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Agile sales – 8 steps to building agile sales teams

Mutual support and open communication of objectives, achievements and problems are essential requirements of agile sales teams.
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Why is agility important in sales?

Almost every industry is under pressure to act in the face of digitalization. Radical, far-reaching changes are needed everywhere: it’s important to move away from ponderous planning processes and rigid process chains. Agile methods are the means of choice.

Agile methods turn the traditional world of work on its head and make it viable and more effective. While agile process models such as Scrum and Kanban have long become established across the board in project and product management, especially in respect of IT and software development, other areas still lag behind.

However, agile methods are urgently required in sales in particular in order to keep pace with accelerated processes and consumer decisions. Customers are well accustomed to finding alternatives to offered products and filtering out the best deals in fractions of a second with the click of a mouse.

Traditional sales approaches that involve a detailed exploration of needs and numerous steps and phases are no longer fit for purpose given this buying decision process. Customers mainly require speed and tailored products. For sales teams, this means purposeful consulting with full consideration of customer wishes and speedy completion – before the customer turns elsewhere.

Many roads lead to agile sales

There is no one best method for helping sales teams. It may still be early days for the Scrum sales process, for example, but it is fast becoming a recognized sales organization method. However, using a Kanban board as an interactive and agile management tool also has the potential to significantly improve sales efficiency.

Such models are tailored to the IT sector and software development. But sales does not involve working on a product. Therefore, the concept does need to be translated somewhat in order to adapt it to the area of sales. But elements such as Scrum sprints, for example, i.e. partial results that have to be achieved within a short fixed time-box, can be very easily transferred to sales.

8 steps for bringing agility to your sales team

Be inspired by methods such as Scrum and Kanban and you’ll quickly make progress on your way to an agile sales team. The agile sales concept is based on Scrum methodology, among others, but also encompasses customer centricity, transparency and continuous adaptability. Find out here how you can bring agility to your sales team in eight steps:

#1 Establish sprints!

Annual or exclusively monthly targets are not advisable with agile sales. Instead, divide work into sprints of just one to two weeks at most.

#2 Create a backlog!

Each sprint kicks off with a meeting in which you define the goal of the sprint and break this down into smaller sections such as milestones, projects and, ultimately, individual tasks. Record all of this in a backlog, or project list.

#3 Stand up!

Each day begins with the Daily Scrum ritual. In a short stand-up meeting, all team members take turns providing a status update on what they achieved the previous day, what they hope to accomplish that day and where they expect issues or obstacles. This strengthens team spirit and the feeling of responsibility towards each other and increases motivation to achieve the declared goal. The team begins to manage itself.

Is your team too big for a ‘one for all and all for one’ mindset? Then it’s worth splitting the team into smaller groups that will benefit from competition with each other.

#4 Visualize short-term goals!

Each team member should know their contribution to achieving the annual goal in the form of interim objectives that can be achieved in the short term, such as monthly, weekly and daily goals. Keep team members motivated by clearly noting the goals in a calendar.

#5 Stay flexible!

Inherent to agility, and therefore agile sales as well, is flexibility, as reliable forecasts are rare. Adapt in real time to new data, information and situations. If customers jump off at short notice, respond by improving your pitch to include hard-hitting, quality-based reasoning and present references from customers for whom your product has proven successful. You should be able to see market changes coming before they happen and adjust targets, processes and strategies accordingly.

#6 Follow the path to your goal!

Part of being an agile sales organization is using a CRM system with comprehensive analytics features. This is the only way for you to easily track achievement of individual and collective goals at all times.

#7 Review!

Hold a sprint review meeting at the end of each sprint to present the outcome of the sprint in terms of both the failures and successes to all team members. Each team member should present their own figures and share their problems and the solutions found.

#8 Let data speak!

A final sprint retrospective is a meeting designed to look at aspects such as why one customer was won over but not another or why upsales were higher in this sprint than in the previous month. Everyone should contribute their views and experiences, which are also useful when planning the next sprint.

Katja Schulz
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