Building a More Agile Sales Organisation
Products and Services are No Longer Differentiators
According to research from ATKearney “about two-thirds of companies have a strategy horizon of four years or less." This is because products and services are no longer a durable competitive advantage.
As a result, companies are discovering that their people, their skills, and how they engage customers will differentiate them in a noisy marketplace. Developing skills that can track the customer’s needs in a constantly changing environment means becoming agile.
“Agile” is a buzzword, but what does it really mean? More importantly, what does it mean for sales leaders trying to adapt to a rapidly changing world? The answer begins in the mountains of Utah.
Where Did Agile Come From?
Software engineers Martin Fowler and Bob Martin invited a handful of industry experts to a snowy retreat at the Snowbird Ski Resort in Utah in 2001.
They all agreed that they needed to find a better way to develop software. At the time, designers built new programs by exhaustively documenting every feature the client wanted the software to include. Then, they would begin coding. The project would move from one team to another like a baton passed in a race. A long race.
This linear approach presented a problem: by the time the program was complete, the scope of needs was different. Software designers needed a new process that accounted for this constant change. They needed an agile approach.
By the end of the Utah retreat, the group drafted The Agile Manifesto. One participant later reflected, “I could tell that something profound had happened.” The document outlined a new approach in which designers would seek continual feedback from customers to keep pace with their changing needs.
The manifesto included four core values:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
Nearing the end of their retreat, the engineers in Utah expanded their work. They drafted 12 principles outlining the finer points of their agile approach. For example, one principle states, “The most efficient and effective method of conveying information is face-to-face conversation.” Effective sales professionals will recognise the value of this idea. Face-to-face conversations allow sales professionals to delve deeper with their questioning strategy. They can move beyond surface-level needs to understand the underlying issues driving the buying decision.
Perhaps the most important of the 12 principles is the idea that “we welcome changing requirements, even late in the process. Agile processes harness change for the company’s competitive advantage.” This single statement fully captures the mindset underpinning the Momentum Methodology. Changing requirements are not something to be feared. Instead, they are accepted as an inherent part of the process.
Putting Agile Principles to Work in Sales
What’s powerful about selling with agility is that it’s not just a method of working — it’s a mindset and set of best practices that have transformed software development and are starting to be applied to the broader business context in a practice called Enterprise Agility.
So, if businesses can apply agile principles and methods to everything from Finance to Product Development, why can’t they be applied to sales to make our approach to understanding customer requirements more iterative and responsive?
Our team set out to build a new selling methodology. We wanted to give sales professionals the benefits of taking an agile approach, which puts their customer’s buying requirements at the center of the sales conversation. This helps sales professionals remain close to changes in the customer’s world and move opportunities through the pipeline with momentum.
The Sprint SellingTM training programme is built on three pillars, each designed to track progress and win deals.
- Opportunity vitals and opportunity health: Opportunity Vitals are an objective set of criteria to measure progress. The Opportunity Vitals are pain, power, vision, value, and consensus. Opportunity Health is a way to measure the strength of each vital.
- Selling Sprints: Selling Sprints are short bursts of activity that revolve around key moments in customer conversations. Each sprint should result in a mini close.
- Agile Selling Skills: These critical skills give sales professionals the power and ability to leverage their natural skills and apply the Sprint Selling methodology more effectively.
This agile selling methodology turns market disruption into a competitive advantage by teaching sellers to easily pivot when new information becomes available to drive better alignment with customers and make the buying process a point of differentiation.
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