Can the "Science" of Lean be Applied to the "Art" of Selling?

A couple of months ago, Productivity Press published a groundbreaking book -- Lean for Sales: Bringing the Science of Lean to the Art of Selling -- that describes the Lean journey as it extends to a business area that has been virtually untouched by the Lean transformation. I decided to ask the authors -- Sean Gillespie, Michael Testani, and Sreekanth Ramakrishnan -- a few questions about why this topic is so important. I ended up having an enlightening conversation with Michael Testani, so I've decided to present my questions and his answers here:

What is value from a client perspective, and how can we be sure we are delivering it to clients?

We have rarely seen a sales function define what value is in the context of a Sales organization or a customer.  That is, until now. Using the principles of Lean selling, you will recognize that there are two types of value -- intrinsic and extrinsic. 

"Intrinsic Value" is the inherent worth of a product or service. The value is based on capability that the product or service delivers “in and of itself.” Typically, these are commodity-based products or services available through multiple suppliers—where the value of the item is closely equivalent to the purchase price of that item. For example, anyone can purchase a power cord for recharging their cell phone at around $10.  

"Extrinsic Value" is the portion of a product’s or service’s net worth to a customer that is agreed and assigned to it by external factors. These factors are typically external to the product and service itself — they typically relate to the customer and their particular business. Selling extrinsic value may involve the customer making radical changes to their own organization to recognize the business value that a product or service can provide. The automotive industry provides an excellent example of extrinsic value in that customers often buy high-end vehicles at prices that are tens of thousands of dollars higher than less prestigious vehicles.  Here the automotive industry sets their price based on the extrinsic value of the vehicle from the customer perspective.

The Lean selling methodology provides proven principles and practices for identifying and delivering extrinsic value to a customer.

Why is Lean so important in the field of sales?
Lean has a long and successful history of improving businesses by simplifying processes to gain operating efficiencies, thereby providing a competitive advantage. Almost everyone is aware of Lean’s deep roots in the manufacturing domain, originating with the Toyota Motor Company where the Toyota Production System has become the premier operating model for manufacturing companies across the globe. Everyone in business should also be equally aware of Lean’s successes outside of the manufacturing domain. Lean thinking has proven to be quite successful at dramatically improving processes in the financial and healthcare industries; as well as many other business sectors and organizations across the globe.

Lean for Sales describes how the proven “Science of Lean” can be successfully merged with the “art and know-how” of the sales professional to provide a client with unparalleled sales service and support. Lean Selling is the term coined here to describe a unique methodology that combines Lean methods with the more traditional approaches to sales. When these powerful selling techniques are applied collaboratively with a client, the sales cycle becomes much more efficient and the client experience is dramatically improved. Lean for Sales describes these Lean Selling techniques and provides a framework for the reader to apply these techniques within their own business and across their client base.

How can Lean for Sales help a sales organization to deliver unparalleled value to their clients?

In our book, Lean for Sales: Bringing the Science of Lean to the Art of Selling, we are stating that in today’s highly competitive business environment the traditional selling techniques do not focus enough, if at all, on how to develop a sales engagement based on gaining a deep understanding of the customer’s real business problems and how these problems impact their business.  The goal of this book is to enable the sales professional to use a scientific and repeatable approach for leveraging actual client data that relates to an actual business problem and an agreed upon outcome.  We call this approach the “science of selling,” and the Lean for Sales methodology offers a proven, repeatable approach for combining the art and science of selling to deliver unparalleled client value. 

For the reader: Do you think think Lean principles can be applied to the sales function of your organization? If you have applied these principles, were there measurable improvements? Where were the problem areas?