How does Lean help Sales and Marketing?


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Looking for the next silver bullet to propel your sales effort to the next level? Do you want to post a video series like Will It Blend? by Blendtec and have your efforts go viral? Maybe you are only looking for a few buzzwords that will stay on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Better yet, we could create a system such as a Ponzi scheme or related investment pyramid schemes (affiliate marketing ; )) to create an on-going flow of leads and management of those leads. This is real marketing.

The most common way for marketers and designers to get a job is by being asked for a few ideas and the person with the best idea wins. You have heard me say this many times before; this type of thinking assumes that you have answers before the questions. Certainly, you are able to interview the people with the knowledge and determine outcomes before starting but seldom does that include customers who are the real source of the knowledge that you need. What the process ends up being is selling a concept first to get in and secondly, the ability to change it as new knowledge comes to the forefront, once you are “in”. We wonder why John Wanamaker when he said: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” is still prevalent (Related post: Follow Pareto not Wanamaker in Customer Retention).

We do need to systemize our sales and marketing process. I believe that Lean allows us to do this but most organizations struggle with how this applies. The first step many think about is identifying value from a customer perspective and removing non-value added activities to speed up the sales and marketing process. Though this is a commendable action, it misses the essence of system development. Instead, it creates an awful big cart in front of the horse. It is one of the main reasons that Lean is resisted by sales and marketing people. It assumes answers are internal to the organization.

How does Lean help Sales and Marketing?

First, we will define a system, which to me is a set of coordinated processes that accomplish the core objectives of the business. I will narrow this further by segmenting the process into a particular product/market or as I call it a value stream.

Let’s define a sales and marketing process for a value stream:

  • Define the customer’s “job to be done” for the value stream.
  • Define the internal structure to support the value stream.
  • Set objectives for the entire value stream and the individual components.
  • Understanding the environment situation in which the customer operates.
  • Define the process; actions, measures, feedback.
  • Provide resources to perform the determined activities.

Second, we must build an adaptable system. We talk about being adaptable or agile, but few of us know what that means. We may talk about being customer-centric or customer focused, but the majority of us are still caught up in product dominant thinking. For both of these to take place, we must develop a sales and marketing planning system that incorporates a structure that values long-term type thinking with a short term process of regular review and assessment that can be adjusted or changed.

Is there a reliable system that incorporates both of these points? The Lean practice of Hoshin Kanri is the best template I have found for instituting a Lean Sales and Marketing System. Hoshin Kanri emphasizes the process itself through the development of targets, the means to achieve targets, and most importantly the deployment of both.

Norman Bodek said,

“Hoshin Kanri is a method devised to capture and concretize strategic goals, as well as flashes of insight about the future, and develop the means to bring these into reality. Hoshin Kanri, to indicate its unique intention: to integrate an entire organization’s daily activities with its long-term goals.

With Hoshin Kanri, insight and vision are not lost; plans are rolled up on the charts of week-long planning, meetings and forgotten until next year. The daily crush of events and quarterly bottom-line pressures do not take precedence over strategic plans, rather, these short-term activities are determined and managed by the plans themselves. There is a continual process of checking to make sure that what is done each day reflects the intentions, the targets, the vision the company has agreed to pursue. Both planning and deployment are critical features of Hoshin Kanri.”

Most people will discuss the PDCA cycle as the heart of Hoshin Kanri (see below). It is taking a macro-view of PDCA for long term planning in combination with a micro-view for daily management. However, I go back to the thoughts of Brian Joiner and Yoji Akao that it is the CAP-Do (CAPD) cycle in lieu of PDCA that is needed in Hoshin Kanri.

CAP-Do is what makes Hoshin Kanri, Lean, a viable tool in sales and marketing. Lean Sales and Marketing must first start by checking the current status. If we want to be customer focused, and customer centric we cannot start with planning and definition of a customer’s problem. It is not about us being problem solvers with a pre-defined product or service that we offer. Instead, we must focus on checking what a customer really wants. We must uncover common intent through listening and discovery. CAP-Do is how daily management occurs in sales and marketing.

One final word from Norma Bodek,

At the heart of TQM is the PDCA cycle. This also forms the core of Hoshin Kanri, but the order is rearranged. In Hoshin Kanri, one begins with the check cycle PDCA becomes the CAPD cycle. Thus, checking the current status of company activity propels the Hoshin process. With each repetition of the company wide check, a new deployment of target and means occurs at every level. Control items (control points for target deployment and checkpoints for means deployment) are integral to Hoshin Kanri implementation. Through the CAPD, daily control — integral to the application of quality control tools in maintaining improved standards — is linked to company strategy through Hoshin Kanri.

Norman Bodek excerpts were taken from the book by Yoji Akao,Hoshin Kanri: Policy Deployment for Successful TQM. Norman Bodek’s latest book is Kaikaku: The Power and Magic of Lean.

So, how can Lean help the sales and marketing process? Lean provides a systematic way not to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of an internal sales and marketing process. Through the Hoshin Kanri process, we develop a deeper understanding of customers needs that are aligned with our value proposition. This alignment and understanding incorporated in daily actions is the ultimate driver for your sales and marketing efforts. It is the “viral” factor that you are looking for.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Dager
Business901 is a firm specializing in bringing the continuous improvement process to the sales and marketing arena. He has authored the books the Lean Marketing House, Marketing with A3 and Marketing with PDCA. The Business901 Blog and Podcast includes many leading edge thinkers and has been featured numerous times for its contributions to the Bloomberg's Business Week Exchange.


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