Tag Archives: sales process improvement

Improve Sales by focusing on customer/supplier relationships


Continuing with the theme of improving our sales process, it’s important to remind ourselves that satisfied and delighted customers are the lifeblood of any organization.

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?”

Keep in mind that customer requirements are constantly changing as well, and yesterday’s “wants” may become tomorrow’s “musts.”

Nothing Happens Until Somebody Sells Something!

sales growth

You may be familiar with Arthur “Red” Motley’s quote, “Nothing happens until somebody sells something!”

Leaving aside the extent to which Motley’s perspective might or might not be true, effectively managing the sales process and maintaining a path of steady revenue growth are every-day objectives within organizations of all types and sizes. And while many external factors, such as variation in the economy or increased competition, can significantly impact results, the selling process — like all processes — can and must be studied and continually improved.

Interestingly, when we delve into that subject with organizational leaders we frequently find that they have not defined a “sales process” that focuses on the work. Instead, they refer to their CRM categories as the sales process.

We understand and appreciate the value of CRM systems and forecasting, but this type of measurement does not focus on the work. It is, therefore, not surprising that a common challenge facing so many organizations is how to grow revenue.

If sales growth is an issue for your organization, here are a few strategies you might consider from a past newsletter:

  • Looking outward to test or confirm what customers deem most important
  • Looking inward for opportunities to define and improve the sales process
  • Looking forward to maintain an innovative edge, based on 3 key criteria

Read the full article…

Improving Sales

Imagine what it would be like if your company could make every sale!

How much revenue could be generated each year? How much profit? How much growth?

How would you manage it all? What changes or improvements to the current selling process do you think would be required for this to happen?

lowaimquote Of course it wouldn’t be reasonable to plan on making “every” sale, but as the James Russell Lowell quote suggests, it’s best to aim high!  But in an effort to do so, and when trying to answer these questions, most people discover that selling is a multifaceted activity, and identifying the waste that is common to the process is more challenging than expected.

To begin with, the physical work is tough to track because it’s done in different places (i.e., in the field, in showrooms, on the phone, etc.) under varying circumstances, and involves a constantly changing cast of characters (every customer is unique!).

In addition, standardized practices are not easy to establish due to regional variations in culture and acceptable conduct. And the appropriate “next step” in the process is constantly subject to change based upon several varying and unknown factors – how the customer or prospect will react to what’s put on the table, their decision-making process, communication gaps, and more!

But as is the case with all forms of work, once we sufficiently delve into the work involved in selling, we can identify waste and find tremendous opportunities for improvement.

Consider that all waste can be categorized in one of the following four ways:

  • Waste of material
  • Waste of capital
  • Waste of time
  • Lost opportunities

Over the years we have learned that the greatest waste tends to fall into the fourth category – the lost opportunities. These lost opportunities are most often due to sales that were not made, either because we didn’t discover the opportunity or because we lost to a competitor. Some of the lost opportunity can also be traced to sales we made at sub-optimum margin.

Over the next few posts we’ll look more closely at ways to improve the sales process and, in so doing, ways to reduce the number of lost opportunities.