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Lean Sales: Cause And Effect

by David Brock on July 7th, 2015
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 Whether we are in marketing or sales (or anything for that matter), everything that we do creates an effect–or an outcome.


It’s a simple concept, perhaps so simple, we tend to ignore it.

For example, why would we continue to make hundreds of calls to anyone we can reach, pitching our  products with abysmal results?  At least if our goal is something other than creating abysmal results?

Why would we chase opportunities outside our sweet spot, when we know we have greater success with our ideal customers?

Why would we continue the same tired marketing programs, if we see they don’t create high quality leads for sales?

Why would we continue to focus on achieving our goals, when we know the customer doesn’t care?

Yet we do!

Everyday millions of marketing and sales people get up, go to work and do the same thing they’ve done year after year.  The same programs, the same workflow, the same processes, the same mind numbing activities that aren’t producing the outcomes (quantity and quality) that we expect.

And we ask ourselves, “Why aren’t we making our numbers?  Why aren’t we achieving our goals?”

If we are to achieve success for our customers and ourselves, we need to pause and consider, “What actions/activities/programs/processes create the intended outcomes?”

Surprisingly, when I pose this question, too often, I get a blank stare in return.  But it’s really pretty easy to figure out.  We have to start at the end, with the desired outcomes and work our way backwards.  We have to examine the things we did that created the outcomes we expected.

What causes us to win deals?  Thoughtful win reviews, examining the activities we undertook, the activities the customer undertook, the interim commitments the customer made, resources involved both by the customer and us, what we proposed and how, how we justified and helped the customer justify the solution.  As we look at a number of sales opportunities, we start seeing common patterns in the things that customers and we did that create a win.  By the way, this defines our sales process.

Likewise in making high impact sales calls, or prospecting, examining the things we and our customers do to create the desired outcomes enables us to define those things we need to do to produce results.  Knowing what creates a healthy pipeline with good velocity and doing those things creates healthy pipelines.

Managers do this with recruiting, onboarding, training and other things.  For example, what skills, competencies, attitudes, behaviors, experiences do our highest performers have?  If we want to hire more potentially high performers, it’s pretty easy if we have a template or picture of what a high performer looks like.

Marketing’s the same.  Creating content, optimizing the website, participating in shows, creating visibility and awareness is all meaningless, if these activities don’t drive demand, high quality leads, real engagement, and revenue.

Working backwards from the outcomes we like and understanding what creates these outcomes, informs you of the activities critical to produce results.  Duugghh!  Yet we don’t do it, instead we look for the latest tool, gimmick technique, blindly hoping they will produce results.

Things change, the same old things no longer produce results.  What worked in the past no longer works—but we keep doing them.  If they aren’t producing the outcome we need, then we have to do things differently.  We have to experiment, closely keeping an eye on what works–what activities create the desired outcomes?  Then we have to execute those things effectively and efficiently.

It’s really not that difficult, but I get calls from dozens of puzzled executives saying, “We aren’t making our numbers, our sales people aren’t producing the right results, our marketing programs aren’t producing leads.”  Usually, they’ve exhausted all the hot, fashionable, and trendy new stuff–because that’s what the “cool kids” are doing.  Yet those don’t produce results.  They wonder what’s wrong.

It’s often embarrassing when I start asking questions, when I start to go back to basics, “What things are producing results?  Why don’t you do them more–more consistently?”

There’s no big “Aha,” to this post–and perhaps that’s the point.

If things aren’t working, look at those things that produced the outcomes you want.  Analyze them, work backwards, understand the cause-effect relationships, systematize them and get everyone executing sharply and with discipline.

If the things you used to do aren’t working, then don’t continue doing them.  Figure out what’s wrong, figure out what produces the right results, do more of that stuff.




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  1. Dave: well said.

    One problem: when the cause-effect connections between practices and results are fuzzy, it’s hard to know what needs fixing or what to adjust.

    In elite athletics, they’re found by breaking the keys to performance down into their component parts, and revealing [with analytics] the cause-effect connections, the path to ‘better’ becomes much clearer. When it’s clearer, results improve. The right things get practiced and they have their natural effect on outcomes.

    There’s a golfing analogy here. “Your game sucks. Fix it”. Fix what? Good golf coaches break the game down and get players to practice the ‘fixes’ one piece at a time.

    In B2B sales, IMO, we need to break high performance down. Into it’s component pieces. Get a better, faster, read on what execution practices are the keys to good results. For my firm, not someone else’s.

    Until then, the ‘new religion’ sounds good but won’t win me as a convert. I’m stuck failing away on the driving range trying to make ‘better’ happen without any hard read on whether or not I’m working on the right things.

    Ugly. – John

    [heh, could be my new moniker – ugly John]

    • John, I couldn’t agree more. As I suggest in the article, we really need to break down each of our processes to understand the cause/effect relationships. As with any lean implementation, understanding each step, and making sure the “downstream” step is getting what they expect, when they expect it, in the form they expect it, is critical. Often, the best way to tune what we are doing is to look at the outputs then working backwards through the process.

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