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Achieving Sales Agility with a Sprint Selling Methodology

Improving win rate

sales leadership and coaching training program

December 2, 2021Article

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Agile selling makes volatility a competitive advantage

The defining characteristic of selling today is change. Customer needs are dynamic. Perceptions of value fluctuate. Movement is unpredictable.

These changes have led to a volatile environment. Responding to this volatility in sales is difficult because it puts stress on processes that have become rigid. The modern solution to this challenge is to embrace volatility with an end-to-end agile approach that addresses the scope of change in sales today. 

Sales professionals need a methodology consisting of the activities, skills, tools, and visibility to measure progress. To fully capture the breadth of customer needs these capabilities must unite under a single agile approach – we call it Sprint SellingTM.

This agile sprint selling model focuses on customer collaboration and responsiveness to change. This fluidity perfectly matches the customer’s dynamic movement towards a buying decision. Agility in selling means using different skills when and where you need them. Finding this flexibility means developing a selling strategy that can move in short bursts or sprints.

A selling sprint consists of three key actions: prepare - enagage - advance. When executed in the right order these actions result in a burst of activity that accelerates the customer conversation resulting in a “mini close.”

The agility within Sprint Selling works because it is responsive to change no matter how large, or frequent. The approach empowers the sales professional to gather strength from volatility and leverage it to their advantage. New, unexpected information from the customer provides insight that equips the sales professional to deliver value earlier in the dialogue. Outcomes can be visualized and buy-in develops along the way.

By committing to a methodology, the sales organization benefits from a universal approach to selling. In this setting sales professionals work together more cohesively, coaching is aligned to a clear framework, and the progress of each pursuit becomes clear.

This framework and methodology are anchored in an agile selling approach that:

    • Uses a solution mindset and consultative approach to foster trust and collaboration.
    • Is anchored to a formula for success tied to buyer-validated outcomes
    • Shows the critical seller actions needed to drive consensus and win a deal
    • Shows the tools, techniques, and skills to execute the critical actions
    • Creates a differentiated buying experience by helping buyers navigate their journey
    Here we lay out a new approach to selling that focuses on agility. We show how a chain of sprints, in which each burst is ignited by the one that came before, creates a propulsive sales cycle. The result is accelerated customer conversations that drive momentum towards a win.

    Objectively evaluating the opportunity

    The Sprint Selling methodology breaks pursuit criteria into five parts that enable the sales professional to determine how well the opportunity is positioned for a win, identify gaps preventing forward movement, and target critical customer information early. Critically, the criteria enable sales professionals to measure progress against a consistent set of goals by assigning a value to each part.

    The value of this method is that it offers clarity. The pursuit critera underpinning Sprint Selling prevents the loss of momentum whenever the unexpected occurs because the sales professional always knows what they need to accomplish to move forward.

    Sales professionals can repeatedly gauge their strength with these factors by assessing how well they have addressed each criterion at any given point in the pursuit. This assessment brings new visibility to the selling process. By using the pursuit criteria sales professionals get a clearer image of what they have accomplished and what else they need to do, and forecasting becomes more accurate. 

    Learn more about the pursuit criteria by downloading the brief: Bringing Agility to Selling with the use of Pursuit Criteria

    Identifying and executing key sales drivers

    The pursuit criteria identify the elements necessary for a successful sales pursuit. Identifying distinct sales drivers helps to outline the key actions sales professionals need to execute across their customer interactions. 

    Different drivers are needed to engage different types of stakeholders. Therefore, sales professionals should enter each customer conversation with an idea of which driver they need to exercise with each stakeholder.

    Take a deeper dive into the four sales drivers by downloading the brief: Simplifying Selling by Focusing on the Four Drivers

    Canceling out the noise

    A simplified selling methodology means that the approach can quickly become universal throughout the organization. A universal sales methodology offers immediate benefits like scalability as changes can be made across teams allowing coaches to align everyone to a single, defined process.

    The power of a universal approach goes even further because it addresses one of the most significant and unseen problems within the selling organization: noise.

    “Noise” as defined by Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman is the presence of variability in judgments that should be identical. 

    Kahneman and his co-authors have studied the idea of noise extensively. They concede that some amount of variability among people making decisions within the same organization should be expected. After all, people have individual leanings. 

    However, their research shows that this variability is in fact far greater than anyone realized. 

    According to their work, most people estimate a variation of about 10% among people judging the same scenario. “When you actually measure it, which is what we call a noise audit, you find that the answer is not 10%. The median difference is 55%,” remarks co-author Olivier Sibony.

    One of the reasons this prevalent problem has gone unnoticed is because for a long time many people within business have been focused on the effects of bias in decision making. While bias is real and does present problems, it has left many blind to the noise that creates uneven results. 

    As Daniel Kahneman remarks, “there are actually two sets of problems. We’ve been focused on one and not the other.” Noise leaves people unknowingly influenced. The authors suggest “decision hygiene” as a solution.

    One example of decision hygiene is to break a challenge into many small units like the pursuit criteria. This allows decisions to be made without distraction because the individual makes several distinct judgments on the way to making a decision. 

    At the core of decision hygiene is the idea that one should delay intuition. This idea is reflected in the prepare, engage, advance structure that supports the Sprint Selling methodology because these three parts keep the sales professional focused on the objectives that matter.

    Enabling positioning of complex solutions

    For buyers, the solution is more than the service or product, it is also the people behind it, the implementation, the adaptability of its features, and the capabilities of those who leverage it. The variety of these factors suggests that when a customer buys a solution, they are also buying a complex strategy.

    Despite these complex and interconnected needs, customers often seek solutions independent of sales professionals because they have access to research enabling them to self-diagnose. This approach often presents the challenge of distilling meaning from endless data. This flood of information adds curves to the buying journey. The result is a process in which needs change, options vary, solutions become complex, and decisions become fractious. For these reasons, buying is as difficult for the buyer as selling is for the sales professional.

    Given the depth of complexity business leaders face today it is likely that many decision-makers in the C-suite question the sales professional’s ability to fully grasp their challenge within the limited period they have to address a need. Executives may fear that reliance on a sales professional to navigate them through the buying process may invite even more complexity into the decision-making process.

    The sum of these factors is an environment in which the customer’s needs – and therefore the solution – are more complex than ever. Therefore, sales professionals need an equally sophisticated set of skills to address the interconnected challenges experienced by stakeholders.

    Find out how Richardson Sales Performance can help your team build the skills required to position complex solutions by clicking here to contact us to set up a meeting with an experienced member of our team.

    Using the right tools

    A fundamental, and unseen challenge that has emerged in selling is the sophistication of the tools, data, and science empowering sales professionals has reached a pace exceeding the rate of skill growth necessary to leverage those advantages.

    This uneven development has emerged because tools accelerate faster than skills. To improve selling outcomes innovation must be refocused on the skills that leverage the tools. 

    The result is a synchronized approach in which tools and skills are greater than the sum of their parts. When these parts work together the tools help the sales professional better execute their skills and add value for their buyers.

    Explore the tools we've developed to meaningfully support your team's skill throughout the agile selling process by clicking here.

    Agility is adaptation, adaptation is progress, progress is improvement

    Volatility in the sales pursuit is no longer a characteristic to be feared. With the Sprint Selling methodology, it becomes an advantage because it is the constant force that turns the wheels of the process.

    While the Sprint Selling methodology consists of parts and processes, it is important to remember that what surrounds all of it is an agile mindset. When a sales team is truly agile, they deliver a differentiated buying experience that drives results because they create clarity to challenges and goals and position solutions in a way that resonates with their buyers.

    Learn more about our new Sprint SellingTM training program here.

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