Where is the path in Continuous Improvement for Sales and Marketing?

In the sales and marketing process we have always stayed away from a process. Things were just not consistent enough to enable us to install a process.

Very few people take on the challenge of bringing continuous improvement to sales and marketing and one of the reasons it is so difficult is that sales always has been about relationships and people. And when you are a “people person” you blame errors and faults on people not the processes. You just don’t consider a process at all. I would argue that you cannot improve a system without a process and that sales and marketing does things within the boundaries of a process.

In fact, I am going to paraphrase the Six Best Practices outlined in a book by Daniel Stowell, Sales, Marketing, and Continuous Improvement . And if you would like to know how large of a gap we have to close to bring continuous improvement to Sales and marketing read the one review on this book: “The author couldn’t lead a fly to cr*p, and the book is poorly written. Don’t waste your money.” Quite a significant gap because I think the author, considering it was written in 1997, lays out a good guideline.

The Six Best Practices needed:

Manage for change: Change, whether incremental improvement or radical restructuring, does not just happen. It requires leadership and management based on a foundation of a lasting commitment by everyone in the organization. Of all of the best practices, management commitment stands alone at the top of the priority list.

Listen to Customers: Sales and marketing need input from their current and past customers, prospects, and competitive users on which to have their continuous improvement activities. To be most effective, they need to use several complementary listening methods tailored to their specific customer set. Although listening to customers appears to be easy to do, there are pitfalls and barriers along the way. However, the input from listening will provide the requirements and feedback that they need to implement the other best practices. Without that information, they are just guessing.

Focus on Process: Leading companies have applied all five of these process improvement techniques to sales and marketing processes. As we have seen, when process improvement techniques are focused on the most important processes and used properly, they can make dramatic improvements in an organizations effectiveness and efficiency.

Use Teams: Teams are not appropriate for everyone or in every situation, but virtually every organization can benefit from expanding its use of teams. This is especially true of sales and marketing departments. They can apply teams in almost every combination of scope, size, mission, authority, and duration. These teams build on the synergy of the team members, improve communication and buy-in, increase productivity, raise employee morale, and provide a forum for personal development. To achieve these benefits from sales and marketing teams, organizations must be prepared to address both the critical success factors and the issues unique to teams in sales and marketing. When they do, they have taken another major step toward an open organization culture.

Practice an open Organization Culture: To be effective, all the elements of the open organization culture must be used together. Gathering information by practicing awareness and taking a global view is of no value if the organization does not share the information or take informed action. Reserving action for the top of the business does not support fast response or take advantage of the skills of the people who really get the work done. Taking action without questioning the organization’s underlying beliefs and assumptions may lead to repeating mistakes. It is when all the elements of an open culture work together that an organization becomes more effective and efficient, whether that organization is an entire company or a sales or marketing function.

Apply Technology: Of all best practices described in this book, applying technology is today’s most visible. It has reached this status within the past five years and it appears that it will continue to revolutionize the way customers buy and companies sell in the future. That makes it important to stay aware of changing technology, looking for ways to use it to address opportunities and resolve problems. It is the companies that find ways to use technology, frequently ways it was never intended to be used, that will create and maintain their competitive edge. The others will just be playing catch-up.

His book lays out a good foundation for the above practices. Granted it may be dated but it reinforces not so much the ideas that I have been writing about but just how wide of a gap that we have bringing continuous improvement to sales and marketing. To have a chance resides in the power of Deming’s concept and its simplicity. The concept of feedback in the Scientific Method is firmly rooted in education and well understood. The tools used in PDCA process are very visual and deceptively simple to start with (as you understand them, they tend to get harder ;)). And for the “people person”, Lean is all about people; training, empowering and respecting.

This is why I believe the Future of Marketing is Lean!

Related Posts:
Understand Scrum, Understand Implementing PDCA
Why does sales and marketing operate to a different quality standard?
The Future of Marketing is Lean
Why Lean Marketing? Because it is the Future of Marketing …
PDCA for Lean Marketing, Knowledge Creation
Lean Marketing Creates Knowledge for the Customer

2 thoughts on “Where is the path in Continuous Improvement for Sales and Marketing?”

  1. Great stuff, Joe. I have to wonder is much of the resistance to collaborative, team-based approaches in the Sales & marketing world has to do with compensation systems that reward only individual accomplishments? If I am able to earn large commissions or bonuses from closing deals, what incentive do I have to risk losing my customer by working with someone else? If we seek a certain behavior, we must create systems that create that behavior. As such, do you think that incentive structures that rewarded teamwork (and not just with mondetary compensation) would have a natural advantage in the marketing world over those that offered just individual commisions? Offering those commissions is widelyused to motivate the sales force. Is it time for that thinking to be replaced?nnThanks, Joe! I look forward to reading more.

  2. Thanks for the comments. I think it is time. Commission needs to be restructured. I intend to have an entire post on compensating team vs. individual commissions. If you get a sale, the entire team should be rewarded. It does not have to be done equally as many members of the team may have other duties and responsibilities. nnThe biggest drawback to these structures is that seldom are the objectives of the sales team well defined. Case in point, you need to look at the system as a whole (I think I heard that somewhere before (Deming)) vs. individual sales. What about rewarding a team for customer retention on a quarterly to annual basis. Maybe, on fewest returns or even training issues if these objectives fit, and so on.. Paying individual commissions on individual sales is just not very lean like, is it?

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