What is Agile Sales?

My prime customers are business-, and IT-consulting companies so for them Agile means Scrum and Kanban and Sprints and Product Owners and Backlog Lists and all these things… Agile Methodologies were invented for software development. How could a software development methodology marry with sales methodologies?

– Easily!
Let’s have a look at the Agile Manifesto:

Now let’s translate it to Agile Sales!

  • Personalized messages to leads/prospects/clients
  • Return of investments for our clients over forcibly closed deals with big margins for us
  • Long term relationship
  • Forget Strategic Selling!

But I am not saying that we should not have a plan to sell or a process in place . Quite the opposite!
I am saying that nobody should expect any results from a CRM software or a precisely written sales process. They are necessary but not enough. The Agile Project Methodology is wiping out the old Waterfall approach because of RESULTS! At the end of a good Agile Methodology there is always less stress, sharper deadlines and a happy customer.
Agile B2B Sales should work just like the Agile Software Development:
Could you imagine a sales department delivering always in time? Could You picture them having monthly iterations and at the end of each iteration there are always deliverables? This is Agile Sales.
One of the most common mistake I meet during my work is in the measuring system of sales. Many companies approach sales like a switch. A switch with two statuses: 1 or 0 (On/Off). They measure the sales activity by the number of closed deals. It is like measuring a car manufacturer by the number of cars leaving the factory in a month. If You are the Federal Statistic Agency it is a good approach. But if You are the CEO of that factory You would probably have a look at the smaller steps of manufacturing a car. (like engine-manufacturing, painting, interiors, tires etc.) In business-, and IT-consulting the average sales cycle is between 3-6 months. So If You want to measure Your sales activity You would need a more sophisticated approach than: Sold/Not Sold (On/Off).
So what is the first step to form an Agile Sales?
It is to define the different parts of Your Sales Process.
If You work in business-, or IT-consulting I could guess a few steps without even a Sales Assessment:
  1. Lead Development / Lead Source Management
  2. (Source Meetings – with big leads)
  3. First Grade Connection with Leads/Prospects (‘Getting their attention’ as engagement was called in the old days )
  4. Getting Value Chain (mapping Decision Making Groups…)
  5. Second Grade Connection (Getting their interest)
  6. Finalizing Value Chain
  7. Final Decision Maker Meetings (Sales Presentations)
  8. Proposal Development
  9. Proposal Presentation
  10. Decision Management
I am not saying that You have or should have these steps as they can differ company by company or even product by product, but let’s take it as an example because one thing is for sure: You should have separate phases of Your sales process. And if You do have them You can define benchmarks for Your sales people giving them a standard target month by month.
For example:
Your sales guys should deliver monthly:
  1. 20 new leads
  2. 10 source meetings
  3. 7 first meetings
  4. 10 new Value Chains
  5. 6 meetings with influencers
  6. 5 Value Chain completion
  7. 5 meetings with decision makers
  8. 4 requests for proposals
  9. 3 proposal ‘talking through’s
  10. 1 contract signed
Of course the amount of deliverable actions should be defined after many months of fine-tuning but once You have Your company (or product/service) standards You can eliminate the stress from Your sales department. It will not be ‘Hey, what did You sell today?’ conversations that kill the motivation of any good sales person. It will be a simple requirement understood by everybody:
‘this is what You should deliver monthly’.
In Agile Software Development they form ‘Scrum Teams’ and measure them by delivered complexity points iteration by iteration. It should be just the same with Agile Sales. (though the formation of smaller sales teams could depend on several things)
Once You have a good ‘Backlog List’ or ‘monthly requirements of sales actions’ You can start to measure Your sales team. And You know the rules: ‘If You can measure You can Manage’ (should I write: You can Control/Drive/Lead/Succeed) and there is Your money starting to return from Your sales-team-payroll investments.
And what to do when due to the newly found benchmarks above You realize that somebody (or everybody) in Your sales team lacks motivation? Soon I will write a about motivators in a sales team…