Tag Archives: how to improve sales

Improve Sales By Focusing On the Customer/Supplier Relationship

Satisfied and delighted customers are the lifeblood of any organization. Our professional lives are more rewarding when customers love what we do or provide for them.

Providing customers with the highest quality products and services at the best possible price starts with clearly understanding the customers’ needs and requirements and then designing and implementing processes that consistently deliver value. But there are two types of customers:
• external customers
• internal customers

It’s important to recognize that both types of customers are important and have needs that must be met. External customers are the people who pay for our products and services. As Dr. Deming said: “No customers, no orders, no jobs!”

Paying attention to the external customers’ requirements is essential and helps us keep the entire organization focused on doing value added work (i.e., “work the external customer would pay for if they know what we were doing”).

However, to effectively meet the external customers’ needs, we must also work with our internal customers. Understanding and meeting our internal customers’ needs and requirements helps the process of producing our product or service to flow smoothly, be problem-free and deliver the highest quality at the lowest total cost. When we work with our internal customers we are, in fact, “internal suppliers.”

Of course, this customer-supplier relationship extends to our external suppliers as well. From our external customer’s point of view, we are responsible for what they buy from us; and our suppliers are part of the system.

It is increasingly important to build strong customer/supplier partnerships that ensure that we get exactly what we need, in the right quantity, at the right price to be able to meet our external customers’ needs.

Studying Our Work to Improve…
If we’d like to increase sales by improving our “sales” process, we should begin by studying our work. As a first step, identify our top customers’ 3-5 “must-have” requirements. As requirements are identified, it helps to understand their relative importance. What requirements does the customer consider “musts” versus “wants?” The chart below might help with the analysis of identifying measures we must track to determine how well we are meeting customer requirements.

Studying Our Work

Keep in mind that customer requirements are constantly changing as well, and yesterday’s “wants” may become tomorrow’s “musts.” So, we must continually analyze (and improve!) our work – paying attention to both “internal” and “external” customers, as indicated by the “Deming Cycle.”

Improve Sales Too

It’s rare to find a business organization of any substance
that has not implemented at least some type of improvement initiative in their manufacturing, administrative, or service sectors,  whether it be the Conway approach, LEAN, Six Sigma, and so on.

But, as noted in a previous post, not as many have defined a sales process, nor have they taken the hunt for waste and the quest for continuous improvement into the realm of sales .

Selling is a process. The basic principles of work and process improvement certainly apply, and, just as these principles have brought about measurable gains in other sectors, so too, if properly executed, can they help those in the selling arena learn how to contribute more to the overall enterprise; how to work smarter, faster, and with more success.

These principles might also help a sales team stand out from the competition due to more effective execution.

By teaching the basic principles of studying, changing, and improving work and work processes to sales professionals, an organization can empower them to help themselves and the enterprise realize major (breakthrough!) accomplishments, such as:

  • Communicating at a higher level with customers
  • Gathering the “voice of the customer”
  • Interacting more harmoniously with internal customers
  • Selling more in less time
  • Managing key accounts more effectively
  • Increasing margins

As sellers learn more about the effects of continuous improvement, they will become better at translating the company’s true value-added message. They might even help to develop it!

As they become more educated and enthusiastic about the relevance of simple statistics, variation, and waste reduction, it’s likely that they will also become more effective at uncovering and expressing true customer needs.

And finally, a sales force so educated will more readily recognize the advantages of incorporating all of these principles into their daily sales effort. As a result, they will become more efficient. They will become more successful. Successful sales people stay on, sell more, and help the company grow more profitably.

Why not improve sales too?