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Guidelines For Making Lean Six Sigma Work In Sales

Jul 14, 2008
When lean Six Sigma is to be applied to the sales department, selecting the right project type is most important.

-Lead Generation
-Sales proposal
-Product launch
-Sales force efficiency and effectiveness project
-Voice of the customer

They can be categorized as those that focus on the enhancement of sub-processes related to field sales and sales processes. This would mean the first four projects would fall under this category. Companies find it easy to identify, visualize and map processes, collect data and set metrics for data falling under this category. The processes are repetitive and consistent, and make implementation easier.

By providing better leads and speeding sales proposals, there is bound to be more revenue generation. At the same time, if the sales forecasts are done effectively, the preparedness or provision of the products would be adequate to ensure availability at any time and on demand. However, these are not enough to become trademark Lean Six Sigma initiatives.

The other category involves two projects of sales force efficiency and effectiveness and voice of the customer. These projects pose a challenge in finding consistent processes, collecting quantitative data, finding causes and implementing solutions.

They have an impact on the field staff and sales process directly. These projects bring about substantial improvement and revenue and margins.

Sales Force Efficiency and Effectiveness Projects

Those companies with sales team that sell standard products are in constant contact with the customer. In industries dealing with medical devices, hospital products, financial products, etc., products are more or less the same, with identical markets and customers.

There is a considerable amount of variation in the performance of the representatives in the team. In Six Sigma terms, where there is process variation, improvement can be achieved by eliminating them and earning improved output, which in this case is the revenue growth.

In these projects, Six Sigma tools such as fishbone diagrams and the 5 Whys are effectively used to identify the root cause of the variations and results. Soft skills are more often the root cause, rather than the hard factors like job experiences. However, soft skills can also be identified and improved, and best practices simulated through out the sales team. Sales managers can help them develop best selling behaviors.

Voice of the Customer Projects

Companies that deal in automotive, household appliance or aerospace markets find voice of the customer projects to be more useful. These projects concentrate on the customer's basic requirements. Simply meeting basic customer requirements is not sufficient; companies need to strive to achieve customer delight.

In these projects, the Six Sigma tools applied identify basic requirements and try to understand what would delight customers. The root causes are identified and solutions drawn to address the delight issue, which is going to be the deciding factor in revenue growth.

In the implementation of lean Six Sigma, the projects undertaken should focus on increasing profitability - not just reducing expenses. The sales force will accept this only when they see that they increase sales as well. Involving the sales staff in the project will help save the time on staff training, and hands- on experience with the tools can be supported by the Black Belts even if they are not from the sales team.

By making it simple to implement, change initiatives can be brought about successfully.
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 six sigma professionals including, lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.
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