The world of buying today is filled with unpredictability and constant change – making selling with efficiency a nearly impossible task.
Buyers seek a sales methodology that pivots and flows with their changing needs, and a sales professional who can guide them through this complex process with ease.
So how do we close the gap between modern buyers and sellers? By embracing volatility with an end-to-end agile approach.
To gain a competitive advantage, sales professionals need a new methodology. Agile selling works because it is responsive to change no matter how large or frequent. With this approach, the constant volatility in sales becomes the very propellant that advances the pursuit. An agile approach allows for new, unexpected information from the customer to be leveraged and integrated by the sales professional earlier and more often – which opens more opportunities for customer buy-in along the way.
The Components of an Agile Approach to Selling
To become agile, sales professionals need a flexible and fast-moving framework to guide their actions throughout the sales pursuit.
This framework consists of three key actions: prepare, engage, and advance. When executed in the right order, these actions result in a burst of activity that accelerates the customer conversation – resulting in a “mini close.”
Preparation is the process of thinking critically about an upcoming sales conversation. This approach to planning leads to more productive customer meetings, increased credibility, and a shorter sales cycle. Preparation consists of developing clarity in three areas:
To truly know the customer, the sales professional must narrow their focus to the individual level and examine the stakeholders involved in the decision process. At its core, knowing the customer is about knowing their pain and how it flows throughout their organization.
This is where differentiation is crucial. Sellers need to think critically about how their solution is truly unique from the competition. This is essential for moving the buyer into the next stage of the buying process.
Sellers need to overlay a strategic framework onto a customer call so that key information is learned in every conversation. The time with the customer is brief and usually comes at the expense of prospecting and marketing efforts. A well-planned call makes the most of those investments.
Execute a plan consisting of a consultative approach, agile responses to customer changes, and trust-building. Together, these three characteristics reveal the customer’s core needs that are often left unexplored in the rush to advocate for the solution.
A consultative approach is characterized by being genuinely customer focused, fostering trust, and co-creating the best solution for the customer’s unique situation.
Encouraging the customer’s autonomy is a key component of the consultative approach to selling, although it may seem counterintuitive. