In his book, “The Goal”, Eliyahu M. Goldratt discusses how every process is eventually governed by the theory of constraints. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_constraints) Simply put, to maximize throughput, you need to identify the key constraint in your process and do everything in your power to alleviate that constraint.

While the approach is most commonly applied to manufacturing, it is equally (if not more) applicable to sales.
The Basics
Here’s how it works, (From Wikipedia):

  • Identify the system's constraints
    • They say that the first step to recovery is identifying that you have a problem… the same goes for sales. Figure out what it is that is that prevents your organization from obtaining more of the goal in a unit of time.
  • Decide how to exploit the system's constraint
    • Once you’re able to determine how to get the most out of the constraint, design a program (training, tools, incentive) to address it.
  • Subordinate everything else to the above decision
  • By aligning the whole system or organization to support the decision made above, you can…
    • Elevate the system's constraint
    • Make other major changes needed to increase the constraint's capacity
  • Repeat. Once the biggest constraint has been lifted, look for the next biggest opportunity

Finding your key constraints to growth
Step 1. Map out your sales process. You most likely have a forecasting system and have defined your sales stages, so you’re already done. (See how easy this is!)
Step 2. Estimate your ideal sales flow in terms of days and in success rate. Follow the most recent 10 deals that have closed for insights into this ideal flow. For many B2B companies whose deals range between $100,000 – $1,000,000, it may look something like this:

Estimate your ideal sales flow.

Estimate your ideal sales flow.


Step 3. Look at your current pipeline and map your deals against these thresholds.
Are they following this flow?
Do you see any particular spot in the sales process where deals seem to get stuck for too many days?
Look for areas of greatest constraint

Look for areas of greatest constraint.


Step 4. Assess the best remediation plan.
All too often, marketing jumps to the rescue with the new campaign, when lead gen may not be the issue. More leads could, in fact, clog the funnel and disguise the real problem. If your deals are stalling after the Proof step, you may have to reconsider your unique competitive differentiators. Or you may need to move to a reference selling model if the product demo isn’t showing your capabilities in the best light.
Step 5. Activate and measure.
Roll out a program focused solely on your top constraint. Give it the appropriate amount of time (based on your ideal sales flow) and measure the impact. If it works, great. If not, see if there’s another tactic you can deploy to alleviate that constraint.
Stay focused.
Don’t move to a new constraint until your biggest constraint has been resolved. Once it has, repeat the steps 1-3 to see if a new constraint has surfaced.
If your sales process is performing optimally, crank up the marketing machine until your reach terminal velocity.