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Does Agile Work for Sales

Improving win rate

pursing sales opportunities with agile methodology

Amy Smalfus, VP Content & Learning Strategies

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Does Agile Work for Sales?

Today’s Buying Journey is dynamic, iterative, and inefficient for both buyer and seller as new stakeholders emerge, power shifts, and requirements continually change. To win, sellers must navigate the buying journey strategically with a high degree of agility and skill. Since no two deals are the same, making quota means also navigating where and how you invest your time in an agile manner.

So, in this dynamic world of change, can the Agile approach commonly used for managing IT projects also apply to sales? Let’s look at what Agile is and how it might relate to sales.

Understanding The Agile Approach

Agile development is an iterative approach to software development that has replaced the traditional waterfall approach. Software developers work in a series of short bursts of activity, called sprints. Each sprint consists of three phases: planning, executing, and evaluating. Teams plan work in smaller chunks, often spanning two-week time periods. They execute the work, and the output is tested with users.

At the end of every sprint, the team holds a retrospective to look for learnings and ways to improve the next sprint. Through increased collaboration with users and by working in a more iterative way, software developers were better able to adapt to changing requirements, predict more consistent outcomes, deliver a better product, and reduce technical debt. The Agile approach encourages developers to "fail early and often" to avoid failing at the final release date after investing considerable resources in the project.

Applying an Agile Approach to Selling

The concept of working in agile sprints can also apply to sales. Just like IT professionals need to welcome changing requirements, sellers need to embrace change throughout the sales process.

In sales, a sprint is a burst of activity around key moments of conversation with the customer where you plan for the conversation, execute the conversation, and evaluate what you’ve accomplished and learned. Each customer conversation arms you with the knowledge needed to assess your next move which then informs your next selling sprint. This helps you to stay agile and adapt as you plan and execute a series of mini closes to advance the opportunity and close the deal.

Every seller knows customer meetings are what propel them through the sales process. The challenge is that sellers can be very busy with lots of “good” meetings without making tangible progress in the sale. Sales processes are linear in nature and don’t readily embody the iterative nature of buying where, when something changes, you need to repeat activities from previous stages. This can lead to misalignment with the buyer if the seller focuses on the current sales stage activities when the buyer has actually moved backward in the journey.

Take a deeper dive into what agility means in selling by downloading the white paper: The Future of Sales is Agile - Introducing Sprint Selling

Implementing an Agile Sales Methodology

To keep sellers aligned with the buyer, selling sprints must work in conjunction with a scoring mechanism that reflects the non-linear nature of the buying journey. An agile scoring mechanism can work in lockstep with the sales process but isn’t bound by its linear nature.

Scores across categories can move up and down based on progress made or progress lost based on the customer’s iterative journey. Well-constructed, it can clarify what progress is made and what needs to happen next to advance the sale. Importantly, it also gives sellers an objective way to assess where they really stand and to have the confidence and courage to know when to disqualify.

Agility, efficiency, and control come from using the scoring mechanism to add more objectivity and gravitas to the planning and evaluating phases of the selling sprint.

Download the brief Accelerate the Sale with Selling Sprints to learn more about this important concept.

All sellers recognize that preparing for customer meetings is critical, yet most don’t give it the attention needed. Similarly, sellers recognize that post-call reflection is helpful, yet most move too quickly from reflection to their next step. Often that reflection is subject to bias and a natural tendency to be overly optimistic. An Agile approach with a non-linear objective scoring mechanism puts more gravitas on the evaluation phase, helping sellers to think more strategically as they adapt future sprints based on the outcomes of sprints completed.

So yes, in this dynamic world of change, using an agile approach to selling can help sellers obtain benefits like those obtained in software development, namely the ability to better navigate change, predict more consistent outcomes, deliver the best solution, and reduce inefficiency. And, just like “failing early” reduces waste and drives efficiency in software development, an agile approach that helps sellers to recognize when to disqualify and “lose early” protects a sellers’ most valuable asset – their time.

To get started on applying an Agile approach in your sales organization:

  1. Begin by defining a non-linear, objective way to measure progress
  2. Tie scoring to customer-validated outcomes
  3. Identify guidance on the next moves to progress your score
  4. Align tools to give more gravitas to the planning and evaluation phases of a selling sprint
  5. Build knowledge and skills in executing key next moves to progress your score

The concept of working in sprints, accompanied with a means to measure progress against a non-linear buying journey, and discipline around executing a selling sprint, can help sellers to better understand where they really stand, and be more agile, intentional, and effective in how they navigate the buying journey.

Click here to learn about our new Sprint Selling Training Program or contact us to talk about how we can help you implement this methodology in your organization.

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agile sales training

White Paper: The Future of Selling is Agile: Introducing Sprint Selling

Learn about a new sales methodology that defines critical actions and skills needed to win deals.


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