We recently sat down with Robert Pryor, author of Lean Selling and asked him 5 questions about what sales process and managing sales teams and their behavior.  

Can you share a piece of insight from your book Lean Selling that you think every sales organization should follow?

To take your business to the next level, invest in developing a superstar sales process rather than trying to find or make superstar salespeople.

Can you provide a brief example of how you’ve worked with companies to improve their business performance?

By helping them to understand why the above point is true. Helping them to learn how to apply proven Lean principles and practices to their own selling system to radically improve sales productivity and effectiveness.

Presenting data on real-time performance and KPI’s is a Lean concept, so what is important to get right from a people, process, and technology standpoint to do it correctly?

Embarking on a Lean implementation is a practical—not an academic—exercise. I like to start with a focus and consensus on what the leadership would like to improve their current sales metrics. Is it shortening the sales cycle time? Is it reducing the number of “No Decision” or “Status Quo” prospects in their sales pipeline? Or is it a reduction in the cost of customer acquisition?

While there are many common issues across sales organizations, each company is unique and has its vision for what it would like to become. Often there are several candidate initiatives for improvement. It is best to start with the one that is the highest priority because it has the biggest potential payoff, the least risk, or is the most strategic.

The KPI’s should be selected carefully to ensure that if they are achieved, then the highest priority goal will be as well. Equally important is selecting the correct things to measure that tell you if the KPI is moving in the right direction.

Everything I just mentioned would fit under “People” because it requires a lot of collaboration and discussion to get these things right. It is important that there is a working team consensus on everything. This requires a lot of human effort and creativity. That’s why I put these under the “People” category.

The “Process” part is all about execution. Fortunately, Lean has a deep history and rich set of best practices, as well as tools for implementation. It is very much a “bottom-up” approach to troubleshooting and experimentation as opposed to a “top-down” one.

It is important that the company has a way to capture the inputs to the KPI’s. But that doesn’t mean leaping to a technology solution right away. In Lean, we try to keep it as simple and low-tech as possible, and that includes when it comes to gathering and reporting data. Certainly, there will be times when technology is called for, but most organizations jump to a technology solution too quickly, and it gets in the way of the Lean changes they are trying to make.

In establishing, monitoring and acting on KPIs across a sales organization, where does sales intelligence technologies come into play?

The biggest challenge most companies have when they try to figure out how to improve their selling systems is that they don’t have the data to know what’s going on and where the bottlenecks are. There is a strong cultural bias in sales management to look at revenues and close rates as their primary data points. These are the “effects” of a selling system.

We all know these are critically important objectives, but they don’t help when you want to make your selling machine more productive. For that, you have to look at the “causes” that lead to sales (or lack of them).

For that, you require data at different critical points along the entire sales value chain. All the way from how a company finds potential customers, to how it sells to them, to what it does after the sale. A lot of investment has been made over the last decade in after-sale intelligence, but very little in pre-sales intelligence, which would have much more impact on sales results.

Can you share any other lean selling wisdom for sales leaders to learn more about or infuse into their organization?

There’s lots of introductory information at www.leansellingbook.com. Sales leaders can also join the LinkedIn Lean Selling Group.

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