware of Hector’s company and the value it offers?
- Consideration – How can we get them to consider offers from his firm?
- Trial – How can we get them to try out or test the application of his products to their problems?
- Usage – How can we get them to use more of the products and services?
- Referrals – How can we get them to refer to others who could benefit?
Notice the phrase “make them more aware of Hector’s company and the value it offers.” Who is “them?” Also, what is “value” to “them?”
Ever notice the most effective salespeople spend most of their time early in a sale asking questions and listening, rather than talking about their product? They are searching for the customer’s pain points and needs so they can figure out how to make a sale (hopefully at the highest margin possible).
Unfortunately, there is a limit to how much a B2B salesperson can accomplish on their own, especially when the challenge is to design a new sales process for a new market, and possibly some new or repositioned products as well. We are talking about trying to get the company as a whole to be interested in the customer’s problems. Companies rarely do that very well, but they should.
Below is a systematic approach for breaking this big challenge down into incremental steps that can be accomplished by a small number of people, one at a time. Each of these steps creates knowledge that informs the next steps, ensuring that progress is made. The result is a profitable, replicable, scalable sales process (in this diagram, PDCA stands for Plan, Do, Check, Act/Adjust, also known as the Deming management cycle):
Obviously, each of these steps has sub-steps. This sequence can be scaled from a single complex B2B sale (as perhaps of some complex and customized system or service), to a set of corporate departments churning out successful new products in existing and new markets.
If your customers have unmet needs, you can find them and fill them with this approach. Hector’s company has to deal with all the complexities of market channels like architects, distributors, contractors, not to mention the different people involved within the end user themselves. Every link in the chain has pain points and problems. If you solve any one of them, it could be a competitive advantage. Do a good job listening to all these customers, and they will literally tell you what they are trying to do and what prevents them from succeeding. Then, AFTER you verify a starving market, you can develop or decide what you are going to offer and design and test a sales process or campaign that is based on how the customer wants to do business. Do your customers want to find more information on the Internet? Do they want more tech support in the dealer network? Is availability of the correct fittings and adaptors at the time of installation the biggest problem? All these can be tested on a small scale to help you identify a winning competitive strategy – before you commit major resources.
Once you know you have a winner (i.e., you or your channel partners can reliably put five cents in and get ten cents out), a broader roll out is almost guaranteed to succeed. And, your competitors won’t know what hit them.
Do you really want to create the next sales dynasty in your industry? Recruit a savvy marketer, an experienced seller, a clever product development engineer, and a customer service expert to your team. Ask them to design a sales funnel by following these steps. I promise you that sales funnel will flow faster than anything you’ve ever seen.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.