Just over a year ago I had a chance to meet with Gary Brattland, who runs the Paradigm Best Practices Round Table group in Minnesota. I also attended one of the group’s meetings, where they basically get together at one of the member’s companies to take a tour and share best (or better) practices and politely give each other a good kick in the pants. It is a great means of accountability and learning in a community environment.

One of Gary’s beliefs that he shared with me and also at the group meeting is that sales is a process, just like any other process within an organization. Just like a manufacturing process. Like an engineering process. Complete with standard work, non-value added time, and measurable metrics. At that time, Gary was asking the question, “Shouldn’t the sales part of our organization be measured like everyone else?” Really? Isn’t sales an art? Don’t you have to be a slick sales guy and know the right things to say and exactly when to say them?

A supporting book that Gary referred to was The Dolphin and the Cow by Todd Youngblood. It’s a great quick read and highlights these three points on the back cover:

  1. Continuous improvement of the sales process is a fundamental necessity.
  2. Objective metrics – lots of them – are required to judge the quality, the amount and the pace of improvement.
  3. A well-defined sales process is a pre-requisite for determining meaningful metrics.

Another book that I believe furthers this idea is Same Game New Rules by Bill Caskey. Bill really talks about sales being a process. And in the effort to define your process you really try to determine those activities that add the most value to your customer, but also do so with the least amount of waste for your own organization. And there isn’t anything “magical” about it. The goal is to define the best process to find people that will receive the most value from your products or services and then to not feel bad “sticking” to that process and potentially not spending time on wasteful activities that were previously commonplace in your sales organization.

And while two books could be considered theoretical and not practical, I know of real-world success from a friend of mine Matt Sentena, who has been successfully selling for years, and who always tells me, “Selling is just a process.” And if selling is a process, then it can be improved upon. So we should all start making sales an integral part of our lean enterprise.