“Practice makes perfect,” they say as you grow up with a ball in your hand or instrument at your feet. That same theory held true with sales when you entered the working world. In the early 1950s, Kaizen – a word derived from the Japanese words Kai (improvement) and Zen (good) – came around.
Kaizen differs from your standard improvement methods. It asks people to improve quality, increase productivity and reduce costs with small daily changes that will purposefully result in development over time. When you apply it to sales, the end result is to have team members dedicated to their methods, engaged with their work and committed to improving their skills every day on the job.
The Process of Kaizen
If you love sales, you love numbers. To put this into perspective, if you improve by 1% every day, your efficiency will increase 365% in just one year. In sales, it’s important to reduce wasteful and unreasonable work methods to achieve optimal efficiency. To start, you want to approach Kaizen on a step-by-step basis:
- Identify the problem
- Analyze your existing processes
- Develop an optimal solution
- Implement that solution
- Study the results and adjust
- Standardize the solution
As a team lead or sales representative, examine your routine and identify any problems. Have you exhausted bad selling techniques? This would be the time to separate what works from what doesn’t work. Maybe you are distracted by too many small tasks when you really need to be prepping for a big sales pitch. You can start to eliminate or reprioritize those small, time-consuming things. Write out everything you need to get done for the next day and try to allot a certain amount of time for each task. This ensures that you will get to those smaller tasks – when the time is right.
From there, observe your routine by looking at any opportunities lost and analyzing the existing process. Give enough attention to things that matter. Observe how you can be better at the things you’re already doing, or how you can be better in going after the things you should be doing. This could mean delegating a task to another coworker. Eliminate obstacles that stand in your way, or in the Kaizen theory – things that are considered Mura (waste) or Muri (unreasonable). Not everything is wasteful or unreasonable. However, you most likely have tasks on your plate that someone else can take on – so you can take that meeting with a potential client. At FRONTLINE we refer to it as ‘identifying tasks as part of the critical few or the meaningless many’. That helps us get focused on the things that will move the needle and reduce other tasks that may have value, but are meaningless as it relates to our ultimate goals.
Once you’ve sorted through the details, it’s time to slowly start fixing. Take small steps by finding one thing you can change, then implement that change. When you add up these small daily improvements, it equates to a long-lasting result. Kaizen is all about improving – slowly and at your own pace.
The final phase is less of a step and more of an outcome. By now, you’ll notice a snowball effect taking place. The changes will add up, and productivity will increase over time. That’s the whole point of the Kaizen method.
How Kaizen and Sales Work As One
Kaizen guides you through stages of improvement just as FRONTLINE’s sales simulation technology guides you through your sales training. These two forces can work together.
The focus for anyone in sales is to continually improve. No matter what position you hold, being able to constantly work on your skills will have a positive outcome. With Kaizen and Staccato, you always have a process that allows you to practice and make incremental improvements in call execution, prospecting outreach or objection handling.
With Kaizen and Staccato, you can back off the one-and-done sales training to be a more effective salesperson and team leader. You can’t attend one sales class and walk away feeling like you know everything that there is to know. Practice may not make perfect, but it can make any sales representative as great as their efforts.