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Mary and Tom Poppendieck in Ann Arbor April 21, 2010

Posted by Bill Heitzeg in Uncategorized.
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Mary and Tom Poppendieck were in Ann Arbor yesterday and I was lucky enough to be able to spend some time with them.  Part of the day was an interactive event where teams used Value Stream Mapping to attempt to improve their processes.   I’ve seen this exercise before at several other Mary Poppendieck events and yet it’s always a unique learning experience.

What was surprising about yesterday is that all three of the presented value stream maps screamed out:  “Improve the Sales Qualification Process!”.

What I liked best about the fact that all three really needed serious sales process improvement is that we were standing in the Joe Marr Sandler training center.  Joe Marr and Mike Wynn weren’t around, but I think they would have loved it.

So what did Lean say to do?  What would Sandler say?

First and foremost, Lean and Sandler both demand that you create artifacts as late in the process as possible or not at all.  One of our biggest cases yesterday was a map that showed the company creating a proposal and a software demonstration before securing any real intent of purchase.  After the proposal and the demonstration, then and only then was the customer asked to commit in any real way.  The closing rate was less than 30%.  There is no way Joe and Mike would have allowed that and of course Mary was having none of it either.

Second, Lean and Sandler both say that moving closer to the customer and gaining a real understanding of their problem is essential to good closes that stay closed.  Lean specifically says to break down those processes or habits that keep your implementation staff at arms length from the client.  Sandler say “No Pain, No Sale”, which means you need to understand what the client really wants of course but it also means that you won’t keep the customer or get repeat business if you don’t solve the pain.  Yesterday we saw a map that showed how the implementation staff only got involved with the client after the sale was supposedly closed and all the requirements were defined.  The people who could have understood and solved the clients problems weren’t involved in the sales process, so instead, a lot of “defensive” process was added to insure that everything was defined in infinite detail and time buffers were added (both very un-Lean things to do).  Still, with all of that, once the implementation staff finished what they thought they were suppose to do, they always had to make some changes, sometimes a lot of changes.  I certainly felt I could hear the frustration in one of their managers’ voices when they described how the “Customers are picky and always have to make us change something”.  Now obviously that kind of thing makes implementation difficult, but it’s not just implementation folks who suffer.  The Sales manager probably spends an amazing amount of time fielding calls from frustrated clients or busily trying to find new clients because the old ones seem to disappear on a regular basis. In this case, I saw where moving programmers into the sales process could make a huge difference in both departments, saving time, money, and most importantly emotional energy better spent elsewhere.

It really turns out that Lean and Sandler have a lot in common.  I plan to annoy my wife by over analyzing this to death over the next few days.

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Agile Sales and Marketing April 20, 2010

Posted by Bill Heitzeg in Agile Sales and Marketing.
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Agile practices lend themselves very well to Sales and Marketing,  I use them quite a bit with my clients and I’m always discovering new ways that Agile can be applied in this space.  Here’s some examples of what I’m currently doing:

The Daily Sales Scrum

Having a daily Sales SCRUM is something that professional sales managers have been doing for years.  They don’t call it a SCRUM or a Standup, but it’s the same idea.  This works for the same reason it works for software development, by putting people together daily to discuss blocking issues, we prevent problems from festering for days or even weeks.  Sharing experiences in a formal, standup format, makes a noticeable difference.  In a small company, where there is possibly just one sales person who may not be doing sales full time, support is essential and a daily standup with other members of the management team can make all the difference in the world.  As with a normal standup, have this meeting at the same time every day.   Make sure everyone stays focused, because like a Standup, if this becomes an hour long meeting, it won’t be sustainable.  To keep people focused, try to have them only talk about what they are stuck on or need advice about.  Victories and failures are good to share, but those really don’t belong in a standup.

Retrospective

Many professional sales people take time to do this.  Again they don’t call it a Retrospective, but it’s a similar idea.  In sales we spend a lot of time inside our own heads trying to guess where we went wrong or what we did right.  Formal Retrospectives are essential in order to stop guessing and start understanding.  Working with others in your company, whether they are in sales or not, to document and debug critical sales experiences can be an extremely useful tool to breaking open new sales.

Pair Cold Calling

I know not all of you are making your cold calls and I’ll address why you need to in another post, but for now, let me tell you how much more fun Cold Calling is when you’re doing it with a friend.  I started doing this almost 2 years ago and I can’t tell you what a difference it makes.  Like so many others, I have a love/hate relationship with Cold Calling.  Pairing up with someone, not only makes Cold Calling bearable, it makes it downright fun.  This is pretty simple.  One of you makes the call why the other “observes” by listening in.  If you are doing walk-ins (something I’ve done with a pair) one of you does all the talking while the other smiles politely at the prospect.  After each call you swap, with the observer becoming the sales person and visa versa.  When you first pair you’ll start giving each other advice, but very quickly it will smooth out and the calls will just fly.  I’m happy these days to do cold calls by myself, but if I had never paired, I’m not sure I would have ever come to accept cold calls as the necessary energizing event they are suppose to be.

Test Driven Development

Test driven development means to write the tests first.  This helps you gain understanding of what you really want the code to do while giving you a repeatable test you can use from now until the ‘spec’ changes.   In new sales we need to continuously reach good prospects.  Reaching them means sending a message that they will respond to.  I first define the prospect and the message and then I build the artifacts around them.  In the example of a web page, I first design a set of goals in a very objective way using tools like Wordal and Google Analytics and then I build my site around those goals.  In this way,  I end up with  re-usable tests that tells me if I got it right and if I continue to get it right.

Those are just a few of many examples of how Agile can be a great fit for Sales and Marketing.