At one time, companies could sell a product and build revenues behind protective barriers. These barriers insulated the company from threats. The high cost of technology, long innovation periods, and developmental lead time all meant that competitors had many walls to scale if they wanted to grab market share. Those walls have fallen. What remains is a new reality that Columbia Business School professor Rita McGrath calls “transient-advantage.”
According to McGrath’s research
“Companies can’t afford to spend months at a time crafting a single long-term strategy. To stay ahead, they need to constantly start new strategic initiatives.”
With an agile approach, companies prioritize individuals and interactions over processes and tools. An agile model focuses on customer collaboration and responsiveness to change rather than adhering to a single, unchanging plan. This fluidity perfectly matches the customer’s dynamic buying journey in which movement starts and stops and sometimes even reverses. Customer conversations no longer follow a logical progression. Questioning for needs, floating ideas and insights, and positioning value are tightly woven and appear in every customer dialogue.
Put simply, agility in selling means flexing and using different skills when and where you need them.
Here, we look at three key ways in which sales professionals can adopt an agile approach.
- Apply an Iterative Planning Methodology – Planning should not happen just once. It must be ongoing because both the customer and the sales professional are working to arrive at an understanding of the need and how to satisfy it.
- Leverage the Right Skills at the Right Time – Sales professionals must be able to transition between the skills necessary to assess and those necessary to strategize. Reaching this competitive advantage means adopting a mindset in which the sales professional welcomes changes from the customer. Late-stage upheavals are increasingly common as business solutions become more complex, transformative, and holistic. If sales professionals strategize for this eventuality with face-to-face conversations, they will have a considerable advantage. It is also important to remember that frequent changes are not just expected on the customer’s side of the journey. The sales professionals must meet at regular intervals to reflect on how to become more effective, then adjust their behavior accordingly.
- Develop New Skills for Selling With Agility – Agility in selling requires a modern set of skills. These skills transcend familiar capabilities like product knowledge. Instead, sales professionals need to understand how the customer’s business works, why they are seeking a solution, the structure of the decision process, and areas for growth. Specifically, they need to be able to understand buying factors, build consensus, and explore the customer’s white space.
To learn how Richardson can help your sales organization drive results with an agile approach to selling download the complimentary brief: Selling with Agility.