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How To Make Lean Six Sigma Work For Sales Operations

Mar 17, 2008
Many businesses have now been successful in executing Lean Sigma in sales and gaining benefits that have been obvious only in case of organizational processes and functions.

In addition, success stories of innovators and industry leaders prove that this methodology is not only effective but also helpful in providing practice guidelines for employing Lean Six Sigma in sales operations.

Selecting an Appropriate Project Focus Area

Many organizations are clueless about applying Lean Six Sigma principles and ascertaining the right type of project for sales operations. Based on experience and best practices of companies like Xerox, Honeywell, Johnson & Johnson, GE, and others, six types of projects signify the productivity for early projects.

1. Generation of Leads
2. Sales proposal procedures
3. Sales predictions
4. Launch of New products
5. Effectiveness and efficiency of the sales force
6. VOC, or Voice of the customer

These project areas can be classified into two types or categories. The first four project areas are included in Category 1. These project areas primarily concentrate on improving sub-processes in favor of or related to field sales. Very often companies find it easy to begin with Category-1 projects, as they are easy to map, identify, and visualize. Moreover, metrics and data based on the process performance are easy to gather and classify. The processes included are can be repeated in a coherent manner.

Although Category 1 projects create improvements in the effectiveness of internal processes, they may not be able to solely produce revolutionary results that attribute Lean Six Sigma initiatives. The projects included in Category 2 are much more capable of generating revolutionary results as they are considerably more challenging and complex when it comes to gathering dependable quantitative data, distinguishing reliable processes, gauging root causes, and employing solutions.

Nonetheless, since Category 2 projects have a greater impact on selling processes directly and the field sales force, they bring about resolutions and enhancements that make marginal growth and sustainable and significant revenue.

Sales Force Efficiency and Effectiveness (SFE&E) Projects

Companies with sales forces that call upon numerous customers and signify standard services and products are appropriate contenders for sales force efficiency and effectiveness (SFE&E) projects. These companies usually deal with hospital products and medical devices, pharmaceutical, information technology, and, financial services.

Even though sales representatives working for these companies have approximately the same customer and market opportunities when it comes to competition, products to sell, local territories, etc., there is a sizeable difference in the functioning and end results of every representative.

In Six Sigma language, if a considerable amount of process variation is eradicated, it will result in a revolutionary improvement in the income.

Voice of the Customer Projects

Voices of the Customer (VOC) projects are usually favorable to companies that have a strong customer segment and market. These companies function in industries like automotive, household appliances and aerospace, and have a small, consultative sales force, that is systematized around a few key accounts. The projects are aimed at dynamic market penetration or customer share by identifying every customer requirements.

These requirements could include measurable standard of products, relationship and service quality that a supplier should achieve for remain continuing business with an account holder. Certainly, meeting these requirements is not sufficient for ensuring continued customer share growth and sales, particularly in view of the fact that competitors in the same account could similarly try to increase customer share.

Lastly, Lean Six Sigma in sales projects should concentrate on growing profitability by running the topmost line of the business, rather than slashing expenses. As the profits escalate, the cost-to-revenue ratios and productivity of the sales force will also improve.
About the Author
Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution's Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.
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