When FTSE 100 CEO’s were polled and asked the question, “Are your sales people calling on the right customers, at the right time, with the right offer?” 99.3% responded, “I don’t know.” Which shouldn’t surprise. Sales and Marketing are still the last bastions of protected turf, limited management scrutiny and lack of accountability. Unfortunately, the important lessons learned and the gains in effectiveness and efficiency derived from lean manufacturing have not been successfully translated to the Sales and Marketing environments. And, it’s understandable.
Sales involves people doing business with people, not people doing activities with machines and processes. Sales is perceived to be more of an art form than a science. Yet, ironically, Sales is virtually a pure science and, as such, is both measurable and predictable. If we are correct, the disciplines of Lean can easily be applied to the Sales and Marketing functions resulting in significant increases in effectiveness and bottom line results.
Why should we apply lean practices to Sales and Marketing?
The litany of reasons is familiar to anyone who operates in those environments. Existing response times are woeful. Customer service practice continues to decline. The concept of “zero-defect” performance, which has been successfully incorporated into the manufacturing cycle, seems to have escaped the notice of many sales and marketing types. Quality in delivery and performance varies significantly from sector to sector and company to company. But worst of all, sales and marketing productivity has never been known for its improvement gains. In truth, we are a sloppy profession that has been able to evade accountability for too long.
How might we apply lean techniques? Companies interested in applying “lean” techniques to the Sales and Marketing functions can begin the journey by:
• Asking whether or not a certain step is necessary, thereby reducing habitual behaviour.
• Determining how necessary steps can be done better, thereby demanding continuous quality improvement.
• Asking who else could perform the step if necessary, thereby building team performance while improving results.
• Determining how each step can be done better, faster and cheaper, thereby forcing sales and marketing personnel to start focusing on cost of sales. (COS)
Like the folks in manufacturing who examine each individual element associated with building the product, professional sales and marketing people are going to have to sit down and apply the same rigorous scrutiny to their own processes.