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Agile Sales Opportunity Pursuit Framework

Improving win rate

agile sales pursuit criteria

3 March 2022Blog

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Focus Selling Efforts on Facts

The pursuit criteria make agility in selling possible by focusing selling efforts on facts, not assumptions.

Selling is complicated. Unpredictability and constant change threatens the sale at every turn. Sales leaders need a methodology that equips them to embrace this volatility with an agile approach. Agility empowers sales leaders to use these changes as a means for advancing the sale. 

An agile methodology provides sales leaders with a flexible and fast-moving framework to guide their team's actions throughout the sales pursuit. It answers both the “what,” and the “how” of selling in today’s setting. 

  • The “what” reveals the crucial sales activities sellers must engage in. 
  • The “how” reveals the specific skills and dialogues needed to execute those activities.

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.

The criteria – consisting of five parts –provides sellers with a clear definition of what success looks like within each of the activities. Therefore, the seller can assess their progress against a clearly defined goal as they move through the criteria.

The Pursuit Criteria brings renewed clarity to selling at a time when the pursuit has become more complicated than ever amid increasing stakeholders, shifting customer needs, and sophisticated solutions.

The Agile Sales Pursuit Framework

Here, we offer a deep dive into the five components of the Pursuit Criteria. We explain why each one matters and how they work so that the seller can put the criteria into practise immediately for results that can be seen.

1. Pain

This first element of the criteria refers to the task of understanding the customer’s pain. A pain is a critical business issue or a missed opportunity. Knowing the customer’s pain is important because their discomfort is what compels them to seek a solution and make a purchase. Problems, issues, and opportunities that are not connected to a deeper emotional feeling of pain will likely go untreated due to competing priorities. Simply put, no pain, no change. While the list of possible challenges is limitless, they all connect to one of three base needs: to earn more money, to save money, or to manage risk. 

How It Works

The criteria of a pain is comprised of three parts.

  1. It is personal which means it is job-specific and something the person is measured on or tasked with
  2. It can be quantified and serves as a gauge of improvement
  3. It is negatively stated

Pain has an emotional and logical dimension to it. Pain is something we feel or fear because of something negative. Sellers must remember that pain is experienced at both the individual and organisational level. Examples of pain include rising operating costs, falling revenue, loss of market share, or missed revenue due to a late entry into a particular market.

To accurately understand the pain within the customer’s business sellers often need to use the Pain Chain® tool within Sprint Selling™. The Pain Chain® tool enables sellers to visualise the flow of pain throughout an organisation with a diagram of the cause-and-effect relationship of pains and their owners. 

Once the seller has identified the potential reasons for pain, they can map relevant capabilities to them. This tool equips sellers to personalise their message to individual stakeholders when positioning the solution. It also reveals which specific pains are felt at the highest level of the decision-making hierarchy.

The Criteria For Understanding Pain

To better understand their customer's pain, sellers need to ask themselves the following questions:

  • Has the customer admitted that a critical need must be addressed? 
  • Do we understand the reasons for the pain and the cost of the pain?

2. Power

Power refers to the person or group of people who have the influence and/or authority to determine the outcome of the sale. Sales professionals need to ensure that they are accessing this group and positioning the solution in a way that resonates with the decision-makers. 

Sellers must be clear on their understanding of who is in power, how they can be accessed, how they can be influenced, and if they will ultimately support the solution. 

The most skilled sales professionals are able to ask their primary contact for access to those with the power without alienating the contact. You can’t sell to someone who cannot buy.

How It Works

To locate the power in the buying organisation sellers must understand the power structure. Doing so means considering three stakeholder attributes. 

  1. What is the stakeholder’s interest in the project?
  2. What role does that person perform in the decision? 
  3. What level of influence does the stakeholder have for the project? 

These three questions should be at the forefront of the seller’s thinking as they speak to stakeholders.

Finding those with this power starts by identifying the decision process and learning who is involved. Next, sellers should uncover the stakeholders by observing those who lead the conversations. Finally, it is important to see who in the stakeholder group is establishing the timeline and budget.

Once the power has been identified sellers must access those with power. Often this begins by asking the current contact for that access. The best way to do so is to position the suggestion by explaining the benefits to both the current contact and the person holding decision-making power. At the same time, the seller can ask for information and insight about the person holding buying power in preparation for the first conversation. Lastly, the seller has a responsibility to clearly state the actions they will take to prepare for the meeting.

The Criteria For Understanding Power

To better identify and sell to the decision-makers in their customer's organisation, sellers need to ask themselves the following questions:

  • Do we know these people? 
  • Can we access them? 
  • Can we influence them? 
  • Will they support us?

3. Vision

Vision refers to how the customer sees themselves using the capabilities of the solution. The sales professional needs to direct the customer’s vision. Sales professionals also need to know if they have aligned to a buying vision that addresses the customer’s central needs and if the solution differentiators are part of that vision. 

