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What is an Agile Sales Sprint?

Customer conversations

selling sprints

19 April 2022Blog

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Defining Agile Selling Sprints

Today's sales professionals need a sales approach that is propelled by change. They need to respond to shifts in customer needs with agility.  

The concept of "agile" has been around in the technology field for years in the form of development sprints - short bursts of focused activity intended to advance the project, but leave room for adjustment as requirements change.

Borrowing from the technology field, a "Sales Sprint" is a short burst of activity intended to advance the sale, it follows a three-part pattern: prepare, engage, and advance. Here, we break down each of the three parts of a Selling Sprint. We explain what each part means, why it matters, and how to do it. 

Prepare

Prepare means engaging in a deep level of research before speaking with the customer. This step is crucial because time with the customer is valuable and sometimes brief. Therefore, the seller has a responsibility to research the answers to all the questions that can be satisfied through research thereby saving those that remain for the conversation. 

Research is important for another reason; it begins to surface new questions that may otherwise have never occurred to the seller. Selling Sprints are about learning and relearning information about the customer. The preparation phase is the first step in that process.

Why it matters

Preparation matters because today’s buyer is already well educated on their needs and the available solutions by the time the seller enters the picture. For this reason, the seller needs to be equally well educated on the nature of the customer’s business, industry trends, stakeholder structure, and strategic initiatives. Preparation helps the seller catch up to the buyer. 

Preparation is also important because it might reveal important information about the decision-making structure within the customer’s business. Sellers need these details to ensure they are selling to someone who can buy. 

The more the seller prepares the easier it becomes for the customer to buy. The seller is armed with the right questions, timely insights, and guidance for the buyer.

How to do it

The prepare model provides a systematic approach to advancing the sale by effectively preparing for customer conversations. This model consists of three parts: 

  1. Know Your Customer
  2. Know Your Value
  3. Know Your Call Plan

Know Your Customer

To truly know the customer the seller must first research what industry trends might present challenges or goals for the customer. It is important to know more than where the industry is currently. Sellers need to know where it will be. 

Next, the sales professional should narrow their focus to the organisation. What are their goals and challenges? What is the sales organisation’s relationship with the customer and competition? 

Finally, the scope should tighten to the individuals. Sellers should explore the kinds of pains the buyer might be facing. They should also explore the kinds of objectives common to the buyer’s role. 

The two tools necessary for the Know Your Customer phase are the key player list and the Pain Chain®

Know Your Value

Know Your Value is about identifying relevant insights, points of view, and ideas. This is where the seller can begin to map capabilities and value to potential pains. This is also an opportunity to identify differentiators within the solution. 

Discovering those differentiators happens with the Differentiation Grid which is a tool for determining which components of the solution are unique when compared to competitors. The grid enables sellers to list each solution capability and then assign it a place on the grid based on how unique the characteristic is and to what degree it is valued by the customer. 

This approach leaves the seller better prepared for customer conversations.

Know Your Call Plan

The time with the customer is limited. It is also difficult to earn. Therefore, sellers need to make the most of it. Doing so means constantly reviewing the Strength of the Sale. This is a process of assigning a numerical score to each of the five elements of the Pursuit Criteria. The Pursuit Criteria identifies the core sales activities that represent the “what” of the agile sales methodology. The value of the Pursuit Criteria is that it ensures every action the seller takes is informed by a verifiable fact. As a result, the seller’s efforts remain focused on the moves that will lead to a win.

Engage

Engage is all about how you work with the customer. The Engage portion of the Sprint Selling methodology consists of three parts: connect, drivers, and commit. These are sequential. The overall goal is to bring a structured approach to opening the dialogue, advancing the sale, and gaining the customer’s commitment. 

The benefit to this approach is that it clarifies the specific actions the seller needs to take and the order in which they need to take them. As a result, the seller’s efforts are focused only on the core goals that truly move the sale.

Why it matters

Engagement is where the sale starts to move forward. This segment of Sprint Selling is where the seller unites their capabilities. They rely on organisation, conversational best practices, solution knowledge, risk mitigation, persuasion, and stakeholder alignment to advance the sale. 

This is also the area of the pursuit where the seller is most likely to learn the new and crucial information needed to deliver the pinpoint messaging that will speak to the specifics of each stakeholder’s needs. The components of the engage portion are designed to quickly surface the customer’s underlying challenges and goals.

How to do it

To properly engage the customer the seller must understand and apply the three parts of the model:

  1. Connect
  2. Drivers
  3. Commit

Connect

The Connect model includes three stages, warm-up, pivot to the kickoff, and the kickoff. 

  • In the warmup, the seller greets everyone to try to make an individual connection with each stakeholder
  • Pivoting to the kickoff the seller uses a verbal cue to transition to the more formal part of the conversation
  • The formal kickoff starts with introductions,a description of the meeting purpose, and the meeting agenda. 

