Shortly after WW II, the Toyota Motor Company pioneered Lean for use in their internal production processes. Thus, the Lean Manufacturing movement began as the “Toyota Production System.” This system kicked-off a revolution in the way to build high-quality products that consumers want, and is widely credited for Toyota’s subsequent sky-rocketing growth and eventual attainment by 2007 of the position of global leader in automotive production. This achievement was indisputable proof of just how impactful a commitment to Lean methodologies can be for a company.

Implementing Lean processes consists of five sequential, foundational steps, and Toyota’s success came from methodically and continuously repeating this series of steps for every one of its production processes. They are:

  1. Eliminate all activities that are unnecessary and don’t add value for the customer.
  2. Minimize all activities that are necessary but don’t add value for the customer.
  3. Complete all activities from beginning to end as quickly as possible.
  4. When things don’t go as planned or expected, find out why, make a change, and see if it fixes the problem.
  5. Empower the people who are carrying out these activities to improve their own processes.

You don’t have to be a visionary to see how rigorously following these simple steps could improve a manufacturing process. However, the variety of ways in which Lean Thinking has expanded outside the manufacturing arena to address varied forms of service delivery that now include the medical field, schools, and government—and even how to start a company in the form of The Lean Startup—has been, well, pretty visionary. It’s time to figure out how these proven, revolutionary methods can be applied to the sales process. But only if:

  • You want your organization to create more value (as defined by the buyer).
  • You want to eliminate waste (time, money, etc.) as much as possible when creating and delivering that value.
  • You want to get a buyer to a buying decision as quickly as possible.
  • You want your people to institutionalize these goals through continuously improving the ways they do these three things.

You might already see where this is heading, and you may even be starting to connect the dots as far as the impact Lean techniques could have on your own selling system. Lean principles offer tremendous potential for the upgrading of current sales processes. Today, unfortunately, there is no single, universally-agreed-upon set of rules and procedures that describe exactly how to apply Lean practices to sales. There are, however, numerous resources on the Web that touch on various aspects of Lean and selling. There are even Lean Selling coaches and consultants out there that you can engage. Now, though, there also is a comprehensive book that addresses the application of Lean to the sales process.

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About: Robert J. Pryor is a CEO, author, speaker, educator on cutting-edge sales processes, and community builder for Lean Selling. His new book is Lean Selling: How to Slash Your Sales Cycle and Drive Profitable, Predictable Revenue Growth by Giving Buyers What They Really Want. Follow on Twitter @LeanSelling.

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