What is the key to agile sales teams’ success?

THE CONCEPT OF AGILE

Around four thousand million years ago, the carbon atoms mulled together and formed into something called the ‘primordial soup’ which eventually led to the inception of life as the experts say.

Now, did these atoms re-arrange themselves instinctively to form an advanced human anatomy? No. They had to form simpler structures like polymers – proteins – cells – primeval organisms like microbes and so on. It took ages for life to manifest into something like a mouse.

My point is, every step in this process opened up the possibility of something new, expanding the horizons of what was possible. This is what change is all about, this is what improvement is all about, and this is what AGILITY is all about.

BEING AGILE IS NOTHING BUT BEING ABLE TO COLLABORATIVELY RE-ORGANIZE INTO SOMETHING BETTER WHEN THE ENVIRONMENT DEMANDS FOR IT.

‘AGILE’ IN SALES

Top of mind, can you recollect a few words that you associate Sales with? Most likely your words would have been something on lines of Desirous, Competitive, Individualistic, Aggressive, and so on. What seems to be missing here in this context? I’d say, it is Collaborative, Cohesive, Connected, and Flexible. And yet, a sales team can’t be successful without the aforementioned traits. Hello, Agile!

In this context, I have a favorite aphorism – ‘the only thing that’s certain about long-term predictions is that many of them will go wrong’. Hello again, Agile!

The Agile methodology has conveniently been imported to sales from the Software development. Perhaps, one could actually draw parallels to how a traditional development team functions and match them with sales; having an initial set of requirements in development/targets in sales for instance.

Some salesmen win deals in a quarter. Some lose. But what must continue? The team’s success. This is what the ‘Agile Methodology’ brings to the table. The Collaboration. The Flexibility. The normalization of uncertainties that otherwise affect the individual performance.

So how are the roles defined in an ‘Agile Sales’ team?

  • Salesperson: Each salesperson will have his/her own target. The beauty is that he/she will act both individually and also emphasize a little more on helping the team members in achieving the team’s target. However, the responsibility of building a leads pipeline and managing the backlog lies with the individual.
  • Scrum-master: Scrum master is the heart of this team. He/she is a player and a coach. His/her responsibilities include making sure the team is moving in the right direction, guiding the team members if they face any bottlenecks, and also keeping the team motivated.
  • Sales Manager / Leader: A manager is not a contributor, but his/her responsibility is having the overall vision for the project, making sure the team is performing well. They coach the team on sales techniques and address the issues faced by the team if any.

We can observe that the roles do not exactly match with the agile development roles. The idea is to identify the best practices like adaption, collaboration, having a common goal, resolving issues together and apply them in the sales environment.

BENEFITS OF BEING AGILE IN SALES

  • Now the competition is no longer a lone effort, it’s now a team game. The challenge is still there, but the cut-throat race is relaxed
  • No matter how the overall organization scales with respect to sales, everyone is still a part of the team and each team contributes to the sales success
  • Knowledge flows from one team to another through the Sales Managers. Since they manage multiple teams, they’d want success to multiply. What worked with one team will quickly spread across the organization. So, greater the communication saturation – the more everyone knows everything- the more efficient is the team
  • Allows the teams to be adaptive: Something doesn’t seem to right? Fix it! Some technique not working as expected? Change it!
  • Agile questions the teams, why it takes so long to do things, and why we are so bad at figuring out how long and how much effort things might take. So the agile methodology essentially targets the efficiency and the effectiveness of the teams at a granular level

CORE VALUES OF AGILE SELLING

  • Align: Customers + Solutions
    The Sales leader must ensure that the organization and/or solution aligns to the customer’s perceived needs.
  • Iterate: Frequently + Collaboratively
    The teams must be able to spot trends, mitigate procedural issues, and work collaboratively with other teams to feed the top of the funnel with qualified leads and nurture existing opportunities through the sales cycle
  • Support: Process + Metrics
    The Sales leader has to ensure that the team is equipped with the right tools, follows the right processes and is measured by the right metrics

SUCCESSFUL AGILE SALES TEAM

So adapting the agile methodology will solve all the sales issues and makes the sales team super-efficient. Right? WRONG!

Nothing comes that easy! You have to follow certain rules to get the best results.

See, coffee is amazing! It’s heavenly. No questions asked. But what makes it so amazing? The right amount of milk, the right amount of decoction, the right amount of sugar and essentially the right blend of everything!

Similarly, to become the best agile sales team ever, you need the right blend of leadership, metrics, and processes!! And the recipe for success is:

  • Strong leadership: The team manager must be knowledgeable, empowered to make decisions and accountable. The Scrum master is the fulcrum in the process. They must be able to understand how to keep the tempo high and what is required to get the most out of the team.
  • Right tools: Equipping the sales team with the right tools will not only empower them but make them work smart – not hard! Tools like the right CRM, task automation, lead database providers, smart tools like Hoopla, Boomerang, and TinderBox will help the team streamline their work put their efforts in the right place!
  • Right metrics: To ensure that the team is meeting the targets and driving revenue, we need to measure sales activity and performance closely: Sales call/email data, Sales funnel analysis, Pipeline analysis, Win/loss rate, Conversion rate.
  • Right processes: A good Sales leader must understand what it takes to make the sale, and have an efficient process to put in place to get the sale. Having sprint reviews, daily stand-ups, monthly and quarterly retrospectives, right feedback mechanisms will help the teams in understanding what worked for them and what did not and help them plan better for the upcoming sprint.
  • Prioritization: The Sales leader must know what to prioritize. He must be able to figure out – what to do – when to be able to guide his teams in that direction.
  • Distractions: The team must avoid anything that distracts them from meeting the goals. The core idea of being agile is to avoid waste. For instance, if the salesperson makes a mistake, it must be fixed immediately – because it will always take much longer to fix it anytime later – which is a waste.

Agile sales, when done right, will eliminate issues like the bad working environment, no group effort, and low team morale. Instead of the sales teams being seen as a group of competitive individuals, they can become a model of teams working together collaboratively, learning from each other, and all working towards achieving a common goal.

Sources:

Teresa Weirich, ‘What is Agile Selling, and Why Does it Matter to Sales Organizations?’, Costello, 29th Nov 2017
Aja Frost, ‘The Ultimate Guide to Agile Sales’, HubSpot, 16th Jan 2018
Ankita Kaushik, ‘9 Tools and Techniques for Better Sales’, Agile CRM, 24th Jun 2016