The Third Wave: An Iron Tale about the Business of Print, Vol. 11

This column is the eleventh in a yearlong series of columns about the challenges facing the converting industry. Through our 2002 series of print and web articles, Raine provides critical insights, specific industry examples, and thought-provoking ideas about how technology is impacting converters today. This month, we go beyond the concepts of "being lean" in manufacturing and accelerate this very important practice right into the sales environment.

Lean Selling: The Next Imperative
We know that cost reduction and productivity gains have always been synonymous with print manufacturing. As companies hit bottom, they soon search for other areas to systematically reduce expenses -- without reducing effectiveness. Powerful forces, led by technology investments, are working their way up the food chain and are now impacting the role of sales and marketing. A new imperative is creeping onto the horizon -- and it's called Lean Selling.

For the last 20 years, sales, marketing, and customer-service functions have been transforming. In companies where customer service used to be known as "order entry," today, there are dynamic, technically adept and highly knowledgeable staffs.

Rather than build a relationship with only one key buyer, salespeople now must master intricacies of enterprise buying groups, the uncertainty of vendor consolidation, and customers that demand value and relevance from every interaction.

At the same time, marketing priorities are shifting from the role of price controllers and capacity planners to alliance builders and segmenters. Marketers must create strong bridges for the sales force to walk across.

The Internet has also brought new methods of interacting with customers via individual web sites, exchanges, and collaborative portals. New applications such as customer relationship management (CRM) -- designed to integrate the functions of customer service and marketing and sales -- are consuming monstrous amounts of capital investment.

And as if that wasn't enough, companies continue to struggle to find the right organizational structure and the right talent to compete in today's environment. This new imperative in business is accelerating -- sell smarter, sell faster, sell cheaper.

"Lean Selling" is a streamlined sales process that delivers valuable products and services to targeted customers with less effort and cost than traditional selling methods.

While select companies have made some of these transitions, most have not. Companies that have an information technology foundation -- in the form of a functioning enterprise resource planning (ERP) system or a supply-chain strategy with elements of sales automation -- have an incredible opportunity for a breakthrough.

That breakthrough is Lean Selling: It's the ultimate fine-tuning of the staffing and activity load of a sales organization, combined with highly adept marketing. The result will reduce overall sales costs, satisfy customers to a new level, and raise profitability through building expertise in people and processes that get the firm closer to the customer.

The fundamental idea behind "Lean Manufacturing," pioneered by Womack and Jones, is straight forward -- doing more for less while coming closer to providing customers with exactly what they want. Today the concept of "lean" is becoming a well-accepted methodology in supply-chain businesses. The five fundamental principles of "lean" are simple:

  1. specify customer value
  2. specify and map value stream by product or service
  3. organize work to ensure smooth handoff and accurate output through-flow
  4. make product and workflow match incoming customer demand through achieving pull
  5. pursuit of perfection is the realization by the employees involved that there is no end to the process of reducing errors, mistakes, and waste
What's challenging, exciting, and urgent is applying the basic principles of "leanness" to sales and marketing. While most lean thinking has been centered on manufacturing, we believe these concepts must migrate to other areas of a company: the front office and administrative support functions, sales and marketing and, most critically, the inter-relationships with customers.

To move to true "Lean Selling," you need to understand and manage internal sales and marketing integration points effectively, as well as the critical integration points between your customer and your company.

Printers that can align technology and systems, along with human-asset functions, with these concepts of "lean" will have organizations based on the highest value-add activities, ensuring an even higher ROI (return on investment).

Raine has composed a white paper that discusses the "Lean Manufacturing" concept and introduces (in the report) a comprehensive "Lean Selling" model. For more information, visit Raine Consulting at

Susan Kelly is a Managing Partner with Raine Consulting, which specializes in strategy development, customer clarity, and business pptimization for the graphic media and converting industries. She can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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