Remember, how we had those presentation brochures and we would flip through them to do our paper PowerPoint. They were filled with all the features and benefits of our products and services; bullet pointed and mixed in were a bunch of cool pictures. Along came notebook computers and we had real-live PowerPoints. Now, we have tablets and mix in video, testimonials and even the power to access just about anything in the cloud. We can demonstrate our product in 3D, HD and even anyone in an organization through an on demand webinar. We can just about show anything and anyone to our customers, if we care. The questions are does the customer care.
We have this continued thought process of internal thinking best illustrated by how we view the product we sell. Think about the product/service we offer. We think through the entire process from our vendors to our customer with the product being the focal point. Now, pick up something off of your desk, anything. How do you think about it? You think about how you use the product. Few of us, unless we have worked for that type of company, think about the internal workings of it and how it is built and who supplied the parts to build. We don’t care. We only care about the use. So how should you think about selling your product or service? This is Service Dominant Logic (SD-Logic).
In Peter Scholtes’ book The Team Handbook, Peter discusses the use of storyboard in Appendix B (It also closely resembles an A3). Neither use is particular earth shattering in itself to most Lean or Six Sigma practitioners. However, seldom do we use this process to create sales opportunities. We may do bits and pieces of it but seldom, if ever, do we do them from the customer’s point of use. Now, I am not going to go through the 7-Step problem solving method used in most A3s or highlight how you can use DMAIC to create an A3 or even a DMAIC Storyboard. Instead, I would just like to highlight his example and provide a little commentary to illustrate the point I am trying to convey.
An outline of a Lean Sales and Marketing Storyboard:
Step 1 – Project Defined:
- Purpose & Importance: Peter uses an example of trying to reduce the time it takes to process credit card vouchers. It is highlighted using a bar chart focusing on customer complaints.
- Scope: This is an area that I think is underutilized in the sales and marketing process. In this step, a SIPOC is used to define the boundary. Using a SIPOC (Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, Customers) can provide an excellent outline. However, we must view the P in Process from an outside –in perspective. It must be from the customer’s viewpoint. We are only a supplier to that customer. Thinking as a supplier sounds very fundamentally and easy, but it provides some great insight which I will elaborate on in future blog post.
- Deliverables: Recommend for ongoing monitoring of process and measures.
- Measures: Set measures for how we will determine improvement.
- Resources: People that will part of the process.
- Schedule: Project Timeline
Step 2 – Current Situation:
- Baseline data obtained: Frequency plot was used.
- Tracking Obtained: Tracking with baseline data observed.
- Work-Flow Diagram Created: When we observed a customer’s process, often we fail to observe the different people within an organization it affects. Many of still think that we must reach the decision-maker who will ultimately pull the string on whether they purchase our product or not. Seldom is there one decision-maker within an organization. If there is, they are often influenced by other individuals. Creating a work-flow diagram highlights how often and by whom our product/service is used. This will identify all users and many time key individuals who are in an intermediate step that are affected.
- Process Map: This is an area that most customers have defined and determined that your solution may be an alternative. However, if they have not mapped the process, it is an excellent idea to do so. Deciding the exact process steps that are being considered may not seem important at this time. If one was not created before root cause, more often than not one will not be created for future state. However, after root cause and several solutions are discovered, if an existing map is available a future map is often done. Understanding process flows will allow your product/service to be judged more objectively.
Step 3 – Cause Analysis:
- We leave this many times to our customer. We have been called in order to provide a solution. However, I if we take the time to map the above processes, I believe that often times, we can simplify or discover more uses for our product/service.
Step 4 – Solutions
- Are we part of the best solution? If we have worked through the previous steps, we may find out were not. We have done this work for nothing. That is the chance we take. I have found there is always more than one solution and the best solution or the best priced solution may not be the winner. It is more often the one that has been demonstrated as the easiest to put into use. If you were part of the first three steps, you are hands down the easiest product/service to put into use.
Step 5 – Results
- After the changes occur, what will be the results? How will this change improve in your customers’ marketplace? How will their customers view the results? Do this with measurements and graphs, make the process visual.
Step 6 – Standardization
- Develop new maps on how your product/service will act within their environment. Detail how training and support services can be utilized. Map and visualize this process for them.
Step 7 – Future Plans:
- Don’t sell this vision. What will the future might look like participating with our company. Where we are going, where are our products and services headed? Most companies want to work with companies that are leading the way to the future. But if that is what you are selling, join the crowd, so is everybody else.
- Sell this vision: Paint the picture of where their company will be in the future, not yours.
Many people when applying Lean to Sales and Marketing want to jump to Value Stream Mapping or Metrics-Based Mapping. These are excellent tools but seldom needed in everyday work. I find the use of SIPOC, Workflow Mapping and Process Mapping better tools to use in the sales process. They are easy to learn. Most salespeople are already schooled at asking the right questions. Developing how to view and illustrate the storyboard from a customer viewpoint is the learning that is required. However, with a little work and a little help from your customer the use of storyboarding or the practice of a Lean A3 can provide valuable insight into their work. One of the foundations of Lean Sales and Marketing is leave your customer be your Sensei. Leave him teach you. It is interesting what you may see.