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Lean Sales And Marketing — Making Workflow Visible

by David Brock on July 20th, 2012

First, I have to credit my friend Jack Malcolm as the inspiration for this week’s article.  He’s writing a parallel series of articles.  Recently, he wrote Applying Lean Methods To Personal Work.  Make sure you read it.

Most of us tend to be very visual.  Afterall, for centuries people have referred to the Chinese proverb, A Picture Is Worth 10,000 Words.  Likewise, we seem to have a greater ability to capture insight from highly visible forms of data presentation.  Infographics are exploding as a means of visualizing complex concepts, data and other ideas.

Every CRM system supplier touts their dashboards as a means of more quickly understanding a number of performance metrics.  Gamification is a hot topic — and much of the underlying value is the visualization techniques (along with the interactive engagement).

But we don’t need fancy infographics or dashboard technologies to help us visualize our work.  Jack uses a white board and “sticky pads” to visualize projects and workflow.  A good friend is the CEO of a $50M business.  While they have a modern CRM system, the sales people take great pride in walking into her office and physically moving “deals” down the funnel.  Everyone looking into the office has an immediate view of the health of the pipeline.

I have our sales process posted on the wall of my office, just above the phone.  While I’m on a phone conversation, I’m looking at the sales process.  While I have our process so internalized, having it posted right in front of me serves as a great reminder in every sales call I’m on.  Looking at the process during the conversation prompts me to ask certain questions or explore different things.  It’s amazing how much I can move something through the process just with that visual cue.  I notice real differences when I am out of my office and don’t have it in front of me.

Likewise, I print out my daily and weekly “to-do” list.  While it’s in my CRM system, having it physically in front of me all the time keeps me focused on my highest priorities.  I get more done.  I find I don’t have to keep going back to my CRM system to refer to them, because they are constantly in front of me, reminding me of what’s next.   Not long ago, I walked into a friend’s office.  He’s CEO of one of the largest financing companies in the world.  He burst into laughter when he saw me open my notebook and he saw the “to-do” list clipped on the pages of the notebook.  He then opened his notebook and had almost the same thing (though I was much more impressed with his to-do’s—“Review $2.7 B financing deal…..”).

Another friend has a map in his office.  He has color coded pins and “sticky pads.”  He wants to visualize his territory.  Customers are one color, deals he is working on are another color, prospects are another, and companies he wants to go after are another.  Every once in a while through the day, he sits back, looks at his map and thinks about what he wants to do in his territory.  Every once in a while, he creates a game with himself.  He challenges himself to see how many blue pins (potential customers he doesn’t know) he can turn red pins (prospects) in a 30 day period.  He takes great pride in seeing his map change from blue to red. (The eventually to black–customers he has just closed).

There are all sorts of other ways to visualize our workflow, processes, projects or priorities.   There are lots of systems tools that can help.  As I’ve been studying lean, those that seem to be the most impactful are often the simplest and most physical.  Here are some summary ideas:

  1. Print out your daily schedule and task list, keep it in front of you at all times.  Carry it with you.
  2. Print out your sales process, post it on the wall of your office, ideally over the phone, but put it some place than you can refer to during every sales call.
  3. Consider a “paper” representation of your funnel–draw a funnel with your sales process stages.  Write down the number of deals you need for a healthy funnel (in big bold numbers).  With little “yellow stickies” write down every deal, the date it started, the projected close date, and the value.  As deals progress, move them down the paper.  Post that on the wall of your office.
  4. If you have to make a certain number of calls per day, create a tally sheet.  Write the number you have to achieve, and tally the calls through the day.
  5. If you have a project, write the key tasks and schedules on a white board.   Get  red, yellow, green pens or markers.  For those tasks that are on schedule. put a “Green dot” to the right of the task, for those that are starting to fall behind, put a yellow dot, for those that are way behind, put a red dot.  Hopefully, you know what to do.

Create simple visual reminders.  Put them on the walls of your office, carry them with you in your notebook.  Don’t worry about trying to find the right “app.”  Paper, simple, visual—-it works!

Book CoverFor a free peek at Sales Manager Survival Guide, click the picture or link.  You’ll get the Table of Contents, Foreword, and 2 free Chapters.  Free Sample

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