Lean Sales Conversation

The ability to handle a conversation in the sales process may be the single most important attribute a salesperson can have. We have all seen it, where that exceptional sales person time after time outperforms everyone else. We may make excuses but deep down, most of us know, that Rainmaker, that Closer, gets the job done. I always called them Eagles and I was thankful that I had a few that I worked with. It certainly made the marketer’s job easier.

The one thing that may never change in sales is the ability for a sales person to deliver during the sales conversation. I believe that Lean Thinking offers a very sound method for structuring your sales conversation. I am not discussing scripts but the ability to generate a quality conversation with the customer. The Lean way is to recognize the conversation with the customer as a mini-PDCA cycle. We split the PDCA cycle in half with the Plan-Do side being the Performer (Seller) and the Check-Act side the Customer. A more comprehensive outline is located at Sales and Service Planning with PDCA. I ended that post with the following statement:

The fundamental goals of this cycle should be one of discovery, learning and adaptability with a shared responsibility for a successful outcome. That implies that it is all about engaging both organizations into effective problem solving and learning. In applying this, think of the cycle in terms of a series of iterative loops of problem solving and knowledge creation.  For a more detailed explanation of this refer to blog post, SALES PDCA Framework for Lean Sales and Marketing.

Many times we may start with the customer first and use a CAPD cycle (See blog post: Looking and Listening first is not all that Bad of an Idea).

Lean Marketing Conversation

In research for the podcast yesterday, A New Approach to Lean – Robert Fritz, I came across another book of Robert’s, The Managerial Moment of Truth that he co-authored with Bruce Bodaken, the chairman, president, and CEO of Blue Shield of California.  An excerpt from the book:

But in a larger sense, it is planting seeds that can change the landscape of the modern organization. An organization that can seek a real understanding of the reality it faces must be capable and practiced in telling itself the truth enterprise- wide. An organization that assesses reality quickly and accurately has a distinct competitive advantage, and the key to determining what the circumstances are and how they are changing is inextricably tied to truth telling.

As a manager, using the MMOT consistently when the situation calls for it will increase your actual capacity and shift the managerial burden more equitably. The people you work with will improve their performances, their sense of alignment, and their relationships with each other and with you. Another
benefit can occur as well. The organization as a collective body can come to realize the deeper value of truth, both as a practical managerial practice and as a force around which people can align. Information can then flow more easily and readily to where it needs to go within the organization. Everyone benefits when truth becomes the foundation for the type of predictability and flexibility so needed in today’s business environment.

This is the same message that I profess that is needed in the sales conversation. That clarity of purpose and alignment that ultimately allows the honest sharing that is needed in a sales conversation. It is not something contrived or orchestrated. It is just like a vision statement; it has to come from the heart for it to work. It is not a difficult process. They layout these four elements:

  1. Acknowledge the truth
  2. Analyze how it got to be that way
  3. Create an action plan
  4. Establish a feedback system.

Not exactly a PDCA or a CAPD cycle but pretty close. Sales Managers must have these types of conversations with their sales teams. We must always remember; the customer experience will mimic the employee experience. Starting with the conversation, The Managerial Moment of Truth internally goes a long way in determining your sales success.

I am a Dan Pink fan and his new book, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, is scheduled for release on December 31st, 2012. He has some great pre-order bonuses and I would recommend buying early. I wonder if our messages are aligned?

In my book, Lean Engagement Team(More Info), I state that the ability to share and create knowledge with your customer is the strongest marketing tool possible.

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