Summary and book review of “The Cash Machine: Using the Theory of Constraints for Sales Management”: Most sales managers are experienced in face-to-face sales, but managing thousands of simultaneous sales is a different matter. It’s similar to a production line, from search leads to the collection, which can be improved by looking at the whole process as a funnel where the flow is controlled by one thing: constraint.
By Richard Klapholz and Alex Klarman, 2004, 164 pages.
Note: This column is an invitational column written by Cyrille Hurstel of the Faire mieux avec moins in which he shows how to use the theory of constraints in regard to service processes.
Book review and summary of “The Cash Machine: Using the Theory of Constraints for Sales Management”
Chapter 1: On the grill
The Cash Machine uses Carmen Graphics Solutions (CGS), a company that designs, manufactures and installs scanners and reprographic systems. The authors don’t give much more detail than this, but it can be assumed that CGS is aimed at professional printers rather than the end consumer, judging by the invoice amounts.
The first chapter gives an introduction to the characters, but the main one is Roger, the marketing director of Carmen Graphics Solutions (CGS).
Roger depicts the main characters who form the Executive Committee.
- John is in charge of production where he has risen through the ranks,
- Tim leads the consumer service department and has an unrivaled ability to placate the most stubborn and angry customers,
- Élisa is a Princeton graduate and manages the financial department with a fist of iron
- Ron changed printers’ lives when he invented the first digital publishing station almost three decades ago. He is in charge of R&D (Research and Development),
- Pierce is the sales manager
The current outlook is tough, as CEO Gary reports that sales have been flat for nearly a year, while the market continues to grow. Gary feels that Pierce’s intuitive approach to sales is not what is needed at the moment. He had asked Barry, the consultant who helped them in production using TOC, the theory of constraints, to work with Pierce. But to teach an old dog new tricks is not easy. Pierce believes his philosophy is correct and the depression is due to market conditions.
Gary decided to switch
As a result, Gary decided to switch his marketing and sales managers. Roger finds himself in the spotlight while his competing coworker already has all the client relationships and contacts. Elisa publicly expresses her doubts about the choice to change horses in the middle of the race, John and Tim show their support for Roger, but Ron and Pierce are silent. Sales have leveled off at $100 million over the past 3 quarters and the share price has fallen from $45 to $18 on the Nasdaq, where 70% of the capital is listed. Ray, the company founder, puts the pressure on. CEO Gary decides to bet on Roger.
Roger’s family, Joanna and her two daughters, understand that his promotion will give him new share options, but for $19. So they have to stay at their current home for now, which will make the youngest child very happy as she doesn’t want to move.
All other thoughts need to be put on hold for now. The expectation is that Roger will transform the situation within the first 30-40 days of the first quarter. This means that it is the short term sales objectives until the year-end that are his main concern.
It’s only his work commute that gives him time to think about:
- we have good products,
- the market is on the rise,
- sales are on the decline
How can Roger have an immediate impact on sales? Don’t rely on luck, because it’s not a matter of luck. Resign before it’s too late? What did his predecessor do last year? Better market coverage, increase the sales force and expand the market coverage. This all seems logical, but Roger still can’t pinpoint the cause of the poor results.
Gary goes back to the issue of TOC in sales. Roger reluctantly agrees to meet the consultant, Barry, but does his homework about TOC beforehand. Roger appreciates that production is limited by the singular point where the flow is most difficult. With this understood, we can gauge the overall response of the system without the need for all the details. Does TOC really transform management into a science that can be replicated?
Chapter 2: The sales machine
A month later. The market launch of Lilly, CGS’s new fully automatic professional scanner. A gem of a design that costs a fortune and promises to deliver everything. However, this is only on paper, as it is still in the final testing phase and will only be available in the first quarter. Rather than focus on the launch at the Bretton Woods ski resort, Roger starts to work with Barry, who has a few questions.
- Why did you try to expand the market coverage?
- Customers bought equipment from our competitors, with no knowledge of what we had for sale! We had no one get in touch with them or speak to them, to try and enter the race.
- What are the stages of your sales process?
Roger presents the 10 stages outlined by CGS.
