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Lean Sales And Marketing — It’s How We Put It All Together

by David Brock on June 28th, 2012

Several years ago, I was the guest speaker at the National Sales Meeting for a very large technology company.  The theme they had selected for the meeting and the year was, “It’s how we put it together that sets us apart!”

This is actually a core concept to Lean and very important as we think about applying these principles to Lean Sales and Marketing.  It’s also an area that deserves many more posts, so this is just the starting point.

Organizations that really understand and apply Lean, understand that Lean is a “systems  or holistic approach.”  While we may be focused on a specific problem area, we miss a huge benefit to Lean.  In fact by isolating what we do to one component, we are probably only addressing that component and may not be addressing root problems.   Too often, we break things into components, optimizing the components, yet suboptimizing the performance of the entire organization.  IT may be delivering a perfectly implemented CRM tool, but it makes the sales person’s job more difficult, reducing their sales time.  Marketing could be implementing a perfect lead development programs, but could be overwhelming sales who don’t have the ability to follow up the leads.

We see these piecemeal approaches to solving problems all the time.  For example, the sales training program that is not integrated into the systems, processes and tools the sales people use.  Or the training program than has no follow on reinforcement or management coaching.  Most of these may have a very short impact, but seldom have a sustained performance impact.  Likewise, the latest greatest Sales 2.0 tool, that is implemented without a real understanding of how it impacts the day to day life of the sales professional.  Or the compensation system that fails to produce the results expected.

Or we see problems in the interrelationship and effective operations of functions.  Marketing and sales may not be aligned in priorities.  Marketing may be optimizing performance that enables it to achieve it’s objectives, yet could have an impact on sales.  Or sales optimizes what it does without consideration of the impact on sales.  Boundaries and silos can isolate or disguise problems.  Without looking at things as a whole, we may be missing opportunities.  We may not be using our resources as effectively as possible, maximizing our collective impact on the customer.

I could go on and on.  Just like a manufacturing system, high performance sales requires understanding how all the components (people, process, programs, tools, incentives/metrics, training, etc.) all interrelate.  If we are applying Lean principles to what we do as sales and marketing professionals, we need to simultaneously look at the components, but we also need to look at how they interrelate and work together.  We may choose to sub-optimize one element, if by doing this, we have a positive impact on the whole organization.

There’s another aspect of “How We Put It All Together” that’s really important.  It has to do with the customer experience that we create–not only with the customer’s buying experience, but with their whole experience in working with us–how they order, receive and implement the products; our contracts and billing; the customer service, repair, and warranty experiences; even their perception of what we stand for or what we do in the community and markets. It could be their whole experience as we “nurture” and work with them through their buying process.  Each thing we do reinforces the customer view of us.   All of these shape an influence the customers views of us and their willingness to buy.

Too often, we forget this–we focus on the product only and not leveraging the total customer experience.  We focus on the product, it’s features and functions.  We neglect all the other elements of their experience, failing to leverage them in selling and the ongoing relationship.  Lean focuses us to focus on the whole experience and the total value we create through that experience.

Lean, also, when we look at things from a total system point of view gives us tremendous competitive advantage.  The differentiation between our products and those of the competition may be very small (or we may sell a commodity)  Lean companies know the product is just one component of what their customers buy.

Being Lean provides great competitive positioning and differentiation.  Our competitors may try to copy what we do.  They can copy our products, they can copy our pricing or even discount.  They can try to emulate many of the pieces-parts.  What they miss, however, is that it’s virtually impossible to copy the whole thing.  At best they are a poor facsimile, which our customers need to understand.

Lean companies look at competition differently.  They care about the competition, but don’t seek to copy or emulate the competition.  They try to understand the value their competitors create and what it means to customers and market.  Lean companies use this to assess their own strategies and their own value creation.  However, they are driven by their own creation strategies, the experience they want to create, and what they stand for in the markets and communities.

“How We Put It Together Sets Us Apart!”  It’s critical in how we look to constantly improve our customers’ experiences and to how we compete and win.  Lean provides us a path and tools to determine these and exploit them.

Are you leveraging this concept as much as possible?

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