Is [Lean process excellence] relevant to a Sales and Marketing Environment?

A question from one of our readers…

“Is it relevant to a Sales and Marketing Environment?”

Lean process excellence originated in manufacturing. It is a means of getting more productivity from fewer resources; by understanding and improving the way work is done. 

  • The means of understanding and improving how work is done definitely applies to sales and marketing.
  • The specific improvements appropriate for manufacturing environments may not work so well for sales and marketing. (I’m referring to jargon like “5S,” kanban, set-up reduction, single-piece flow, etc.) 

For example: Both sellers and manufacturers strive to eliminate waste (at least they should). Examples of waste in sales and marketing include brochures no one reads, or proposals no one buys. 

However, manufacturers have a fundamentally different problem than sellers: Manufacturers secure raw materials, and convert them to meet a specification. Sellers must get the attention of people they do not know (and may never meet), and get these individuals to spend their time and money.

 The “raw material” of sales and marketing is people in the market place who have needs you can fill. Those individuals go through a series of predictable stages from the time they never heard of you before, until the time they are spending time and money with you. These stages are called the Customer’s Journey, and everything you do in sales and marketing needs to align with them. 

Here is where it gets interesting, because finding the RIGHT prospects, and helping them realize, and prioritize their problems is something B2B companies have often been left up to the ad-hoc efforts of their salespeople and sales managers. And it is on this issue that process excellence has the most to offer.

 Applying the rational approaches of Lean process excellence means starting from first principles to design, implement and improve how your company helps customers buy. Below are some of the methods that come into play: 

  • Operating definitions – gaining respectful agreement around the observable characteristics of qualified prospects, stages of the Customer’s Journey, etc.
  • Identifying and eliminating waste – in sales and marketing anything that does not result in the customer taking an action along their Customer Journey is waste.
  • Identifying and maximizing value – the methods for maximizing the customer’s perceptions and actions.
  • Continuously improving – getting the team to define their terms, identify waste, to agree on the best methods, and use their own observations (data and evidence) to drive improvements. 

A good article for you to read at this point is “How is Lean Different From Other Sales Process Methodologies?”

So, I’ve taken a stab at answering your question. How did I do? 

Please let me know if this was helpful, or if you have additional questions you’d like to ask.


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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