business process

Quality in a business process


We discovered in the first part of this article, the immediate impacts to be expected from an introduction accompanied by a managerial ritual, on the performance of a sales department. It is important to bear in mind that the objective of the process is to bring the system for producing quotes in line with incoming customer demand. It is nothing more than a system in which we will seek to draw the production flow of the estimates. Thus, we voluntarily create “a constraint” to make visible what we did not deal with until now, that is to say, quality problems! We will see that these are the gateway to a learning sales department.

The examples taken from this article are based on an experience shared with Bertrand De Graeve . They come from an industrial SME: the principles presented are nevertheless applicable in any universe. Good reading !

Quality in a sales process

With experience, one thing became clear to me: the notion of quality is almost non-existent within sales departments. Indeed, it is considered that quality is the subject of production or the industrial world.

Objection heard during our experience.

If this is the definition of quality, what does it mean for a commercial service? This service produces quotes, not manufactured parts.

In a factory, when a part has a defect, there are two solutions:

Either we carry out an alteration to make it “usable” by the client: this is called “re-work”, which therefore constitutes a waste

Either it goes to the dumpster, because the defect it presents will make it unusable for the customer: this is called scrap, which also constitutes waste

Sometimes, it even happens that the part presents a defect that we do not detect and which arrives at the customer: this is what is called a non-conformity. It is the worst waste.

What is the relationship with a sales department? We do not put an estimate in the dumpster you will tell me. In addition, a customer will not return a quote to us because it does not suit him.

What if I told you it was just like! Indeed, if the estimate had been compliant from the customer’s point of view, we would undoubtedly have had the order, wouldn’t we? Thus, we have added value in a quote, for which the customer can say no to us.

In the same way, when this same client asks us to take over the estimate because the team did not take into account all the technical specifications of the initial consultation, is the team not obliged to carry out a editing? Of course yes. Attention, if the need evolves, it is another subject. Although, we will see later that we can anticipate it.

What if the conversion rate was a quality indicator?

I won’t dwell on the importance of measuring the performance of a team/department through the implementation of indicators that make sense, that’s not the point. On the other hand, I would like to invite you to change your point of view on the famous “conversion rate”, generally followed by a sales department. For the less informed among us, it simply corresponds to the percentage of offers/quotes that we will have succeeded in transforming into orders. It can be tracked in value, ie in relation to quantified amounts; or in number, ie in relation to the number of offers/quotes sent. Depending on the case, one or the other will make more sense.

In other words, it can be considered as an indicator of the ability of a sales department to sell a product or know-how. However, we have seen previously that an estimate which is not transformed into an order is comparable to a non-compliant part for the customer. In this respect, shouldn’t we rather perceive it as an indicator of quality? What would that change?

Granted, vision number two is a bit more painful. However, doesn’t it offer a fairer view of the monumental waste in terms of the time the company has invested in bringing value that will ultimately be thrown away?

If I rephrase it as a full-time equivalent, it would be like saying for a team of 10 people, that 9 people are paid to produce things that we will put in the trash (if all the quotes are equal)

Can you imagine a washing machine factory needing to produce 100 to deliver 10 compliant ones? Why should it be any different for a commercial service?

This paradigm shift is essential for a commercial service. This is what will make the difference between the team that “submits” and the one that seeks to solve problems for its customers. This will make the difference between the team that quotes and the one that sells. Ultimately, this will make the difference between being in a position or not, to succeed!

Learning: missing from sales processes

To my great surprise, in the sales processes that I had the opportunity to observe, this notion of learning was non-existent. It’s all the more surprising since I generally work on this kind of team, when the company’s problem is precisely linked to the development of turnover.

With the experience of the updates, I always make the same observation: a huge stock of quotes delivered to customers waiting quietly at the right end of the visual management. In a sales team that we supported recently, we recorded 4 million euros in potential turnover out of 100 quotes sent… A great opportunity, isn’t it?

So what about all those quotes? No one can answer this question frankly.

Either the team does not relaunch its customers: “You understand, with all the offers that we have to submit, we do not have time to relaunch all the quotes…”

Or she’s not trying to learn something: “Hello, I’m calling to find out what happened to the offer I sent you last week?” »

How many times have I heard these phrases? It’s hard to blame people, since the team’s objective so far was to deliver quotes. This is where visual management comes into its own: making problems visible. 100 quotes sent to customers, about which we have learned nothing, is a real problem.

Education is a fundamental step in the sales process, which must be integrated into the value stream! Delivering quotes faster that we will throw in the trash and about which we learn nothing, makes no sense! On the other hand, taking the time to call customers to obtain qualitative feedback is extremely valuable!

We therefore asked this team to call their customers to identify the lost quotes of the quotes won and the “macro” causes (price, time, etc.) when they were lost.

I didn’t specify it, but asking a team to do something new involves new gestures and therefore new skills. Adding a simple stimulus can lead to strong resistance to change that should be supported. I can tell you about it, I have experienced it several times.

You can well imagine that the objective of the follow-up is not only to know whether   or not we will obtain the order. If we don’t get it, what interests us is to know why!

Obviously relaunch 100 quotes at once is tedious and does not correct all the problems, because it is too late. Nevertheless, this allows, initially to:

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