Following the kickoff, it is important to check with all stakeholders that the agenda is appropriate and ask if there are any updates that should be discussed before moving forward.

Drivers

The Four Drivers are a guide for the seller showing them what they need to accomplish across customer interactions to drive progress. These four drivers are: direct the vision, get to power, drive consensus and resolve risk, and persuade with value. 

Direct the Vision means helping the customers gain clarity on their challenges. Get to Power means accessing those with the authority required to make a purchase. Driving consensus and resolving risk means cocreating a collaboration plan that supports the mutual investment of time and resources. Persuading with value means positioning the value of the solution in a way that appeals to logic and emotion while making a compelling case for change. 

Learn more about each of the Four Drivers by downloading the brief, Simplify Selling by Focusing on the Four Drivers.

Commit

The Commit Model provides best practices for concluding any sales meeting with a commitment to actions that advance the sale and ultimately win the business. Approaching the commitment phase with an intentional, structured plan is crucial because doing so is what plants a stake in the ground and memorialises the progress made to date with the customer.

The Commit Model consists of three parts: pivoting to the close, committing to action, and a wrap-up. 

  • Pivoting to the close starts with the seller checking to see if any of the stakeholders have any final questions or comments
  • Committing to action takes place when the seller and stakeholders agree to the next steps by referring to the collaboration plan or asking for the business
  • Wrapping up is a final opportunity for the seller to show conviction and commitment. This is also a good time to reinforce value and deepen rapport.

Advance

The Advance Model gives the seller clear direction for taking the right internal and external actions immediately following the customer interaction. It is a process for absorbing information learned during the engage phase of the Selling Sprint and using it to refine the approach. 

This is also a strategy for building the customer’s knowledge-based trust in the seller. When the seller’s actions are consistent with what they have said the customer develops knowledge-based trust. This is a particularly strong form of trust because it emerges from the seller doing exactly what they said they were going to do.

Why it matters

The Advance portion of the Selling Sprint is an opportunity to assess the opportunity against the sales formula. Doing so indicates the next best move to push the deal forward. This is the time for the kind of self-reflection which leads to personal growth. 

This stage is also a valuable chance for the seller to demonstrate their reliability and credibility to the customer with effective and strong follow-up. Doing so also helps reveal if the customer is in fact aligned to the seller’s latest understanding of their needs.

How to do it

The Advance Model consists of three parts: 

  1. Reflect & score
  2. Follow up
  3. Follow-through

Together these three steps represent an intentional path for meeting customer commitments and maintaining or accelerating momentum.

Reflect & Score

During this stage, the seller reviews the results of the conversation with the customer and asks themselves to what extent did they meet their call objectives, and what information learned about the customer can inform the next steps. When reviewing lessons learned the seller can examine questions like “what did I do well,” and “what could be done differently next time?” 

Finally, it is critical to reassess the Strength of Sale to determine what aspects of the Pursuit Criteria have been satisfied and to what degree. This approach clarifies what the seller needs to focus on next.

Follow Up

Effective follow up advances the sales dialogue rather than restating it. Sellers can bring structure to their follow up with validation communication. The validation communication should include a recap of agreed steps, a request for feedback to confirm alignment, and updates provided to those in power. 

It is important to remember that customers like to interact with potential partners through multiple channels. Therefore, sellers should check the stakeholder’s preferred channels and deliver messaging in the medium that resonates most with the given buyer.

Follow-through

Effective follow-through is about meeting customer commitments and delivering on all promises made. Internally, follow-through means updating the Pain Chain® which, as discussed earlier, is a diagram of the cause-and-effect relationship of pains and their owners inside an organisation relating to a sales opportunity.

During the follow-through portion of the Advance Model, the picture of the sale should look either sharper, or different from the way it looked during the prepare phase. This contrast is natural. It is also indicative of a pursuit that is moving forward. 

Restoring the power of effective follow up means crafting a message that advances the sale, committing to targeted messaging, and ensuring all stakeholders are addressed.

Convert Unpredictability to Energy to Advance the Sale

Changes in the sales pursuit are constant. Selling Sprints convert this unpredictability into energy that advances the sale. Selling Sprints offer the simplicity and repeatability of a three-part process that benefits from new, and unexpected information learned from the customer. 

Selling Sprints are the core of our Sprint SellingTM programme which provides sales teams with the skills, and tools needed to win the sale in a changed world. Sprint SellingTM is backed by behavioural science and powered by an agile framework that prepares the seller to make the much-needed in-the-moment adjustments that keep them aligned with a changing customer.

Learn more about the Sprint SellingTM programme here, or click here to contact us and schedule a time to discuss if this programme is right for your team.




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