A Recent Readers Question: How Easy & Quickly can I Implement Some of the Key Changes to Realize Sales Process Improvements in a Reasonable Short Time?

Thanks for your recent question on my website. Several people have asked it.

  • How easy and quickly can I implement some of the key changes to realize sales process improvements in a reasonable short time?

The answer looks different if you are in a large account/complex selling environment than if you are in a more commodity-oriented environment (perhaps with channels), but the principles are the same.

Lean and process excellence is a management method that maximizes value and minimizes waste. It thinks in terms of “value streams.” In sales and marketing the value stream consists of the actions you get prospects and customers to take.

Now, since you can’t control your prospects and customers you have to you do a better job understanding their problems, needs, and objectives. Salespeople who get good at this are able to discover the root causes of their challenges, so they can offer effective countermeasures. This is what we mean when we say, Lean process excellence is based on rational, evidence driven scientific approaches.

So, the first thing that should happen – and which usually produces dramatic short term improvements – is that the sales team must do a better job understanding their customer’s problems, needs, and objectives.

  • Often, firms go for years without rigorously analyzing and challenging this (i.e., tracing salespeople’s beliefs to observable evidence and facts, challenging assumptions, and standardizing on what we know, what is only a theory, and what just plainly isn’t so.)

One large chemical company client realized their salespeople were sending samples to virtually anyone who expressed interest in their product. It was difficult to get salespeople to relinquish this habit, but once a reasonable set of qualification criteria was established – and committed to in practice – the close ratio doubled, and the cost of sales was reduced by over $1 million per year. I have seen examples like this many times.

Often the simple process of defining the customer’s journey and then systematically defining what your company (and not just the sales team) needs to do to help customers move along each step reveals where the bottleneck is. This is a far cry from what happens in most companies where some senior executive uses gut instinct to decide where to make improvements. Using hard data instead insures that investments to fix the bottleneck have a high return on investment.

If you haven’t researched how your customers buy recently, you should!

Customer behaviors have changed in recent years: they are slower to trust sellers; they get information about solving their problems on the Internet, and do not want to listen to salespeople talk about their services. They want to deal with someone who is looking out for them. This means your prospects and customers have changed their behaviors, the flow of the customer’s journey has changed.

With your sales team’s help, you can move in the direction of detecting the quantity and quality of that flow, and systematically develop improvements and countermeasures that work. Every business is different; each has unique customers, employees, and problems.

Without a means of detecting the unique problems in their situation, managers have no choice but what I call the “usual fixes” depending on what their gut feels like on any given day: Change territories, sales managers, sales training, compensation programs, or any other “fix” that is not driven by a rigorous diagnosis of the data.   

Sales and marketing provides a gold mine of profit making improvements in most companies. The only thing that stands in the way of finding these profits is the way the managers and salespeople think.

So, I hope this helps answer your question, at least to some extent. I have attached a short whitepaper that also might help. If you would like to discuss this further, don’t hesitate to refine your question, or suggest a time that might work for you to chat on the phone.


Michael Webb

Michael Webb founded Sales Performance Consultants to create a data-driven alternative to the slogans and shallow impact offered by typical sales training, sales consulting, and CRM companies. Michael helped organize and delivered the keynote speeches for the first conferences ever held on applying Six Sigma to marketing and sales. Connect with me on LinkedIn.

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Hans-Gerlach Woudboer - June 24, 2013 Reply

need to have profitability by transaction (P&L) on your screen. Then this will stop producing waste.

Best Regards


Hans-Gerlach Woudboer
+49 160 530 1809

(My Business and Social Presence)

David Drummonds - June 26, 2013 Reply

I have been reading Robert Hafey’s book Lean Safety. Have salesmen looked at how their product/service improves a customer’s safety, probably not. But making a customer safer increases productivity and cycle time. And I doubt few people outside the Safety business have thought about it which gives the salesman an edge. For what it’s worth.

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