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Defining Sprint Selling

Outbound sales

agile sales training

February 16, 2022Article

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What Is Sprint Selling?

Sprint Selling is an agile sales methodology that is highly responsive to change. This methodology embraces the constant volatility in sales by making that volatility the propellant that advances the pursuit. This agile approach allows for new, unexpected information from the customer to be leveraged and integrated by the sales professional earlier and more often; opening more opportunities for customer buy-in along the way.

The following diagram outlines the Sprint SellingTM framework which will be broken down in more detail in the following sections.

sprint selling framework overview

While the Sprint Selling methodology consists of parts and processes, it is important to remember that what drives it is an agile mindset. When sales professionals become agile, they bring a differentiated buying experience to stakeholders by:

  1. Putting the customer first
  2. Meeting the customer where they are in the buying journey
  3. Flexing as requirements evolve
  4. Adapting to different needs across stakeholders
  5. Facilitating consensus on buying decisions
  6. Committing to an agile approach
  7. Co-creating a collaboration plan with customers
  8. Seeking commitment from the customer to drive movement
  9. Being willing to work in a non-linear format
  10. Using every customer conversation to explore, position, and deliver value

If this is the way you want your sales team to show up in front of your customers click here to learn about our new Sprint Selling™ training program.

The Future of Sales Is Agile

The world of buying today is filled with unpredictability and constant change, making selling with efficiency a near-impossible task. Buyers are in desperate need of a sales methodology that pivots and flows with their changing needs, and a sales professional who can guide them through this complex process with ease.

By embracing volatility with an end-to-end agile approach. To gain a competitive advantage, sales professionals need a new methodology. This approach needs to include: proven selling activities that drive momentum, agile skills backed by behavioral science, tools to increase effectiveness and efficiency, and progress measurement to elevate deal strategy and coaching. These capabilities unite under a single agile approach—Sprint Selling.

Understanding an Agile Selling Methodology

Focusing on collaboration and fluidity by employing an agile selling methodology enables the seller to perfectly match the customer’s dynamic movement towards a buying decision. Selling with agility means using different skills when and where you need them. Here 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.

The Sprint Selling methodology gives sales professionals the agility needed to navigate the dynamic nature of buying today. It is built on four main pillars, each designed to track progress and win deals.

These pillars are:

sprint selling sales methodology framework

Selling Sprints

When working in an agile sales process, sales professionals need a flexible and fast-moving framework to guide their actions throughout the sales pursuit. This cycle is called a Selling Sprint. A sprint consists of three key actions—prepare, engage, and 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.”

Prepare

Preparation is the process of thinking critically about an upcoming sales conversation. This approach to planning leads to more productive customer meetings, increased credibility, and a shorter sales cycle. Preparation consists of developing clarity in three areas:

  • Know your customer:To truly know the customer the sales professional must narrow their focus to the individual level and examine the stakeholders involved in the decision process. At its core, knowing the customer is about knowing their pain and how it flows throughout their organization.
  • Know your value:This is where differentiation is crucial. Using a tool called The Differentiation Grid, a seller clarifies which aspects of their solution are truly unique from the competition. This is essential for moving the buyer into the next stage of the buying process.
  • Know your call plan:Sprint Selling overlays a strategic framework onto a customer call so that key information is learned in every conversation. The Sprint Selling methodology includes the PlanMyCall Salesforce application which consists of a Call Planner, Call Reflection, and Manager’s Coaching Planner.

Engage

Execute a plan consisting of a consultative approach, agile responses to customer changes, and trust-building. Together, these three characteristics reveal the customer’s core needs that are often left unexplored in the rush to advocate for the solution.

