Understanding how Kanban can work for you in Sales

You’re a sales person, and a successful one at that.  What you do, and how you do it, works, so you don’t need to change anything thank you very much.

Wrong.

You're not exactly still using this, are you?
You’re not exactly still using this, are you?

Like EVERYTHING, sales techniques change, go in and out of fashion, get recycled and come back in again.  If nothing else, consider the fact that you’re even reading this on the internet, probably on a device that didn’t exist ten years ago.  Sure, you may use this device to make calls, but I bet you also use it to manage your pipeline in some way too.

So it’s no surprise to learn that a tried and tested methodology for manufacturing and software development can actually be used to help manage your sales pipeline.

Kanban is not new.  Kanban for sales is not new.  However, with technology always improving, we’re changing the way we work to be more flexible and to use many different devices.  Now is the time to consider how such changes can benefit you as a sales person and help you improve your close rate even further.

What is Kanban?

There are many websites that can help you understand Kanban, so I won’t list them here (simply search online), but the Wikipedia definition is this:

Kanban

Kanban as a concept can be used in sales because making a sale is a process: you start with interest, which you nurture enough to make a proposal, which will ultimately either be agreed to or not.  It’s not necessarily linear (particularly during negotiations) but there is a start and an end.

Unless you’re lucky enough to only be working on a single deal at a time, the chances are you have a multitude of different deals on the table, at different stages in their journey to the order book.  Part of your challenge is to keep all of these plates spinning; taking your eye off one could result in the lot crashing before your eyes.

You need to be able to see, quickly, where your deals are at, how long they’ve been at that stage in the process and what you need to do next to keep them moving.  In other words, you need to know when to give each plate a quick spin so they don’t fall off the spike.

Kanban is great for that visibility.  Seeing all your deals in one place (as cards), understanding quickly what you need to do next (using activities) and highlighting those deals that are becoming a little turgid (using alerts).

A key benefit of using Kanban is self-discipline, interestingly one associated with another Japanese export: martial arts.  Really owning your pipeline helps you achieve more.  Every sales person I know wants that!

Even if Kanban is nothing new, and even if you’re top of the leaderboard at the moment, this methodology is a change worth considering, so you can stay there.

We’ve written a SlideShare presentation to outline Kanban for sales.  View it (and download it) here.