- Identify prospective clients
- Evaluate the needs of the prospective client
- Understand their needs
- Product demonstration
- The proposal
- Specific demonstration model
- Business proposal
- Negotiation process
- Close the offer
The success rate is 1 in 5 or 6 leads over a 100-day cycle. Barry wants to know:
- The most common 5-6 complaints from the sales force,
- The essential stages that can’t be left out and those that sometimes are,
- How many clients do we currently have and what stage are they at?
Barry leaves, with no explanation to Roger about TOC, but gives him 4 books to read by the following week with the task to find the relevant data from the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Fortunately, CGS has implemented this system to avoid the loss of all records should a sales representative leave or be reassigned elsewhere.
Within a day, the data validates Barry’s analysis. Because they hired more sales representatives, CGS moved the constraint from step 1, identify prospective clients, to step 7, a specific demonstration model.
This gets rid of the need to spend money on the demonstration stages during the year.
Barry’s recommendation is to focus on the other 5 stages of constraint instead.
- Identify the parameters.
- Work out the best way to use them.
- Adjust all other aspects to fit in with these parameters.
- Improve performance levels in line with these parameters.
- Repeat from step 1 should the parameters change.
How do we make the most of what we learn from the presentations? Can we increase the number of presentations? Can we:
- increase working hours,
- change to 2 shifts of 8 hours,
- cover for people on breaks,
- move people from sales to presentations,
- move people from customer service to presentations,
- make our best planner the resource manager?
Stage 3 of the change in the process is more difficult, as no-one wants to hear that you have to get new customers at the same rate that you present to them. Basically, if you put more in the pipeline it will only slow things down, cause you to spread yourself thinner, and delay things for those to whom you have already presented.
Roger is aware that he is now dependent upon the presentations that are under the control of the Marketing Director, Pierce, who he has just replaced him. Pierce is convinced that the art of selling is not linked to the production process. The problem is that he is responsible for how the whole process flows and is astounded when Roger mentions the need to limit the number of possible new clients. He can’t relate or respect a sales director who wants to limit sales!
3 weeks later, Pierce had significantly increased the number of presentations and Roger presented these statistics to his 12 apostles, the 12 sales managers for North America, and asked for their feedback.
5000 possible leads to achieve 170 sales per quarter.
The staged approach shows that CGS is a waste of manpower at the first stage, while presentation skills aren’t good enough to complete the sale, to begin with. The statistics demonstrate that CGS fails to deliver 3/4 of the time after a presentation!
Roger announces that presentation capacity has doubled and that the question now is how to correlate the search for new clients with their capacity for presentations. As they are accustomed to strive for results from start to finish, they believe that they will find a solution by the end of the trading quarter.
Chapter 3: Reduce costs or increase sales?
6 months later, Ray, the founder of CGS, arrives in Roger’s office to hear the plans. CGS has returned to growth in the 1st quarter, the stock has rallied, but Ray uses this moment to voice his true opinion. He has no faith in Roger, who doesn’t trust him either.
The management committee meets immediately to try to resolve the current problem: CGS does not deliver on time. They say it will be one month but often it takes two. They have to work out how the process could work best and after some discussion, the group study each stage in detail and see that the problem is getting it signed off.
Although no orders have recently been canceled, the way the current process works slows things down. Elisa, the Administrative and Financial Director, invites Roger to lunch to discuss the sales approval stage. When he enters the restaurant, Roger sees Pierce in a heated discussion with Ray. Roger can’t find out what it is about. The meal with Elisa does not go well. Elisa is very cautious, so has systems in place that cover the company in the case of non-payment and she has no intention to change this.
At the next management meeting, Barry, the TOC consultant, gets them together to come up with an overall picture of the problem.
Need (top) – Don’t delay operations with unnecessary tasks
Need (lower) – Stop unnecessary spending as soon as possible
Want (top) – Post control checks
Want (lower) – Preliminary control checks
Conflict – Conflicts of interest
Gary quickly decides that Elisa’s checks are the cause of the problem and are no longer needed.
Elisa, then turns Bob, the controller, against her, due to the forthright manner in which she deals with situations. When Roger hears about this, he thinks the best approach is to outline the situation to Bob with Elisa present. Roger asks Bob to explain the effectiveness of these checks, which take less time than it appears and happens more often than the numbers show.