Use a consultative selling approach


Characterized by being genuinely customer- focused, this style fosters trust and co-creation of the best solution for the customer’s unique situation. Encouraging the customer’s autonomy is a key component of the consultative approach to selling, although it may seem counterintuitive. Some sales professionals fear they’ll remove themselves from the selling process, mistaking autonomy for independence. The two, however, are not the same. The Handbook of Self-Determination outlines that autonomy represents a willingness to “engage in a behavior, whereas to be independent means to act without reference to or support from others”. A sales professional can promote the customer’s autonomy while also moving the sale to a close. A consultative approach enables sellers to move in tandem with their customers, adjust to business changes in real-time, and most importantly, use Self Determination Theory to their benefit.

Build agile selling capabilities

Buying isn’t linear, so neither is selling. Sellers need to know and execute critical actions that drive momentum and win deals, yet they must be ready to react to inevitable changes and blockers. Buying is fraught with risk that incites emotion that can stall or kill the deal—this, essentially, is the main blocker for a sale. To win, sellers must build trust and confidence in a world where customers are highly skeptical and risk adverse. Sprint Selling balances the need for prescription and agility by arming sellers with a formula for success and the agile skills needed to execute it. As sales professionals go through the iterative process of the sales formula and selling sprints, they discover that customer changes are not setbacks. Instead, they are opportunities to build that consultative relationship and continue the momentum forward rather than backward. A model that is designed to benefit and grow from unexpected developments brings measurable advantages according to research from McKinsey. Crucially, the Sprint Selling methodology is designed to leverage agility throughout the sales process. This characteristic is important because it prevents the common risk of becoming less agile as the sales process nears its end due to sales professionals developing a false sense of certainty as they conduct more conversations with stakeholders.

Build trust

Customers have a heightened need for trust because they are experiencing greater risk than ever as they discover the sensitivity of their business to external factors. When another person sees our actions as consistent with what we say, we establish Knowledge-based Trust. Always sending a written summary and delivering on your promises after each customer meeting demonstrates competence, consistency, and predictability — all essential to building Knowledge based Trust. Debriefing with the customer to gain feedback demonstrates openness, respect, and sensitivity to the customer’s needs. These are additional ingredients needed to build trust.

Advance


The Advance segment of a Selling Sprint provides a process for taking the right internal and external actions immediately following a customer interaction to maintain momentum. Advancing consists of three steps:

Reflect

Sales professionals must take the time to reflect and review the results of the call, and lessons learned. While reflecting it is important to determine if the call objectives were satisfied. Sales professionals must consider what they learned and how that information will inform next steps. This exercise is not just informative for navigating the path forward, reflection is also an opportunity to analyze the interaction and discover what worked, and what did not.

Follow-up


Follow up is required in the form of a debriefing with the customer and an updated collaboration plan if appropriate. Sales professionals need to seek feedback and additional insights from stakeholders to create a more dimensional picture of needs. Follow up is also a great opportunity to leverage other forms of media including digital and print assets. When another person sees that the sales professional’s actions are consistent with what they say, they establish “knowledge-based trust.”

Follow through

Sales professionals must demonstrate follow-through by meeting customer commitments while completing all necessary internal actions. This includes updating other team members on the latest understanding of the customer’s pain points and how it flows and changes throughout the hierarchy of the customer’s organization. The prepare, engage, advance framework underpinning the Sprint Selling methodology is ever-present and therefore prevents late-stage losses. Sales professionals are always revisiting the facts and revising their understanding of the customer’s setting. The approach is nimble, responsive, and collaborative.

The Four Sales Drivers

The Four Drivers outline the specific accomplishments required to close a deal and are the key actions that sales professionals need to execute during Sprint cycles. The Advance segment of a Selling Sprint provides a process for taking the right internal and external actions immediately following a customer interaction to maintain momentum.

Advancing consists of four steps:

  1. Direct the vision
  2. Get to power
  3. Drive consensus and resolve risk
  4. Persuade with value

Direct the Vision


Sales professionals need to co-create a future vision with the customer by diagnosing pain points and relating them back to the solution differentiators. The most sophisticated sales professionals do more than track the customer’s current challenges—they also help the customer gain clarity on what those challenges are. In doing so, the sales professional has a valuable opportunity to shape the customer’s thinking.

