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Perfect the Process of Selling How to apply engineering principles to sales, marketing,


and customer service KAREN E. STARR


Salespeople pride themselves on being intuitive, and sales management is no exception. However, according to one expert, management often rushes to automate the sales process for the sake of “improving” it, without taking the time to examine the process itself, expose its underlying flaws, and set measurable goals for improvement. That’s not intuitive – that’s just impulsive. The expert proposes that the principles of engineering can and should be applied to sales; that it is a process that can be controlled; and that systematic inquiry into the sales process – raising questions and solving problems step by step – is necessary to effect meaningful change.


THE NEED TO MEASURE INTANGIBLES To improve the process, says the expert, all the variables in the process must be measured – even such intangibles as customer relationships. Managers can measure these by making them part of an operational strategy for defin- ing observable behaviors. In customer relationships, for example, a company can measure customer satisfaction by determining its customer retention rate – by deter- mining the percentage of customers who are continuing to buy from them vs. the competition.


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Once these variables are made operational, manage- ment can assign the variables a cost – letting manage- ment objectively prioritize which portion of the process to improve. When the costs have been evaluated, the decision of which part of the process to change can be based on such factors as how much it will impact the customer, how important it is to the business, or even how easy it is to change.


APPLYING QUALITY CONTROLS TO THE SALES PROCESS


The expert maintains that quality theories that apply to the manufacturing process apply just as well to the sales process. He cites an example by a quality control guru. The guru’s solution for reducing costly errors in the manufacturing process was to automatically inspect 100 percent of the parts under construction at the source of their initial construction or assembly and to automatically prevent the defect from occurring. In the sales process, a company could achieve this “zero defect” solution by implementing an electronic configuration system. Just-in-time methodology – delivering exactly what is needed in the right quantity and the right quality,


SERGEY NIVENS / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM


processes to increase sales productivity.


Eliminate wasteful


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