Applying Agile Methods to B2B Sales TeamsGraham Richardson
Those familiar with project management processes, or those working in or closely with software development, will undoubtedly have heard of the Agile Methodology. In this article we explore how employing an Agile methodology to B2B sales practices could help increase user iteration and collaboration, as well as improve accountability, providing better measurement and forecasting to help improve outcomes.
So, what precisely is the Agile methodology?
Agile is a process that helps teams provide quick responses, to often unpredictable feedback suggestions, that they receive on their project(s). It creates opportunities to assess a project’s direction during the development cycle, as well as allowing teams to assess the project in regular meetings, commonly referred to as Sprints.
It’s built around 4 primary values;
(i) Individuals and interactions over tools & processes
(ii) Working software over exhaustive documentation
(iii) Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
(iv) Responding to change over simply following a plan
Simply put, Agile methodology takes away the rigidity of traditional project management processes. By applying Agile practices, teams are able to zero in on smaller, more immediate goals helping them minimize time wasted and ultimately, focus on delivering better results.
How does this apply to sales?
Whilst not mentioned anywhere in the Agile manifesto, the Agile framework has typically been regarded as exclusively designed for the IT industry. But over recent years, Agile has been used more and more in other industries and departments, providing teams with an adaptable and flexible process, while supporting fast-paced changes and overnight client demands.
To effectively apply Agile to your sales processes, we first need to evaluate the 3 P’s – People, Process & Platform, and how they may be re-shaping sales across your industry.
Whether it be Generation Z or Millennials, the workforce is and will continue to be, constantly changing. And with it, the approach to sales will also change. Teams are more and more tech-savvy, and so the same ‘ol tactics that you have used for years need to adapt as well.
As with the changing workforce, the processes of selling and how consumers purchase has also changed. Approx. 64% of consumers say they are likely to research online before making any purchasing decisions, while a whopping 94% say an online review has convinced them to avoid a business or product.
Salespeople, therefore, need to deliver a unique, consultative and high-value experience to each of their prospects through targeted, account-based selling.
Account-based selling is a highly personalized customer engagement strategy. The goal is to manage each client or account as an independent and scalable revenue stream – essentially treating every account, and the decision makers within, as a market of one. This means identifying your ideal customer profile (ICP) or buyer persona by;
- identifying who you want to contact? (i.e. decision makers)
- define which industry is the best fit for your product or service?
- what message do you want to put across? (i.e. what value you provide or what problem do you solve specific to that industry)
Understanding the answers to these questions will help you in identifying the right people, at the right company so you can tailor your message accordingly.
In order to manage and maintain control of the above, one needs to efficiently and regularly review their data. Everything from the effectiveness of your outbound messages (A/B tests), to reports and dashboards, through to monthly performance reviews and feedback. Just like with a marketing funnel, a B2B sales funnel must be optimized and measured regularly.
After all, if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.
Having a platform that allows you to collate all of that data and review your processes and actions performed against each other, whilst allowing room for adaptable change makes for an ideal sales solution.
So where does Agile fit into all this?
By employing an Agile framework, your goals and criteria for successes are approached incrementally, allowing teams to clearly and accurately measure whether they are hitting their objectives. Your people, processes and platforms all affect and influence one another.
Agile provides a systematic, feedback-driven process to help ensure all of the steps and stages in your sales process complement one another to create a system of continuous improvement, where salespeople stop focusing on their big end of year quota and instead, hone in on measuring and managing the activities that lead to revenue.
That all sounds great, but what are the actual benefits?
The simplest way for sales reps to maintain accountability, to both themselves and their team is to keep close track of all of their leads, activities and outcomes. In the majority of businesses, this means the data held or inputted into the CRM.
Therefore, it makes sense to follow the adage of ‘If it’s not in the CRM, it doesn’t exist’. The thought being that if you can transform your team culture into this mindset; collaboration increases, data quality improves, and executives have a newfound visibility into their business.
Agile sales methods leave room for optimization on a client-by-client basis, by establishing clear milestones and fostering rep-level accountability. Of course, this is helped by ensuring your selected CRM fully meets your sales needs and that all users are fully trained on how to use the system.
- Improved Measurement & Forecasting
As Agile suggests, focusing on a development project as a whole is more difficult than breaking it down into smaller parts to build a finished product. Sales team goals can be managed in the same way.
Sales managers may borrow from the daily sprint philosophy and rather than simply looking at the end goal, break it down into smaller sub-goals. These objectives should be short-term (monthly, weekly, or even daily), allowing you to see if the strategy you’re currently employing is working and how well.
By focusing on shorter-term goals, you are able to better evaluate progress and will have a clearer insight into your data. The most important information from your CRM or sales pipeline is the data that informs you of what’s actually going on in the sales team and that helps you manage reps toward a higher performance. i.e.:
- of calls/emails required to book demos or meetings
- Conversion % of demo to trial
- Conversion % of Trail to Closed Deal
- Average Deal Value
- Average length of sales cycle
The above data points can then be leveraged to help in forecasting your future deals in order to get the best result possible.
- Iteration and Collaboration
It may be helpful to view your Agile sales process as a series of landing lights to help guide you toward the right path, rather than a rigid framework that must be followed precisely at all times.
Having a clearly defined sales process is vital for running an organized and accountable business. But again, your sales processes should be regularly reviewed and what better way than to include the people who are using it every day.
To help start fostering collaboration and encouraging discussion amongst your sales team, try running daily or weekly review meetings (Sprints), on the previous successes or failures.
For example, a team may set a 1-month goal to generate 500 new qualified leads. Each day the team manager (or perhaps even an assigned project manager from the team to help foster collaboration), will call a group meeting to see how the goal is progressing and whether there are any major issues or blockers to be addressed.
The group project will help elicit ideas and best practices on how to best achieve the objective. And after a month, a project review is held.
Keep track of the responses and feedback. These may prove useful for future reference or perhaps could even be used for new staff onboarding.
Finally, increasing transparency amongst your sales team means helping reps understand where they and their colleagues stand in relation to their quota. For true transparency;
- Data and information should live in a centralized and accessible location (CRM)
- Meetings should be a regular occurrence (daily stand-ups, one-on-ones with reps, weekly team meetings) in order to review any major successes or failures
- A clear and concise view into your pipeline and reports
By making this a conscious and ongoing effort, reps will have the context needed to help them strategically navigate any challenges and optimize their performance.
It should be noted, however, that an Agile sales approach is not a ‘one-size-fit-all’ framework for sales teams and business. Not every component of agile may be a good fit for your business but investigating and adopting just a few of the agile principles discussed above can help your sales team move past the “same old” approaches and methodologies and into the future of sales.
In order for such changes to be truly effective, they must be customized, practised, and reinforced. By focusing on what really matters to your business and providing hands-on practice that aligns with key steps of your sales process, you and your team can ensure that the new techniques will be applied, making sales training well worth the investment.
If you’d like to discuss implementing a CRM to your business or would like to know more about Livespace as a sales and customer management solution, click here to book a call with one of our team.