This approach is not without challenges. Cognitive dissonance shows that we are prone to discount, dismiss, or oppose information that is new, or conflicts with our beliefs, because it creates emotional discomfort—both customers and sellers are prone to it. Customers object because of it and sellers are naturally wired to defend their points of view in order to relieve their emotional discomfort. This only increases the level of cognitive dissonance for the customer and may trigger a threat response. That is why it is so important for sales professionals to build that consultative relationship and help guide their customer through this discomfort with agility and intent.

Get to Power

Getting to power means understanding the decision-making process and structure. It’s important for sales professionals to gain access, stay connected, and stay aligned to those with influence and authority in the business. The sales professional may not be able to depend on their existing contact or an established advocate within the customer’s business to propel the deal forward.

Drive Consensus and Resolve Risk

To drive consensus and resolve risk sales professionals need to co-create a collaboration plan that supports mutual investment of time and resources. They must ask themselves if the customer has a high-priority reason to continue. The factors that compel a stakeholder to move forward may have changed since the beginning of the conversation. That is, the solution must yield more results, offer more certainty regarding outcomes, and deliver them faster. Science shows that human beings are cooperative by nature, which explains why it is likely that the customer will often be cooperative in co-creating a Collaboration plan. When you position value to the customer and speak to your willingness to invest resources in helping them, it’s likely that they will reciprocate by being cooperative. Getting the customer to this mindset is crucial to completing the sale.

Persuade with Value


To fully persuade stakeholders, a seller must appeal to both the logical and emotional aspects of decision-making. The case for change must be compelling, and the value of the solution must exceed that of the status quo. Articulating value is difficult since it challenges the sales professional to convert some soft factors into numerical figures that place a stake in the ground. Over the long term, sales professionals must deliver on a commitment grounded in unambiguous measurement if they hope to close the deal.

Agile Selling Skills

Specific skills give sales people the flexibility to connect with customers in a meaningful way during their conversations. They also allow sellers to pivot and adjust in the moment as they listen to and make sense of the information. They may seem simple, but the degree to which a seller can master these skills is often what separates the best from the average—they are how you demonstrate EQ (emotional intelligence) in front of the customer. You can teach a seller to improve EQ by breaking down each of these skills into behaviors and, most importantly, practice.

agile selling skills

Take a deeper dive into each of these skills by clicking here.

Pursuit Criteria

It is essential to understand the criteria of a successful pursuit in order to position yourself to win, identify gaps preventing movement, and target critical customer information early. Having an objective set of criteria also helps to measure progress against goals by assigning value and receiving an objective score. The five criteria are: pain, power, vision, value, and consensus.

Pain

Understanding a customer’s real pain points matters because it is typically the main motivator for action. While the list of possible challenges is limitless, they all connect to one of three base needs: to make money, save money, or manage risk.

Power

Power refers to the stakeholders who are authorized to make a purchasing decision. Sales professionals need to ensure that they are accessing this group and positioning the solution in a way that resonates with the decision makers. The most skilled sales professionals are able to ask their primary contact for access to those with the power without alienating that contact.

Vision

Sales professionals 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. 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.

Value

Sales professionals need to place the value of the solution within the context of measurable business factors like expected revenue gain, gross margin, or long-term savings. The value of the solution must exceed that of the status quo and any competing solution the customer is considering.

Consensus

Reaching a consensus means getting stakeholders to agree upon and have confidence in the conceptual aspects of the solution, the transitional aspects, and the financial aspects. 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.

Learn more about each of the elements of the pursuit criteria and why they matter by downloading the brief: Bringing Agility to Selling With The Use of Pursuit Criteria

Buying Isn't Linear, So Why Is Selling?

Click here to contact us to schedule a call with a member of our team to learn how Richardson Sales Performance can help your sales organization learn and apply the Sprint Selling methodology.

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