Lean: A Sales Approach (Lean Part 5)

By Chuck Kitchen, Business Betterments

“How’s business”? How often do you hear or ask this? More often than not, the answer is “Good”. What does that mean?

As a manufacturer, you are charged with producing a quality, competitive product just in time, while working within a set of tight parameters and being profitable. It’s not easy. Among the obstacles you face, sales is a common one to contend with. Let’s look at two (2) very common problems.

The first has to do with the fact Sales and Production are not in synch. Sales argues deliveries aren’t being met, inventory is lacking, pricing is too high and the product isn’t what the customer needs. On the flip side, Production argues they do not get enough information from Sales: customer demand, when and how much, competitive pricing, product specifications, etc. The results of all of this? LOST OPPORTUNITIES (plural), increased inefficiencies, costs and employee frustrations as well as reduced margins and lost market-share. Yikes!

Let’s talk about the sales effort. If you are a business leader, you might be among those questioning the sales effort: What are they doing? Who are they calling on? What products are they promoting? Are they growing or maintaining business? Are they seeking new customers? If you are an individual contributor, you too have questions: What are the company’s goals? What are our capabilities (capabilities come in a variety of ways- not just product)? What should you be working on? You could do better with clear direction, sales tools and training.

So what to do? In recent months we have provided information on LEAN. While LEAN is typically thought of in manufacturing, it can be applied to sales as well- yes, sales!

All too often, sales is not viewed as a “process”, but instead as an automatic action that is necessary in every business. There-in lies your opportunity. Step back for a moment and thinking about LEAN, here’s how to apply it to sales:

  1. Value Stream Mapping: When thinking about your current sales process, what activities, both value-added and non-value-added, are currently required to bring a product or service to the customer?
  2. 5S: sort, straighten, shine, standardize, and sustain. How does this apply to sales you ask?
    1. Sort: This is analyzing your markets, customers and products; the past, present and future.
    2. Straighten: What information has been derived from the analysis and what does it mean?
    3. Shine: What should you do differently?
    4. Standardize: Does the salesforce have clear direction, tools and training to tell the same company story, regardless of who they are? Are they in alignment with the rest of the organization?
    5. Sustain: This is planning (I.e. forecasting). It MUST be continuously measured and adjusted accordingly. Go from sustaining to growing sales.

So, “How’s business”? Hopefully we have offered some insight to help you answer this question. Interested in learning more? We encourage you to send us your specific sales questions and we will offer suggestions free of charge. Of course, all inquiries are kept strictly confidential. Contact Business Development Advisor, Ralph Brown, at 914-393-98765, or ralph.brown@hvtdc.org.

Best in class organizations view sales as a process and next month we will delve into how to develop one that is sustainable and keeps your organization strong even during downturns.