Bob considers himself the custodian of CGS. Thechecks are dreaded by sales managers. They know that if they drop the margin too low or take orders that are too risky, they will have to answer to Bob. So they are cautious. How will they behave now that Bob is out of the loop to spot customers who will not be able to pay?
Roger learns that at the end of the quarter Bob takes a different approach to the others, as they are in a rush to make the accounts look better. As a result of this he is appointed to do the same thing on an annual basis, keep an eye out and spot bad payers, but at the year-end. To achieve this there will have to be some restrictions, such as a blacklist, in place.
After a call, Roger discovers that Pierce has continued to make sales with their biggest customers rather than concentrate on marketing. The situation ends with a disagreement relating to Roger’s younger sister. Note: Sometimes family situations highlight the problem from a different angle, but Roger’s family is of no concern to us.
Chapter 4 : Critical implementation
This chapter begins with some family matters, from which we learn that Roger can swim breaststroke, as otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to talk with his eldest daughter, who likes to swim in the lake. Then things gets back to the subject of CGS. The company is now the market leader, but customers are bitter that nothing is delivered on time, each takes at least 3 months.
Gary brings all the directors together with Barry, the TOC consultant, to shorten the delivery time to 4 weeks. Tim, in charge of customer service, explains the installation steps and quickly gets into a disagreement with Barry, who claims that they hide safeguards everywhere. Barry puts forward his vision to reduce the time required for the whole process. Instead of allowing 20 days spread over 6 stages, he proposes to reduce it to 10 days, followed by a 4-day contingency plan and then 6 days at the end.
The whole thing still takes 20 days.
But the structure has changed. Each participant is encouraged to finish faster without fine-tuning and the process can be controlled with the use of these contingency days. Gary complains that they should be able to reduce the time it takes, but Barry wants to first meet current time frames before he reduces them.
The meeting soon finishes and leaves just Roger and Pierce in the room. How are they to solve the problem of Pierce’s underhand practices? Roger is blunt when he tells Pierce to no longer interfere in sales as it’s of no help, though Pierce implies that, due to Roger’s lack of relationships with clients, Ray asked him to help. The meeting between them is short.
Roger is overseas in Canada at a distributor who sees CGS as a problem. With every major installation, CGS technicians are far too slow to provide solutions. The customer never gets their questions answered.
Chapter 5: A positive launch
Elisa called a crisis meeting, as the launch of the Lilly 9 months ago was a commercial success, but the money has not come in. Engineering claims that the system has delivered on its promises, but that sales are too high and that installation technicians have experienced difficulties to achieve the expected results. Consequently, the systems are not delivered and the money does not come in. In the customer’s opinion, the product is unreliable.
Roger lets fly, so that everyone understands that sales without delivery of the final product are not the goal. Yet again, he and Pierce disagree on this point, but he still puts forward a new launch procedure that is tied to the fact that the process will work, so that CGS generates revenue.
Gary agrees with his sales manager’s request to not sell at just any price. Pierce is furious when he leaves the meeting. He managed to get everyone in Gary’s office to advocate that growth was essential, only to suffer a second defeat in front of all of them. Gary is adamant and wants to build growth, based on a steady flow of money.
Chapter 6: Multitasking during installation projects
Roger brings together the installation technicians so they can share their thoughts on the logistics of CGS. Is it consistent with what he heard in Toronto? If so, why is there no progress? This is followed by a presentation with the use of very simple diagrams to show the effects of multitasking. Roger demonstrates that if you undertake too many projects simultaneously, none is completed in less than 3 months.
The strongest objection put forward is that the technicians would have periods where they are doing nothing if multitasking was abandoned. The contradiction lies with the age-old problem that we think we need to keep everyone busy to get the job done as quickly as possible. Roger suggests that they work out the maximum number of projects they can take on at any one time and stick to it. No new projects until a current one is finished.
On his return, Roger is confronted by Gary about the disagreement with Pierce. Politics rears its head. You can feel there is a problem in the air, though it’s not clear exactly what it is.
