Brock, SME-Cleveland Member
In May's issue of Focus, Paul Varga of Service Graphics
wrote an article entitled TQ(S)M= Total Quality (Sales)
Management. While many total quality management programs
have fallen into disfavor, TQ(S)M is a critical issue for
sales and executive management. Paul's comments about the
value of TQ(S)M struck a chord based on some tough
experiences over past years.
Quality in the sales and marketing process first became a
critical issue to me about six years ago. While the basic
tenets of quality have always been appealing, imagine my
plight as a sales executive for a high technology company
faced with the following scenarios:
Many of our Department of Defense Subcontractors (at the
time about 40% of our business) were imposing their
vendor quality programs on us. Our salespeople found
themselves being measured against yardsticks they didn't
understand. We were found non-compliant by some customers
and not allowed to compete. Our "bid" prices
were uplifted by others to reflect the cost of
non-compliance. Each customer had their own program, all
of which were bad news if you did not comply. The sales
teams were not equipped to deal with any of these
At the same time, many of
our commercial customers were implementing their own
quality programs. At the time, Motorola was telling us
that we would be required to compete for the Baldrige
award. Other customers were beginning to look at ISO
9000, and others were applying Six Sigma measurement
criteria, while others had their unique programs.
The sales organization wanted to comply with our
customers' needs and continue to be recognized as a
quality business partner, but did not know where to
begin. We had several challenges:
The first was getting
our own company to recognize that quality is
defined by the customer. Like our customers, our
corporation had defined and implemented an
aggressive quality program. However, no one had
spoken with the salespeople or with the
customers. Many of the tough goals the
corporation had set for itself were non-compliant
when compared to those goals our customers were
setting for their suppliers (us!!).
Second was finding a
quality training program that focused on the
needs of salespeople. The quality professionals
seemed to focus on the "hard" sides of
business--manufacturing, development and
administration. None had programs targeted to the
sales and marketing functions. I visited some of
the Baldrige award winners to discover how they
had trained their sales organizations. Most had
developed their own programs with minimal help
from quality professionals.
Finally, we had to
learn how to take a close look at ourselves and
clean up our own house. We had to recognize that
sales and marketing are definable processes, just
as the other functions in an organization. We had
to define our process, define how to measure
ourselves and then seek to improve our processes
(the Japanese and quality guru's call it
It took a lot of work, but
it meant our survival, both as a corporation and as sales
professionals--after all, each failure hit the
salesperson in the wallet!!
The first step was relatively easy. We mapped the 44
customer driven quality programs and compliance
requirements against our corporate quality goals. (These
44 customers represented a significant amount of
business.) Frankly, the job became fairly easy at that
point. I had the opportunity to present our customers'
quality requirements to our corporate quality council. It
helps when the Chairman of the Board chairs that council.
Once it became obvious that meeting our internal quality
goals would not meet our customers' quality requirements
and that we faced losing business, we caught the
attention of our chairman and the rest of the
corporation. It was one step in becoming customer
Then we undertook developing our own quality programs.
First, we began introducing our people to the basic
concepts of quality and customer satisfaction. Then we
sponsored a number of projects to understand where we
were and to make small improvements. Rather than just
tracking revenue, expenses and a few other things, we
started becoming attentive to a number of other
factors---returns, delivery, the number of telephone
rings in our offices and telemarketing centers and other
measurements. Each of these projects started establishing
awareness in different parts of the organization. On
second thought, maybe they established better awareness
with the executive management staff. In hindsight, I
remember countless individuals talking about small
problems impacting our customers that we needed to fix,
but taken separately they didn't catch our attention. I
think our people always knew we could and should do
better, but could not capture the attention of
management. Now we were paying attention.
Finally we began to undertake the big task. We started to
examine the process of selling. How did we define our
process from the overall management of the business down
to the daily activities of the salespeople? How could we
do this without creating a bureaucracy which diverted our
focus--satisfying our customers' requirements and
profitably growing our business? Benchmarking some
leading sales organizations helped us tremendously.
We opted for simplicity. We realized that we could adopt
a simple process and apply that, with discipline, to
everything that we did--from business management, to
territory management, to improving the effectiveness and
productivity of each salesperson, to coaching and
developing everyone in the organization. Only upon
implementing this process were we able to see the
PHENOMENAL results it produced! We started to see the
We had a common
language and process to manage the business. Our
forecast integrity improved tremendously.
Our process forced us
to focus on the way the world was, not the way we
wanted it to be. We drove a fact base approach to
managing the organization, the selling process
and each sales situation.
In each selling
situation, we began to focus on the customer need
to buy, not our need to sell. Customers would
call me and ask "What have you done? Your
salespeople are asking me questions I have never
been asked before. They are really interested in
my business and my problems!"
Our results were
tremendous. We were no longer "blacklisted" as
non-compliant by our customers. Our customers started
looking at us as a valued business partner. Our company
was becoming much more customer focused. The productivity
of the sales organization was improving, cost per order
dollar was declining. We were growing.
TQ(S)M makes sense! In the greater Cleveland area,
specifically, examine the factors driving all of us to
improve the quality and effectiveness of our sales
organizations. The automotive industry has adopted a
standard by which it will measure all suppliers--QS9000.
Many companies in this area need to train their
salespeople in partnering with their automotive customers
in implementing the QS9000 programs. ISO9000 is driving
other companies. Supplier participation is an important
factor in this standard--our salespeople stand at the
forefront of working with customers in assuring that we
comply with the needs of our customers.
If those reasons are not important enough, consider the
results other companies have achieved by introducing a
quality and process orientation to sales. One
organization adopting a process similar to that I
described reduced its sales cycle by an average of 40%.
Organizations I have managed have reduced cost per order
dollar by over 20%. One organization implementing this
process orientation has enabled itself to become the
strategic vendor of choice to many of its
customers--purely because of the ability of the sales
organization to focus on its customers' problems.
TQ(S)M makes business sense! As Paul's article pointed
out, creating customer focused partnerships which drive
growth and profitability is key to all sales executives.
Whether you call it total quality or not, it makes the
sales organization more effective and productive. It
provides the competitive edge.
Dave Brock is President of
Partners In EXCELLENCE, a consulting and training firm.
Partners In EXCELLENCE assists its clients in
re-inventing their sales and marketing organizations. Its
mission is to have a profound impact in improving the
quality of its clients' sales and marketing processes.
Partners In EXCELLENCE supports a diverse clientele
ranging from Fortune 50 through start-up companies. These
clients are in a variety of industries including:
consumer products, computer hardware and software,
telecommunications, industrial controls, scientific
instrumentation, semiconductor and electronic components.
In addition to his consulting practice, Mr. Brock has
many years of experience as a sales and general
management executive for several leading high technology
This article appeared in the July/August 1995 edition of
SME Focus. It appears here with the permission of SME.