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Jean Cunningham

Jean Cunningham: If we focus on eliminating the wastes associated with the selling process first, we can capture the imagination that lean and sales are great partners!

By Jean Cunningham, - Last updated: Monday, November 26, 2012 - Save & Share - Leave a comment
Lean failing to capture the imagination of the sales team…what a question!  Our sales team loved the fast lead times. Our sales team loved the improved quality. Our sales team loved rapid pace of new product offerings. We loved to leverage the web for selling.  But just as every other department outside of manufacturing, the improvement cycle was not grasped without some tangible structured introduction of the power of eliminating waste in the process.  The sales team was certainly interested in activities that would make the sales job easier:    getting marketing materials done more quickly, processing more leads, easier warranty resolution, improving collecting money, getting reimbursed for expenses faster.  Certainly all good improvements to reduce time that gets in the way of actual selling time.
All are quite similar to some of the improvement activities in manufacturing…workplace organization, material flow, set up time reduction, quality checking, which all reduce activities that rob manufacturing time.  The real change to manufacturing process itself is the use of pull and one piece flow in dedicated value streams. Just as in sales, we sometimes hesitate to actually change the way we manufacture.
So how do we fail to capture the imagination of the sales team…perhaps we  cannot provide good examples of pull, one piece flow and value streams.  What would pull in Sales look like?  Would pull mean waiting to sell the next item before the prior order is completed?  That fails to capture imagination.  Would one piece flow mean selling only one customer at a time?  That fails to capture the imagination.  Selling in Value Streams….again, maybe a little tough to capture the imagination!  So perhaps, the fault lies not with the sales organization, but our ability to translate lean concepts to the core of the sales process itself.  For me, if we focus on eliminating the wastes associated with the selling process first, we can capture the imagination that lean and sales are great partners!

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