Roger considers the problems that could surface if he says no to multitasking and appreciates that from stage 4 he can now handle the sales cycle. The ability to study the customer’s technical needs will dictate the rate of progress to the lead management team.
When he gets home, Roger reflects on what is important and what isn’t. His wife, Joanna, urges him to be proactive and call Pierce for help, as everyone’s aim is for sales to be excellent.
Chapter 7: End-of-quarter syndrome
Roger takes his daughter, who plays center-forward, to her football match. She really wants to score another goal before the end of the season. Roger sits next to a parent who laments that the girls have played and competed well in the last 15 minutes, but that if they had done it earlier, they would have scored long ago. Because of their chat, Roger misses the moment when his daughter’s team finally scored.
Back at home, Joanna says it would be nice if he could come home early next week but, as it’s the end of the quarter, Roger can’t. Joanna complains that if he had done some of the work earlier in the quarter, he wouldn’t have to do all of it at the end! This is the second time he has been told this recently and it’s apparent that it’s his problem to solve.
Roger contacts Gary over the weekend so that the CEO is aware of the problem and he agrees to come to the office to assess the situation. Roger leaves with the promise to try to resolve the quarter-end problem for good. He gives Pierce a big sales contract, to sort out their differences, as the decision-maker is a personal friend of Pierce.
Roger flies to California with Barry, so that he can explain the current problems with the end of quarter figures, to a group of salespeople.
Roger starts with some questions but senses that this is not the right approach. Once he changes his strategy he ends up with a list of 13 problems, to which he needs to find answers, to improve the situation.
5 root causes are highlighted:
- Financial analysts measure performance on quarterly results.
- Customers place orders on a short term basis.
- All bonuses are distributed on the quarterly results.
- The number of current orders is not increasing.
- There is no time frame in place for the delivery process.
This causes a series of problems that get progressively worse, as well as a change in how clients behave. They also wait until the very last moment, because their contracts are linked to when they win tenders. The answer to this is to be more flexible in terms of the ability to deliver, when required, rather than on a fixed date, whether it is 3 months or 1 month.
Quarterly bonus system
Many of the root causes are unavoidable, but the quarterly bonus system can be changed. Roger arranges a video conference with Ron, the engineering manager, to discuss the relationship between sales and projects. In any project, some stages will cause problems, but you never know in advance which particular stage it might be. With this contingency plan built-in, you can get them sorted out, whatever they are.
Barry proposes to set monthly sales targets that have only a 50/50 chance of success. If the salesforce do not reach them, it does not affect their bonus. This is still linked to their annual target, which is less than 12 times the monthly target. The difference between the two values is the contingency plan provided by the control process during the whole year. With this approach, the annual bonus is separated from the short-term incentive, to create a continuous focus throughout the year.
From time to time Roger has to deal with some client problems. So that they can comply with the new system, the Canadian team tell some customers to take a walk! They tell clients the truth, at last, but in the worst way possible. A little clarification and everything is back on an even keel.
When the year ends, Roger will be able to re-configure the sales bonus scheme he has in mind, once he has presented the sales forecast for the next year. Some of the responses underline how difficult it is to keep everyone fully engaged. Roger keeps them alert, pushes them to the limit of their patience, and then hands them over to Barry for a presentation on how engineering has applied TOC.
Chapter 8: New objectives
Barry gives a talk on how the essential components need to be put in place. Let’s take a project with two stages:
- Drill a hole.
- Run a cable.
With the conventional approach, the project will be seen as:
Diagram above translates as: Generic (left) Drill a hole. Generic (right) Run a cable
If two holes have to be drilled, the conventional approach does not change. In practice, if you want to drill two holes at the same time, you need two drills. If you have only one drill, then you have to use what is available. You will drill one hole after the other.
The diagram above translates as: Generic (left) Drill a hole. Generic (middle) Drill a hole. Generic (right) Run a cable
The supply path takes resources into account, particularly those involved at various stages of different projects that run at the same time. The other major change made by the supply path, in relation to the project management, is to focus on how to best utilize your resources, i.e. shed some of the estimated time it takes, that people add to each project, and allot it to the built-in contingency plan, at the end of the project.