In nearly all selling scenarios the sales professional will need to align the stakeholder’s vision to the capabilities of the solution. Aligning on vision means understanding the capabilities the customer needs, quantifying the value of the solution, and gaining clarity on the decision maker's personal needs.

How It Works

The most effective sales professionals do more than track the customer’s challenges – they improve the customer’s insight into what those challenges are. This skill enables the seller to shape the customer’s thinking. 

There has never been a better opportunity for this approach because businesses are reevaluating their competitive position in a changing economy. Moreover, as digital transformation sweeps across industries stakeholders are taking on new challenges and need help as they adopt a different model.

Often, the seller needs to alter some parts of the solution to properly align it with the customer’s latest needs. This challenge is an opportunity for the seller to illustrate the differentiated aspects of the solution and connect those characteristics to the customer’s needs.

The sales professional can align the customer’s buying vision to the solution by getting specific in their language. Doing so means moving away from abstract discussions and into a conversation centred on the practical aspects of the solution. The goal is to help the customer create a mental image of themselves using the solution in their operation in a way that feels real. This vision must not only address the current customer challenges but also those anticipated in the future. Businesses are reassessing their strategies more frequently and the solution must be able to adapt alongside those changes.

The Criteria For Shaping The Customer's Vision

To better evaluate how well they have shaped their customer's vision sellers need to ask themselves the following questions:

  • Have we aligned on a buying vision around capabilities needed with the customer? 
  • Does that vision incorporate our differentiation?

4. Value

Value refers to the measurable business factors that the solution will improve. Examples of these factors include expected revenue gain, gross margin, and long-term savings. 

The value of the solution must exceed the status quo and all other competing solutions the customer is evaluating. 

Articulating the value of the solution within the context of the customer’s business is a high-stakes endeavour because stakeholders are bringing more rigour to the ROI justification process than ever before. This vetting process has become intense because more decision-makers are involved in the process. Each has a different definition of value and all must be satisfied.

How It Works

Anchoring value often requires the seller to convert qualitative benefits to quantitative ones. The sales professional and the solution must fulfil a commitment based on unambiguous measurement. Similarly, the communication must be clear. Developing that clarity means drafting a value statement consisting of three parts.

  1. The seller must articulate what is important to the customer by describing the reasons for their pain. 
  2. The seller should state how the solution capabilities will address the issue by creating a compelling vision of the customer’s future. 
  3. The seller needs to define the positive outcomes that the customer can expect. This final and critical part of the value statement must answer the question, “so what?”

In most cases, the answer to this question comes from quantifying the value of the solution. To do so the seller must drill down to the numbers that the customer wants to change. With this information, the seller can begin to understand the organisational impact of the challenge and the ways in which the solution will address each.

Value is in the eye of the beholder. Therefore, the seller must take the time to see the world through the customer’s eyes so that the value they articulate resonates.

The Criteria For Articulating Value

To better evaluate how well they are creating and articulating value sellers need to ask themselves the following questions:

  • Are we creating value in the buying experience? 
  • Have we positioned the value of our solution in a relevant and compelling way? 
  • Have we quantified value in a way that outweighs the pain?

5. Consensus

The sales professional owns the responsibility of driving consensus among stakeholders because the customer will not do this internally. 

When a sales professional successfully builds consensus, they are moving the stakeholders towards a decision. Reaching a consensus means getting stakeholders to agree upon and have confidence in the conceptual, transitional, and financial aspects of the solution. If the stakeholders agree on these three parts, they believe that the solution will address the core challenges, can be implemented fast, and warrants an investment over other priorities.

How It Works

To establish broad agreement while mutually progressing through the buying journey the seller must build consensus around the idea that the solution can be easily implemented, that the risk of not purchasing is significant, and that the expected return justifies the cost.

Addressing these questions means designing a co-creation plan. 

The first part of this plan should be a positioning of the concept. This means articulating the value of the solution while gaining the customer’s agreement on the process for moving forward in the buying journey. Next, the sales professional can begin brainstorming with the customer. Doing so means exploring the customer’s ideas ensuring all key aspects are covered and setting expectations for delivering the proposal. Lastly, the seller should set the next steps by listing the follow-up actions and the corresponding timeline.

Throughout the collaboration plan, the seller will continue to deepen their understanding of needs as conversations with multiple stakeholders reveals more details. The key is to remember that developing consensus is an ongoing process. It is ongoing because it involves many stakeholders, and because their needs are changing throughout the course of the buying journey.

The Criteria For Creating Consensus

To better evaluate how well they are building consensus sellers need to ask themselves the following questions:

  • Do we have an agreed-upon collaboration plan? 
  • Are we progressing to a decision?

Bring Efficiency and Structure to Selling with the Pursuit Criteria

The Pursuit Criteria are what focus the seller on working from facts, not assumptions so they can make the best next move.

This criterion is one part of our Sprint Selling™ programme which provides sales teams with the skills, and tools needed to win the sale in a changing world.

Sprint Selling™ 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.

Click here to learn more about the Sprint Selling™ training programme.

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