Agile sales

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

Agile is an approach to software development that has been evolved to avoid huge IT projects that don’t deliver what is needed.

The idea is that working, useful pieces of functionality are delivered in small stages typically lasting 3-4 weeks.

The teams are small and self managing within each stage (someone with suitable experience is nominated to lead). The project manager’s role is essentially to set overall direction and prioritise which piece of work is done next.

Recently I challenged a practitioner of Agile Methods to explain how he would apply this approach to another problematic business area – sales.

The objective we agreed for the project was “to achieve sales targets across the sales team on a sustained basis”. The current situation I described, typical for many SME sales teams, was the owner being able to sell the product but a succession of hired salespeople who couldn’t.

Despite my initial scepticism the small amount of time we spent brainstorming how Agile could be applied provided some insight and perhaps even a way to do this for real. The stages we identified were:

1. Describe the niche
2. Describe the pain
3. Describe the proposition
4. Describe the necessary sales activities, volumes and outcomes
5. Pilot these activities
6. Review results and revisit previous deliverables

So far so standard approach to sales management I hear you say. The key difference that interested me was that the sales manager’s role in this is simply to establish the overall objective, to provide the time for the team to work on each stage and, possibly, provide some external expert resource. In sales as in software development, ownership by the team may result in improved performance.

In the real world is a sales manager or business owner going to take his sales teams off the road or the phone for them to do this? Probably not but a) if the results are not there anyway what have you got to lose and b) if you keep on doing what you’ve always done then you’ll keep on getting etc..

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