Selling needs a reset. The burden of more tools, programs, and CRM systems is burying sales professionals and slowing their momentum. Meanwhile, the customer is moving on. To win, salespeople need an agile approach.
With agility, the seller can flex as the circumstances change surrounding the sale. This adaptability contrasts with most sales methodologies, which have been built around a legacy framework consisting of retrofitted pieces. The result is a rigid approach to a dynamic challenge. This disconnect has never been more apparent than it is today because the customer’s world is changing quarterly – and sellers need to change with it.
The benefits of an agile method are not just intuitive; they are also proven. Researchers at Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania conducted a 20-year longitudinal study and concluded that rigid processes come at the expense of “exploratory innovation required for adaptation as environments change.” Put simply, a focus on a fixed framework means missing opportunities for growth.
Despite the benefits of agility in sales, few selling organizations have embraced this approach. Why? Perhaps the answer is that (for most) the word “agility” is vague and abstract. It is difficult to apply a broad concept like agility to a sales methodology.
Here, we demystify agility in selling by explaining the three ways it can become part of a universal, scalable, and repeatable sales methodology. Together, these three concepts show why agility is the answer to the most difficult selling environment in modern history.
Business leaders face more complexity than ever. Industry convergence, digital transformation, and supply chain management all present new challenges. Therefore, stakeholders are starting to doubt the sales professional’s ability to fully grasp the details of these challenges.
At the same time, sellers are struggling to connect their solution to the customer’s new setting as their products and services also become more complex. Therefore, sales professionals need the skills to understand the customers’ new challenges and connect the solution to those issues. This is where agility comes in.
With an agile approach, sales professionals use the complexities of the customer’s world to their advantage. They do so by taking the time to truly understand how the customer’s setting has changed. Then, they use these details to more effectively contextualize the value of their solution. With every customer conversation, the seller gets closer to understanding the customer’s core needs. This approach is agile because it is iterative and flexible. The seller goes where the customer goes in the conversation. Each engagement pulls the customer into the next one because the customer knows they are working with a seller who is determined to understand the central issues.
This approach is effective because it leads to a setting in which the seller does more than track the customer’s current challenges – the seller also helps the customer gain clarity on what those challenges are. In doing so, the sales professional can shape the customer’s thinking.
Solutions have become complex because customers demand interoperability from products and services. Moreover, the C-suite overwhelmingly experiences “difficulty in adopting new technologies,” according to 450 executives surveyed in research from Kearney.
This finding illustrates the value of a sales professional who can clearly articulate how the solution will fit within the customer’s setting. Doing so demands agility.
Agility is what enables the sales professional to move between the key stakeholders to develop a holistic understanding of their needs. A broad view of the customer’s needs is important because it shows the seller which solution features will matter most to the decision makers. Sellers who can focus on just the solution characteristics that matter can simplify their messaging.
Navigating the different opinions in the stakeholder group requires agility because the seller is learning (and re-learning) what the buyers consider important. This approach is characterized by a prepare/engage/advance cadence in which each conversation distills the customer’s needs a bit more.
A simplified selling methodology means the approach can quickly become universal throughout the organization. With a universal sales methodology, change can be made across teams – allowing coaches to align everyone to a single defined process. But how does a sales leader rally an organization around a single methodology? They start by building around one mindset: agility.
When agility is the guiding principle, everyone on the team is working under one philosophy. This creates unity among sellers – which is important as more sales are conducted by teams. Aligning everyone to a single mindset offers another benefit: noise reduction.
“Noise,” as defined by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, is the presence of variability in judgments that should be identical. This variance makes it difficult to isolate what is working in the sales approach and what is not. As a result, the sales leader cannot make improvements. Agility prevents “noise” by uniting the team around the central idea that any changes in the sales pursuit are, in fact, opportunities. When this idea is shared, everyone is working under the same mindset.
An agile approach enhances the dynamic nature of selling. Sprint Selling works because it moves alongside the customer’s changes and even benefits from new (and unexpected) information. As details emerge, the sales professional gains more insight into the customer’s needs to deliver a better solution for the customer.
Ben Taylor is content manager at Richardson Sales Performance. For information on how to help your sales organization learn and apply the Sprint Selling methodology, email email@example.com.