Do you have waste in your sales process?

Do you have waste in your sales process?

If you know anything about Lean manufacturing, you are probably aware of the seven types of waste (or “7 Muda”).

  1. Waiting
  2. Defects
  3. Motion
  4. Transportation
  5. Inventory
  6. Overproduction
  7. Overprocessing

Sales processes often have their own versions of waste, and I submit there’s a LOT of it! If you have ever been on a sales team, I bet you know what I mean. Using the Lean manufacturing framework, here’s my take on the seven types of waste in sales and what you can do about it.


This type of waste is when a salesperson is waiting on a response from a prospect or customer. Waiting may be due to:

  • Not asking the right questions during the qualification stage.
  • The customer does not have an immediate answer to your questions, so further research or decisions are required within the customer organization.
  • Incomplete information that requires additional clarification is exchanged (the dreaded “back and forth”).
  • Miscommunicated expectations about deadlines for key information.
  • And more!

Clear and complete communications are key to addressing this waste. Using SMART goals when communicating deadlines is a very good idea. A checklist to use during your qualification process can also be very helpful. Some of these aids can be built into your sales database or CRM.

Another type of waiting in the sales process could be a salesperson waiting on an internal approval (for product or service info, price, discount, terms, etc.) when crafting a proposal or during customer negotiations. If your internal approval processes are not well defined, there could be delays in advancing the sale because a key individual did not see an email, is sick, is on vacation, or has been replaced. Sales Operations teams (or Revenue Operations [RevOps] teams) often help streamline these processes to minimize delays. However, the larger or more complex the deal is, the more likely a senior leader or executive will get involved. Their schedules can be quite full and difficult to reach, causing the salesperson and the customer to wait.

Simplifying and documenting your approval processes will eliminate some, but not all waiting. Making sure your sales team is well-trained and knowledgeable about your approval processes will also make a big difference. CRM approval automations can further minimize waiting times and keep your sales momentum moving forward.


Defects are introduced in the sales process when a salesperson makes incorrect assumptions or needs to spend more time identifying the real needs and/or objectives of their prospect or customer.

Consequently, a salesperson may spend time quoting the wrong product or service. Once that mistake is uncovered, the salesperson and the customer must effectively start over. This may leave a bad taste with the customer and could compromise the likelihood of a deal.

Sometimes, sales reps simply make mistakes. They may know the correct product or service but may quote the wrong price, finish, quantity, or tax rate. Alternatively, they may have a 100% correct proposal from the customer’s perspective. Still, they fail to use the right approval process or legal review to ensure the proposal meets all your internal requirements. This could put you and your organization at risk.

Defects are a type of waste you want to avoid at all costs! Eliminating defects before they occur is the best approach to this type of waste. Good communication and excellent training in sales qualification, understanding customer needs, and following prescribed processes will address this concern.


We often observe motion as a waste in sales processes when a rep must go into two or three different systems to get the information they need to service a client. Your sales reps may need to record their pipeline in a CRM, but they must use an ERP system to quote. They may also have a phone and/or email system that is not integrated with their CRM. All these disparate systems require a sales rep to go from one platform to another, introducing additional waste into their day.

Integrating your platforms to decrease the need for learning and using multiple systems will eliminate a LOT of waste for your sales team members. They should spend more time selling versus learning system idiosyncrasies and duplicating data entry.


One other form of wasted motion includes unnecessary meetings. These could be internal sales meetings or customer meetings that don’t provide additional value or don’t advance the sales process. Less is more – more time to uncover new opportunities and advance the ones you have!

Side note: Some motion in a day is good. Sales reps – especially those who spend a lot of time in front of a computer – need to get up and stretch every now and then. This should be part of a mindful break and provide renewed energy for more effective work when they return.


Transportation waste from a sales rep is when he or she is traveling to a customer location when picking up the phone might be just as effective. The travel time, costs, and potential safety issues are big negatives compared to the alternative. Most salespeople would prefer to deal with their customers face to face, but that is often impractical – whether they live across town or across the country. Sometimes, getting a signature requires an in-person meeting, no doubt! However, making prudent decisions about when to travel will help eliminate waste in the sales process. With Teams and Zoom meetings, virtual face-to-face meetings can be very effective!


If the sales team has any inventory, it is probably in the form of sales collateral and product samples. Print-on-demand, electronic sell sheets, and robust websites have eliminated much of the need for sales collateral inventory. Product samples will need to change as products are modified and improved. Keeping current samples to a minimum is important, but make sure you have what you need. You don’t want to skimp on samples and miss a big sale. That’s the “penny wise and pound foolish” approach!


Most sales managers would never complain about overproduction from their sales team! The more they can hit and exceed their goals, the better – unless they are selling items that are unavailable for delivery, have been discontinued, or are on hold due to quality concerns. Clear sales goals are key to minimizing any waste due to sales overproduction, including which products and services should be sold.


Performing unnecessary or excessive work during the sales process – especially when it doesn’t add value to the customer – is an example of overprocessing. This could involve sending redundant information, unnecessary requests for approval, and any additional steps that would make the sales process more complicated than it needs to be. While the intentions are good, the execution inserts waste in the process. This can create confusion and be the source of further waiting, potential defects, and even more waste! Just say no.

Ineffective Time Management

While this is not a traditional Lean form of waste, it is one of the biggest issues for sales team members. Their most important asset is often their time. There are lots of ways to waste time – too many to list here. The best sales reps have found ways to maximize the impact of each minute they invest.

One way to do this is by using lead scoring and other techniques to help sales team members prioritize which prospects they should call on. When your digital marketing automation platform integrates with your CRM, lead scores can display on the reps’ target lead lists. They will benefit from knowing lead scores and can call on the prospects who are most engaged and, therefore, are most likely to buy. This is a wonderful way to help your sales team with time management. Not all leads are created equal!

If you would like a third party to observe your current sales process and offer tips for eliminating waste, simplifying processes, consolidating or integrating platforms, implementing lead scoring, or just giving you the benefit of their experience, please reach out to TopLine Results. We have team members with significant sales leadership experience combined with Six Sigma and Lean expertise. We can offer an independent assessment and help you eliminate waste, which should put you and your organization on a faster growth trajectory. Email or call us at 800-880-1960.

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