Important steps within the process must also be protected with auxiliary contingency plans, so that an unimportant component, that is late, does not delay an important one. Finally, it is imperative, in advance, to inform the essential staff that they will have to devote themselves to a particular project. This advance notice is sort of a third contingency plan.
Roger is proactive and asks for comparisons with the sales team. He has a responsive audience, but that quickly changes when he announces the details of the monthly targets. However, the idea is simple. In the northeast region, he wants to reach $30 million in sales per month, which is $360 million after one year but with an annual target of $285 million.
The difference of 75 million is the contingency plan that allows them to keep the process under control.
- As long as the contingency plan is above 50 million, these variations are standard. If in January they make sales of 25 million and in February 20 million, the contingency will have dropped to 60 million.
- When the contingency drops below 50 million, Roger expects the sales manager in the region involved to come forward and call for help.
- Under 25 million, urgent measures are required.
What unites people against Roger’s proposal is rather a surprise. Everyone is opposed to the concept of constant pressure. Note: For example, the TGV does not constantly run at full speed. The route of this high-speed line is a series of gentle climbs and descents.
Elisa points out another aspect. Contingency plans are a management tool, but it is the supply chain that dictates the process. What is the equivalent of sales? Roger muddles through with reference to the focus on product presentations and end of multitasking, but he needs Gary’s help.
What will happen next year once he retires and Pierce has the support of CGS’s founder? Not to mention that Elisa hasn’t gone away, and brings up the issue, in relation to one of the topics, a few days later. With the aim to drive the sales force throughout the year, she is concerned that it will not be so easy to spot the weaker ones, who can create fictitious or unwanted orders that are canceled after the end of the quarter, but which allow them to achieve their targets.
Roger has thought things through. From now on, salespeople receive their commission when the money comes in and not when the order is placed.
Chapter 9: Cash machine
Roger explains the process to Barry, from sales to payment, but Barry asks him a question that he finds difficult to answer.
When does the market become the driving force, rather than the in-house process?
Roger waits for Barry to comment on the new process, but he gets nothing more than an ambiguous reply: I’ll talk it over with Gary tomorrow.
Roger then turns to John, who is in charge of production and is in his 7th year with TOC. John offers some initial advice. Any improvement, if it doesn’t concern limitations, is pointless. Then he goes on to the DBR (Drum Buffer Rope) which makes it possible to manage production. It is the speed of the production process that dictates when materials are brought into the plant. If we go faster, we just create more products. It relates back to the outcome of the early launch of the Lilly. It sold well immediately, but the payments were not received. Another important aspect is the setup times. On machines with no capacity limits, those that can run continuously, it is important to change the product as many times as required, to keep them at full capacity.
On balance it seems that Roger should encourage his salesforce to sell software, as there’s no point to sell a piece of equipment that can’t be installed or used. In fact, they could increase revenues through the sale of software, it’s just that they don’t do it as the salesforce has only been trained to sell equipment.
If you need to train, to sell a different product, it can be seen as a set-up period, as it will require the need to learn new techniques, in order to sell. Roger tries to get a clear view of the whole process and approaches Elisa, who runs the payment process, but she directs him to Gary, the CEO, as he is responsible for how things run and it is not her style to change things without good reason.
Chapter 10: Even clearer
The new quarter starts, but 2 months later, Roger is back in California with the group that had analyzed the problems they had at the end of each quarter. The regional director obviously doesn’t understand, as he starts with reprimands for salespeople who did not meet the monthly target in January and February. Because of this, Roger reiterates and clarifies the basic principle behind the newly created objectives.
- It’s nothing unusual if the monthly target isn’t reached, as it is designed with only a 50 to 60% chance of success.
- It’s the use of the annual contingency allowance that gives the alert as to when a salesperson needs help or there is an emergency.
Roger immediately checks that the other regions have clearly understood the situation and everything quickly returns to normal.
As things settle down, the obstacles become more obvious and Roger has already identified the next one: negotiation. John also provides production data. With the elimination of the quarter-end problem, production has a much better flow and is more settled. This is a bonus that Roger had not foreseen.
