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Bits And Pieces — June 24, 2017

by David Brock on June 24th, 2017

In my last Bits and Pieces article, I referred to a series of articles I’d written about applying manufacturing and lean techniques to sales and marketing.  It was quite a long series, but I’ve had a lot of interest in it.

I’ve consolidated the series into an eBook — What Can Sales Learn From Lean Manufacturing?  The first edition of this is a consolidation of the 5 articles and some additional commentary on the challenges of applying the principles from the Toyota Production System to sales and marketing.  I was also reminded, I wrote another eBook on Lean Sales And Marketing several years ago.  It goes into a lot of the principles and tools in TPS in greater detail.  Just email me at

There was a lot of feedback on the series of articles, as well as some great book suggestions.  I just ordered and started reading:  Lead With Lean, by Michael Balle.  I’m just a few chapters in, but for those of you interested in this, I think you will find it a good read.


As you also know from the last Bits and Pieces, one of my biggest themes over the coming months is understanding impact of complexity in our organizations.  Over the past several years, we’ve done a number of projects focusing on complexity.  One of the things we have started to measure is Time Available For Selling.  There have been several variations in how we define it (depending on clients), but basically we look at 1.  Time spent preparing for a call/meeting, 2.  Time spent in the call/meeting itself, 3. Time spent in direct follow-up from the meeting.

The results we are seeing are devastating.  Typically, it’s in the range of 15-22%, in one case we’ve seen it as low as 9%.  And this is with good, reasonably high performing organizations!

The problem is our businesses and organizations are getting much more complex (particularly large organizations).  Unwittingly, we create a huge seller burden just in getting things done within our own organizations.  Layer this onto our already diverse and complex product lines, our partner ecosystems, and the complexity of our customer organizations.  The impact of all these things, many of which are supposed to “support” our sales people, we are actually loving them to death.

There are two action items for you to look at with your organization in order to start to understand the impact of complexity on sales performance:

  1. Start to measure Time Available For Selling.  There are a number of simple ways to start gaining a rough understanding.  The simplest is to ask your people to complete a 60 second survey at the end of each day.  Collect the data for a month or two, you will start to get an indicator of how they are spending their time and some of the major time drains.
  2. Look at voluntary attrition–particularly for new people in their first 12 months.  Interview people that are leaving.  In our research, we find one of the major causes for voluntary attrition (people choosing to leave rather than being asked to leave) is they can’t figure out how to be successful.  This is another indicator of the impact of complexity in your organization.

These are pretty easy to assess, particularly the first.  They will give you a starting point to identify if there is an issue.

If you need some help in how to do this, just call.  I’m glad to give you some quick tips and pointers.

New CEB Data:

This week, I will be spending time with my friends at CEB.  Every year, they ask a small number of us to sit down, discussing the issues we see in sales and marketing.  Additionally, they share some of their latest research.  Nick Toman has previewed some of it with me, particularly research on Major Account/Account Based Selling programs.  The data is intriguing and suggest some big surprises about the effectiveness of these programs.

I’m really excited to meet with Brent Adamson, Nick Toman and others from CEB.  With their merger with Gartner, Hank Barnes will be participating as well.  Plus the people they have invited are some of the best thought leaders around.  There will be huge learning and I’ll be sharing much of it in the blog in the coming weeks.

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