How do I start a lean business

Lean Selling: Doing business with lean sales without losing customers

Amazon is demonstrating this strategy in an almost unique way. The scope of the offer, the comfortable buying process and the problem-free, hyperculant return rules grant the customer enormous convenience and give everyone the feeling of being a valued partner. You only have to buy a few times from the shipping giant to feel at home on the website. The fact that there is hardly any personal service is only registered by those who really have to email or even call.

Why Lean Selling?

In addition to the intention to do good business with small customers, there are other reasons for lean selling. One is the growing price sensitivity: Those who want it particularly cheap are happy to accept restrictions in terms of human contact. Others prefer to browse, compare and order on their own. There are also customers who always need the same raw materials, consumables or other goods. They are also not dependent on permanent care.

Research has shown that in all cases, selling in person is the most expensive way to get to customers and can be up to a hundred times more expensive than selling online. Between these two forms of distribution are sales via call centers (tele-sales) or distribution partners, such as trading companies, which of course also claim part of the margin.

Where personal sales create little or no added value, cheaper channels must be chosen - at least if the customer does not pay for the additional service. Accordingly, lean selling is an option that results from the weighting of the channels according to their transaction price. It is clear that you want to achieve as much sales as possible in each channel at the lowest possible cost, and this ratio must be the first criterion in lean selling.

The two pillars of lean selling

Of course, not every company can become as gigantic as Amazon and afford their goodwill in terms of organization and calculation. But that doesn't mean that you can't do good business with small customers. You just have to tackle it efficiently. Lean Selling is the strategic variant of what has long been known as low-cost distribution. Their breakthrough came with the beginning of the internet age and e-commerce, and their advance is accelerated further by digitization and the triumph of artificial intelligence.

The essential prerequisites for efficient lean selling are, on the one hand, a powerful CRM system and, on the other hand, an orientation towards the customer's customer journey, with the second factor making a decisive contribution to customer acceptance.

The customer journey aims to guide the customer through the purchasing process across all contact points and to stimulate them positively. So-called “pain points”, i.e. contact points that provoke criticism, must be eliminated. This includes things like a lack of personalization, the sending of unsuitable offers or too much advertising.

In numerous sales optimization projects, a number of standard questions have emerged that also support a customer journey in lean selling.

The most important questions about the customer journey in lean selling

  • Where do we reach the customer?
  • Where can we start with marketing and sales activities?
  • Which channels do we have with customers, which media and non-media contact points need to be organized?
  • How should the website or shop be structured for an optimal customer experience?
  • What information do we want, can and must convey?
  • Where can the customer register?
  • Where can the customer leave their address?
  • Where can he ask?
  • How can I identify him later after visiting the website using tracking?
  • How can we interact via email?
  • What things and information can we communicate via email?
  • What can our call center do?
  • What can the interaction with other customers achieve (reviews, ratings, forums, etc.)?
  • Does the customer value certain services or properties at all?
  • Can we ensure regular communication with the customer via an app?
  • What role does social media play during the process?
  • What is the role of an e-shop?
  • What role does inside sales play in this, and where is it made from?

As this list demonstrates, the customer is “controlled” as much as possible through an efficient, quality-assured and frustration-free purchase and product experience, while at the same time keeping costs under control. That is exactly the basic idea of ​​lean selling.

Lead customers to Lean Selling without losing them

The switch to profitable lean selling almost inevitably leads to irritation among regular customers, who rightly fear a restriction in personal support. In order to retain these customers, it is recommended to carry out the conversion step by step and to accompany them with a communication strategy that focuses on the advantages of the new process. The customer should get the feeling of being able to act more independently and to be able to shop even cheaper in return. He has everything in his own hands, saves money and time and even has fun exploring and using the new possibilities.

A good example of this approach is provided by the major airlines, which have gradually "educated" their guests in lean selling. After they had established the booking via the Internet, they gradually canceled the travel agencies' commissions. Because they would have to charge a service fee in the future, the net prices of flights on the web became cheaper and the route to direct bookings more attractive. Tariffs that can be booked exclusively on the Internet did the rest. Gradually, the service was reduced in economy class and special tariffs. There was no more food or drinks and the paper tickets were abolished, which also meant that customers had to print their boarding passes themselves or bring them on their smartphones, pay for a seat reservation and excess baggage and provide their own luggage tags.

Doing business successfully with Lean Selling

Today all of this has not only become normal for travelers - they also firmly believe that all of this is to the benefit of better prices and greater self-determination for them. The fact that they accept this is due on the one hand to clever communication, on the other hand to sophisticated technology with increasing automation, which is manifested in airline apps, self-service check-in machines and intelligent baggage transport systems.

What has worked in the aviation business works almost everywhere - even where you think that customers would not play along. But if you do it skillfully and at the same time have solutions in the quiver that are actually efficient and lean for both partners, you can be sure to do good business with lean selling.