Roger is summoned to Gary’s house, where he also meets the main shareholder, Ray, who has no faith in him. To his great surprise, Ray is thrilled to own a company that makes huge amounts of cash, even though he hadn’t imagined it would be achieved this way when he started it up. Roll on the second billion of turnover.
To Roger’s amazement, he announces that Gary will retire in 6 months and hand the CEO position over to Roger. As for Pierce, he will be handed the role of new markets, with the aim to maximize revenues and exploit the full business potential.
Appendix / Annexe
The appendix summarises and highlights the 3 fundamental concepts of The Cash Machine:
- There is a systematic approach to manage a sales process.
- The path that leads the customer to sign off is a series of steps that are all linked.
- The end-of-month or end-of-quarter problem can be avoided.
The authors recommend that you define 10 steps in a sales process, for example:
- Prospective customers
- Qualification process
- Evaluate the prospect’s needs
- Understand the prospect’s needs
- Product presentation
- Technical proposal
- Final product presentation
- Commercial proposal
- Negotiation process
- Close the deal
If there are fewer steps, you need more detail, as this will improve your ability to manage improvements in the current process. The typical data in the sales reports show the financial status and the likelihood of success. The authors suggest two additional references :
- The efficiency of the production line
- The efficiency of the contingency plan
A detailed case study illustrates the value of these other two points. Take the “Simplistic” business, which has a 3-step sales process, with 3 salespeople, who work for 3 customers. The work process shows the number of days required for each step and that the second step requires as much time as the other 2 steps combined. Analysis of the production line requires figures from the previous report to compare with the work currently in progress and the maximum capacities, to check if the production line has a section that slows it down and where it is.
Book critique of “The Cash Machine: Using the Theory of Constraints for Sales Management”
It is a rather short book based on the original book of the TOC, The Goal. It is less detailed, which has advantages and disadvantages. The actual storyline is not as elaborate and less concerned with the details of the main character’s personal life. As The Cash Machine isn’t translated, this makes it easier and faster to read. The background of the character’s behavior is not as detailed.
This makes it easy to follow and, more importantly, the necessary measures are clearly explained. If you are head of a sales force, The Cash Machine will give you the knowledge to run a successful department.
Personally, it changed my perspective on an area I didn’t know about. I thought of sales as an art, that mainly depends on the character of the person and how driven they are. Whilst it’s obvious that the skill of the salesperson is important, an aspect they don’t cover very well, The Cash Machine illustrates that the end result also depends on other factors, especially collective teamwork at all stages.
It can help you be successful in an area you are not qualified in. Maybe you can be as lucky as Roger, with a rise from sales manager to CEO, when the initial position was a hot potato rather than a route to the top.
Besides, within the industry, the ability to increase capacity is dictated by the maximum output of the machines, which makes you wonder about some of the ridiculous rules put in place by management. In service industries, automation is not so relevant and each stage is dependent on human resources and how they are managed.
Delays are not linked to human resources
However, The Cash Machine ignores the fact that delays are linked to human resources. Whenever a new step delays the process, the likely problem is a rule or decision made by someone who heads that department. But frankly, it’s what they produce, their skills and their drive that are key. Good leadership is also essential in these situations, a quick explanation will get things sorted out.
The writers have speculated that no one will work out how to make a fortune before they know what the aim is. Given that The Cash Machine is written with a focus on TOC in production and implementation; it’s too short a book for someone to really grasp the real concepts of the theory of constraints.
In short, The Cash Machine illustrates how to overcome the idea of unlimited capacity and to no longer disregard the factors that limit production systems. It dovetails well with other books so that you can change out of date practices.
Strong Points of The Cash Machine
- The Cash Machine is short and easy to read
- The Cash Machine is cheap
- It is based on business processes that are common practice, not specific to just reprographic equipment.
- In The Cash Machine book, the important points are addressed in a clear and logical order.
- In The Cash Machine book, the proposed solutions are well defined and clearly stated.
Weak Points of The Cash Machine
- In the book The Cash Machine, ideas are short on detail; so a newcomer to the subject won’t be convinced by them.
- In the book The Cash Machine, the content is short on people skills.
- The link between the main character’s family life and his work is cursory.
The rating from Cyrille Hurstel from the blog Faire mieux avec moins
My rating :
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