Lean has an infatuation with time, just look: Lead Time, Takt Time, Cycle Time, Machine Time, Process Time, Value Add Time, etc. With all this time-based thinking what it the first thing we try to do when applying Lean to Sales and Marketing?
The first step involves mapping our sales cycle looking for waste and improving the total time from the beginning to the end of the entire stream. This is great stuff! The power of the Value Stream Mapping process is that it enables the team to see the entire picture. We know waste in marketing is not as readily identified as in other areas. But one example of sales and marketing waste that can be identified is sales cycle time. We can even get agreement that the longer a customer/prospect stay in one of the process stages of the value stream or in the queue waiting to go from one stage to the next, the greater the chance of losing the customer.
We know enough to look at how to optimize the entire process instead of just a particular stage. Therefore, our first step would be to evaluate the total time spent, not resources allocated or used. Moving through the value stream quicker is many times just a matter of evaluating the internal delays that occur in the process. By removing them, we enable the customer to make faster and better decisions. We also create more credibility with our customer for ourselves as the “go to guy (organization)” and as an organization that has done this before.
It makes sense, the perfect application to apply Lean to Sales and Marketing. You try to find the one best path – the value stream. It is easy; we have already created a marketing funnel to allow us to identify the process. We just need to use a few Lean Tools to bring the process under control.
Houston, we have a problem! Organizations can no longer feed products to customers, as I described in the blog post, Kill the Sales and Marketing Funnel and in a few other posts that you can find on this blog under the Marketing Funnel Category.
In the process of interviewing Mary and Tom Poppendieck for an upcoming Business901 podcast, I got off the subject and discussed project versus product management. Afterwards, they sent me an excerpt from their second book, Implementing Lean Software Development: From Concept to Cash. In the excerpt (which I have paraphrased and shorten) they gave the typical description of projects; they are funded and have a beginning and an end. Success is then measured based on whether or not the cost, schedule and scope commitments are met. This mimics many of our traditional thoughts in sales and marketing. When we try to apply Lean to Sales and marketing it is re-emphasized. Project thinking is basically closing a sale in the shortest amount of time.
What if we treated our sales cycles more like a product than a project? What if we treated scope with an expectation it will evolve as knowledge is gained (My book, Marketing with PDCA discusses Lean Sales and Marketing being built upon the philosophy there has been a subtle shift to knowledge as the way to engage, develop and retain your customer base). What if we viewed success as levels of engagement and dollars (lifetime preferably) per customer? Or rewards based on a number of long term customers? What if funding occurred not on monthly budgets but incrementally on engagement?
The overwhelming theme that has evolved is that engagement has replaced time as a defining metric in sales and marketing. An example is one of the metrics used at a retail store is time spent. We have always viewed that the more time spent in the store, the more purchased. If we take this thinking and put an interactive component to it viewing the experience and level of engagement created with the customer at the store and online as the metric, time becomes relatively in material. It is the experience.
How does Lean apply? Forrester Research identifies four measures of increasing engagement as Influence (Plan), Interaction (Do), Intimacy (Check), and Influence (Act). As you may notice, I assign the PDCA cycle to these measures of engagement as a way of combining Lean Thinking to the Engagement cycle. Demonstrating a shared outcome with your customers should be the ultimate strategy of your organization and your PDCA improvement cycles. Many organizations still view improving capabilities of internal processes (reduction of cycle time) in sales and marketing as an effective strategy. The strategies that we need for improvement must be on the demand side. We must simply focus on the customer, not internally. We do not live in a world of excess demand. As a result, our planning cannot be isolated. It is only validated through customer engagement, not a time-based derivative.