A “Lean Office” Can Provide Fat Increases in Sales

How a marketing Kaizen can help revitalize sales

All companies depend on sales. But, as with all things dynamic, sales can run in cycles. In fact, while there may be certain macroeconomic issues that impact sales cycles, many slumps in sales change as a result of the inner workings of a company. In fact, what may have worked before may no longer be effective. Indeed, this was the case with a Health and Welfare Benefits vendor.

Rather than just accept a “normal” cyclical downturn in sales, the CEO decided to take a closer look. After hearing some grumbling coming out of the sales department, he decided to investigate. He wasn’t sure what the problems were, and he had hoped his Sales Manager would have let him know in their regular meetings.

CEO talking to his Sales Manager

The CEO decided to have an outside expert come in and perform a review of the company rather than depend on politicized input from the sales managers. In just a few days on site; the consultant shocked the CEO with his appraisal of what was happening to Sales.

Human nature and office politics often dissuade employees from coming forward about internal company issues. However, if consultants and management can convey that there is a real attempt to improve the company without the risk of becoming a “tattletail,” employees are typically more likely to share their input. If they are promised confidentiality, the confessions are even more likely.

In fact, the higher up the management chain, the greater the risk of pointing out weaknesses or needed improvements. (Please don’t shoot the messenger!)

One of the first things done when assessing a company is to provide a confidential survey to each employee with the caveat that only the consultant will view the results of the anonymous survey.

Many lower level employees have worked for other companies and have a good idea when things need improvement. This is particularly true with policies and procedures….and morale.

Becoming a Lean Office starts with getting rid of waste and inefficiencies

The survey results the consultant received on the first day revealed some obvious problems confirmed by several employees in administration and sales.

seemed to be at the heart of the concerns as seen by employees.

Becoming a Lean Office

So, the consultant immediately began private (and confidential) interviews with several key staff in the administration and Sales departments.

When asked the question: “What would you improve if you were the CEO,” those interviewed were able to immediately point to the lack of organization and consistent policies and procedures that caused almost daily arguments and frustration.

Indeed, sales staff were a particular problem the next day after payroll due to the constant disparities between what sales staff felt they were due and what was on their pay stub. In fact, it was pointed out that turnover in the sales department was a rotating door. That led the consultant to the Sales Manager. After a cordial interview with the Sales Manager, low morale and high turnover were confirmed. The manager stated that he was spending too much time

  • hiring,
  • firing, and
  • training new recruits.

In addition, the Sales Manager felt that the company needed to invest in innovative sales promotions and needed to look at the attrition of the existing customer base. This new feedback led the consultant to the Marketing department.

After speaking confidentially with the V.P. of Marketing, she revealed that the CEO had been skeptical of her proposed sales programs and she had decided to “play it safe” and only offer up a “sure thing.” The consultant asked the V.P.: “What are your competitors doing?” The answer was disappointing as she didn’t have a good idea of what the competition’s current marketing initiatives were. Further, the consultant asked the Marketing V.P. to explain how she developed marketing ideas. It was quickly revealed that collaboration was limited and there were little data being captured or analyzed.

A trained consultant does not suggest solutions rather gathers information first. Moreover, key information is always confirmed by more than one source.  

Actions Taken

After gathering sufficient information, the consultant set up a conference with the CEO to discuss the findings and find out if the CEO could concur with what had been revealed. Often, the findings only confirm what management already suspected but don’t want to admit.  In fact, there is a prudent fear of taking inappropriate actions that can only exacerbate problems.

After listening to the consultant, the CEO seemed in agreement with the findings and asked the consultant what could be done to fix the problem. This is the moment when “the rubber meets the road in the consulting business.” The business response is: “either you fix it or have experts come in and do it correctly the first time. Besides, you still have a business to run.” This statement is followed by silence while the decision maker considers the options.

After very little hesitation, the CEO decided to fix the problem and do it immediately. It was decided that further consulting would be taken on to, coordinate, train and install a “Lean Office” project. The next step was to develop a detailed scope of work as well as a cost-benefit analysis of the project before actual implementation would begin.

Changes Start to Take Place Immediately

The MetaExperts™ came on-site and assisted the executives and managers in restructuring their business practices internally. They sought to both reduce waste and leverage advanced sales and marketing methods to increase their customer base. When the transformation was completed, the MetaExpertsTM– had completed the following:

  • Identified the important and relevant issues of each of their target markets.
  • Identified hot buttons; those key motivators of target customers.
  • Learned how to get inside their prospect/customer’s head so they could effectively write or speak to them.
  • Conducted competitive intelligence surveys.
  • Composed and implemented three customer surveys.  
  • Created a ‘fishbone diagram’ of the current communication map for their three target markets with corrective actions for each.
  • Identified and improved internal communication processes that created negative first impressions.
  • Uncovered and acted on 79 innovations to improve customer service and/or separate them from the competition.
  • Compiled innovative ideas such as an interactive wellness program to separate the company from their competition.

Results

This company:

  • Received 26% and 28% return on their satisfaction surveys.
  • Included one question that resulted in 65 new requests for quotes – a 125% increase over the prior year.
  • Closed 45% of the total quotes prepared for the entire previous year – a 50% improvement in close rates.
  • Commissioned ongoing communications, so their “outside perception was aligned with their inside reality.”

ROI Achieved

  • 26% and 28% return on satisfaction surveys.
  • Received 65 new requests for quotes.
  • Achieved 45% increase in total request for quotes.
  • Increased sales the first year by 6,000 members and 5,000 members in year two, blowing the doors off historical growth.

Client Skills Required: Lean Office training and deployment, SOP (standard operating procedures) improvement, continuous process improvement, leadership and training in the practice of High-Performing Teams, Kaizen sales and marketing teams, and plan implementation

Contract Length: 8 months

Support by MetaOps, Inc. MetaExperts: Lean Office and Marketing Kaizen (Kaizen is a Japanese term using “change” (kai) and “good” (zen) to describe a process of continuous improvement; always changing for the better. Kaizen seeks total improvement in all areas of a company – every employee, every process, every day and sales training, mentoring, coaching and implementation, and High-Performing Teams development.)

Consulting is all about the basic question: “Why reinvent the wheel” and “If it works for others….why can’t it work for you?”

Your time and that of your staff have a double cost when working on new in-house initiatives; they aren’t doing the productive work they were hired for, and yet they are getting paid for something they probably have little training or experience with. Moreover, if changes are done incorrectly…..well, you get the picture.

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