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Happy New Year!
It is 2023 and a new year. Our chance to re-set, reflect and play our cards differently based on our outcome and level of fulfillment last year.
Although this year, we may feel the pressures of our financial environment. Interest rates, cost of living has gone up, and companies are laying off, while most quotas have remained unchanged or increased. So how do we make lemonade from lemons? like gum, how can we stretch our business dollars to get more for ourselves, our employees, and our customers?
To answer this I would like to tell a story that took place back in 2014….I was having lunch with a good friend in the Distillery District in Toronto. I was sharing that I wasn’t completely challenged in my job and wanted a change. She asked me If I had heard of Lean Six Sigma, and I told her I wasn’t interested in karate. (LOL, that is true, embarrassed to say it, but it is)
She told me more about it and I was curious to learn more. As an avid learner, I liked the idea of continuous improvement, in myself, processes and who has time for waste, so I dug in. I signed up for the first course in the program at the University of Toronto and loved it. My eyes were opened to how much waste was around us….
After 2 years I received my certificate in LSS from the University of Toronto.
I used my new skills to reignite my current role. At the time, I was dealing with hospital executives. Gaining access back then was still difficult as it is today. Some fundamentals don’t change, WIFM is required. What’s in it for me?
I had a skill that I felt allowed me to make the invisible visible. Asking the right questions illuminating part of a process, workflow, or decision that wasn’t optimal, or they didn’t have the data or answer to expose a gap. Bingo, now I had access. I could then conduct a Lean assessment to review processes and make recommendations after the findings. I had their attention. After the first project, their eyes were opened. They found out they had no way of knowing if certain types of equipment were being cleaned after use, in a hospital poses a huge risk. There was no standard process, and ambiguity in understanding and implementing the process. There was so much variation in the answers I received, I was shocked they all worked on the same team. Sales leaders, this might be the case for you and your team in certain aspects of their role.
In another case when they felt there was a shortage in devices, it wasn’t actually a shortage it was due to distribution, flow and storage. They didn't need more, they needed to manage their existing better.They thought I was a magician.The point here is, in environments like this, we have an opportunity to work with what we have. Make systems more efficient, lean out, standardize, or decrease steps within a process. Look at redundancies, what are they costing us financially, human capital, and customer experience?
Why are we making people follow outdated steps? If they are going around them, there is a reason, what is it?
How as sales professionals can we apply lean thinking?
When we are engaging with our prospects are we adding friction (waste) or additional steps, that slows them down or takes them the scenic route?
Are our conversations concise? need to know vs nice to know. Time is our currency.
What I learned in the program is
Value is defined by the customer and
Value is something they would pay for
As sales folks when we offer value is it actual or perceived? These definitions will keep you honest. Get the VOC, the Voice of the customer, what is actually valuable for them? Has it changed? Are we repeating the same patterns unaware if our clients benefit from it? This is a sure way to be displaced by someone who is more attuned to the needs of their client. The purpose of this post is to educate you on some of the areas we can examine waste. What is sucking our time, resources, and energy? If we addressed them, we would have more efficient running systems, happier teams and customers that feel and see the value in you and your offering.
We used to complete projects and demonstrate a 20% reduction in waste to improve efficiencies and ultimately revenue across different industries. After we were able to do it and prove it we were so proud of our accomplishments and how much we tightened things up. Our professor would tell us to go back and do it again. You would be surprised how much room there is for continuous improvement because we did it. My goal is to share insights and offer a different way of thinking. We may be starting the new year in not the most positive headspace, or perhaps we have lost our job, but how can we adopt Kaizen into our life? Continuous Improvement. What incremental steps can we take each day, with ourselves, our team, and our clients that seem almost unnoticeable, but over time achieve results?
Think of Tim Wood, it is an acronym for the 7 types of waste. Look around you as a starting point, what can you focus on to start making small changes?
You will notice there is an 8th waste: Skills.This is a waste of human potential. Unused human talent. Are you not working to your full potential, or are you in a role too junior for your experience, not being challenged? As a leader, are you engaging your team? getting their point of view, feedback, and opinions? They are closest to the problems, processes and customers. Are we inviting them to share? Lack of training, support, roleplay, and coaching. All these contribute to skill.
Where will you start your focus? Making small changes will drive big results. Let me know what you choose and the results you achieve
For 20 years Karen has been specializing in the art and science of sales and communication her passion and experience are helping technical sales professionals become more confident and to disrupt with value.
Her dedication to developing and delivering customized sales training programs provide her audience practical, relevant tools that can be used immediately to break down the barriers in a competitive landscape and separate themselves from the noise.