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Lean Sales And Marketing, The Cornerstone To Accelerating Revenue Growth

by David Brock on June 26th, 2013

So much of the writing about lean focuses on waste reduction.  That’s great stuff, we want to make sure we aren’t doing unnecessary work or producing waste.  But, at least for marketing and sales professionals, that’s not the real reason to start your lean journey.  (I know I have some lean professionals groaning, but hang in there).

The real reason we want to focus on lean principles is they are the cornerstone to accelerating revenue growth—and isn’t that what we’re really about?

Lean drives great focus and clarity on “Who is our customer,” and “What do they value?”  Viciously focusing on these drives more revenue, faster.  Lets explore them:

  • The first question we ask in applying lean principles is “Who is our customer?”  The process of answering this means, we have to understand the problems we are the best in the world at solving and who has those problems?  As a result, we focus all our marketing and sales efforts only on reaching those customers.  We aren’t diverted, chasing after customers who don’t fit that sweet spot, who don’t have the problems we solve, who won’t produce revenue.  These are the customers who will respond to our marketing and sales programs.  Since they have the problems we are the best at solving, access is less of an issue, they are more likely to be eager to talk to us and engage us.  The quality of our engagement process is much better.  The quality of our pipelines is dramatically higher–our win rates skyrocket.
  • The second key question lean drives is “What do they value?”  This refocuses our engagement process, it aligns us with their buying process, wasting no time on things that don’t create value for the customer.  Since we aren’t diverted by things that are meaningless to the customer, every conversation and meeting focuses on value and helping the customer accelerate their ability to realize that value.  Together, we focus on solving the customers’ problems, we help them accelerate their buying process, consequently accelerating revenue generation.

Now, I’ve been pretty glib describing this.  It’s not easy to get to this point.  It requires deep understanding of what we do well—not fooling ourselves, but being brutally honest.  It requires deep understanding of markets and customers to determine this sweet spot.  It commitment on the part of everyone in the organization in serving those ideal customers.  It requires focus and sharp execution.  Overlay this with the fact the world and are customers are constantly changing, so we’re moving forward and our customers are moving forward.

So I don’t want to paint an idealized or naive picture.  None of this is easy, but the closer we can get to doing these things, then our marketing and sales efforts are much more effective and impactful.  Our ability to generate more revenue much faster, skyrockets.

As marketing and sales professionals, we are constantly struggling with building the revenue generation engine. So to me, the reason sales and marketing professionals should be interested in implementing lean principles is they drive more revenue, faster than anything else we can do!

But there’s more!  Look at the derivative implications of this strategy.  By not wasting time on prospects outside our sweet spot, by wasting time, resource and money on things that don’t create value for the customer, we start reducing waste.  Resource utilization skyrockets, as does the return on our investments in sales and marketing.

As a by product of leveraging lean principles to drive revenue growth, we are also eliminating waste.  Bottom line–we’ve now started improving overall profitability!  Who wouldn’t be interested in this.

All of this hangs together in such a simple framework.  It is hard for me to understand why we wouldn’t immediately start to apply lean principles, focusing first on accelerating revenue growth.

Finally, as you start your efforts, remember lean is a journey–it’s about constantly learning, improving , refining, adjusting.

From → Innovation

  1. Dave;

    My oldest friend is one of the four guys who pioneered the Six Sigma roadmap at Motorola in the 1980’s. He’s been a key leader in the development of “Lean”. The impact of these principles in manufacturing, distribution, finance, etc. over the past few decades has been, and continues to be, extraordinary.

    Gary reckons that the selling world is no less rich for these principles than other areas of business. As he and I have discussed over a beer or three, he would caution a couple of things.

    – First, the Sigma world has too often become more about training and certification than about business impact, and that is just wrong. It’s easier, but it’s wrong.
    – Second, it’s about enabling and improving, not encumbering. In the selling world, it is way easy to put all sorts of measurements, requirements, processes and entanglements in place that impede the sales rep…instead of improving and empowering them.

    You hit on elements that are on point for positive impact. They may be harder, they may require more rigor. But worth it.

    Well said.

    • Jim, I couldn’t agree with you and Gary more, both about the challenges in the Six Sigma/Lean world and about the clarity drinking a few beers and staring out onto the lake brings.

      While many lean practitioners would get upset, in too many of these efforts, whether Six Sigma or Lean, sticking to the purity of the tools, etc have crushed great improvement efforts.

      I think the best way to implement Lean in sales and marketing is to never mention the word Kaizen, or utter a single PDCA, A3, or do a manufacturing simulation on Six Sigma (Gary will know exactly what I am speaking of). The principles are very clear, very easy for even sales people to understand there principles because they are so aligned with what our jobs are. We can help people apply Lean principles without encumbering them with Black Belt/Green Belt training and all the other stuff.

      In our own consulting practice, we heavily leverage both Six Sigma and Lean tools. We just don’t tell people. People understand process mapping and flow charts, they are comfortable with the concepts of problem solving, etc. So we take them through transformation and improvement processes, leveraging the tools as part of our practice, but not encumbering them with all the “stuff.” Then after we’ve competed the project, they are seeing the results, we say, “Oh by the way, here are the tools we used, here’s how you can use them to continue to improve and innovate.

      Now I’ve got myself all wound up, thinking I need to calm down by visiting the lake house, sitting around, knocking down a few beers and solving all the sales problems of the world 😉

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