How Can The Salesforce Use Lean?

A recent visitor asked “How can the salesforce use Lean?”

There are lots of possible answers, and the reader left no context for what they might be concerned about. Here are a couple of general thoughts that might be useful:

  • Lean can help sell more stuff!

Lean seeks to maximize value to the customer and eliminate waste. This means you find ways to make it easier for the customer to buy from you, and make it easier for salespeople to sell to them.

Sales forces can use Lean by zeroing in on waste. For example, brochures no one reads, websites that do not help customers do anything, sales “leads” that don’t (and may never) qualify, proposals that are not purchased … all these are all waste.

As a salesperson, you are probably thinking “duh!” The thing is this: Lean brings a new arsenal of weapons to attack these age old problems: Data, evidence, and logic to figure out why people are not buying, for one thing.  

A systems view is another thing. Lean process thinking recognizes that the whole company must support sales process improvement, not just the sales department.

Lean sees the world in terms of “value streams.” In sales, it is the stream of actions your prospects and customers take from the time before they ever heard of you, through the time they are spending their time and money with your company. If they see value, they take actions. Anything you do that does NOT generate the desired actions is basically waste.

You can clarify your sales process to begin identifying the causes of value and waste. And, you can begin measuring the quality and quantity of customers flowing through your pipeline – an activity which is guaranteed to improve the performance of everyone involved, and to point up the bottlenecks where improvement effort will produce the biggest gains.

In short, Lean is a much more effective way to manage sales and marketing.

There are lots of other ways of answering this question, but I thought I would give you this much to see if it helps. Perhaps this brings questions in regard to your particular industry environment. If so, ask the question in the comments section.

I look forward to hearing from you.


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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Willy Van Overschee - May 2, 2013 Reply

Absolutely on the same track, Michael.
CIMCIL is a training company, based in Belgium and working across Europe, and knowledge hub for Operational Excellence and Supply Chain Management, with a focus on Lean.
We recently announced an extension to our programs (APICS, Lean workshops) with programs for Lean in Sales & Marketing and Lean Product Development.
Always interested to hear from you how we could develop some synergy in deploying our common intelligence.

Hans-Gerlach Woudboer - May 2, 2013 Reply

Just a few thoughts and comments:
selling more stuff in my opinion should be expressed as selling more profitable stuff!
From what I see too many salesperson are going after the volume irrespective of the true profitability of this volume. Only in knowing the profitability of your sales process, the company can become a more profitable one based on customer profitability. as you probably know very often 20% of your customers make 80% of your profit and also very often 40 to 60% of the customers destroy your profits and can kill you. The very bad thing is that many companies don’t even have this on their screen.
If you map your sales process around your activities and think about the value added and non-value added category-surely measured through the eyes of your customers-one can spot the related value-added none value-added costs which should be spend on some real value added sales processes making all of the difference for your customers.
(My Business & Social Presence)

    Michael Webb - May 13, 2013 Reply


    Agreed: sales and marketing is a production system, and should be managed like one. This does NOT mean taking the independence and creativity out of sales: far from it! It means using data and evidence to identify what creates value and what doesn’t, and then developing ways of standardizing and making it easier for salespeople to sell value instead of price.

    Thanks for your comment


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