peter f drucker quote Is Your Sales Process Full of ^@#%!

To increase sales productivity, you have to reduce or eliminate the tasks that aren’t productive. In Sales, we refer to the most productive tasks—communicating with prospects and customers—as ‘selling’ tasks.  All other tasks are often referred to as ‘non-selling’ tasks.

Research shows that on average, sales reps spend only 35% of their time selling. My question has always been, “What are you doing when you aren’t selling?” The answer is that much of what salespeople do when they aren’t talking with prospects and customers are none-the-less, necessary to close a deal.

Shouldn’t those also be considered ‘selling’ tasks?   So I don’t like talking about selling vs non-selling tasks because it doesn’t give us the right context for evaluation. On the other-hand, you can only close business with people you communicate with. So our non-selling time is either in direct support of the time we spend selling or it isn’t.

Earlier this month I wrote a blog post entitled: Sales Waste and the Production Line Theory of Revenue Growth and made the point that we need to eliminate waste in the sales process just as we did in the early years of the auto industry (and continue to do today).

That’s when I was reminded of the concept of Muda. Muda is a Japanese word meaning “futility; uselessness; idleness; superfluity; waste; wastage; wastefulness.”

The main concept is that every action, step or process can be categorized in one of three ways. It is either:

  1. Value-Added
  2. Incidental or
  3. Muda (Waste).

From a general business prospective, Value-Added are the things a customer is willing to pay for.

Incidental activities are the actions that are not value-added but necessary. These actions are often considered as being necessary but do not directly add any value.

Muda is everything else. Muda are tasks that don’t add value and are unnecessary.

Is your sales process full of Muda?

There are 7 most common categories of Muda. I thought it would be interesting to map them onto sales tasks in an attempt to identify where we can look for productivity gains. What follows are the traditional definitions of each of the 7 Muda categories along with sales specific examples.

Motion – Unnecessarily movement during a process or activity.
Do salespeople waste motion searching—for the right contact, the right collateral, the right email, etc? Do they make too many cold calls that end in poor or no result? Does every forecasted deal result in a close-win?

Transportation – Unnecessary movement of materials or supplies.
Do salespeople send contracts for electronic signature or are you interjecting transportation muda into the contract signing process (emailing, printing, faxing, routing)? Do they send information to prospects in multiple emails, attachments, and links? Are they still carrying around loads of product collateral?

Inventory – Having too much, or too few supplies.
Do you give your salespeople too many low-quality leads or too few high-quality leads? Do you saddle your salespeople with too much paperwork or administrative tasks? Do salespeople get the coaching they need?

Over-processing – Doing more than is truly necessary.
Do salespeople call on the same clients too often because they’re easier to talk to? Are they doing too much pre-call preparation? Do deals take too long to make it through the forecast?

Rework – Poor initial quality or through-put.
Do salespeople go into sales calls unprepared? Do they ensure all the right people will be in attendance at the first sales call? Do they present the right pricing and discounting in every proposal?

Waiting  Waiting for another person or process before you can move forward.
Do deals get put on hold while salespeople wait for internal pricing approval? Do deals stall or do forecasted opportunities get delayed? Do salespeople wait, wondering if a prospect received their email when they could be closing on the next step? Do you wait on your salespeople to log sales calls or enter activity reports before you can assess performance or know how to coach?

Over-Production – Producing too much, too soon, or too fast.
Do salespeople book un-profitable business in their quest to hit plan? Do they have a high cold call-to-appointment close ratio because of a focus on “the numbers game?”

Everything salespeople do to close business is part of a process. If you eliminate Muda you shorten the process, improve profitability, and grow revenue. Producing revenue is not that different from producing a product. Careful analysis of the process with an eye toward eliminating Muda may be all you need to ensure that 2014 is a record sales year.

Can you think of ways that you’ve eliminated Muda in your sales process? Please contribute if you can add to the list.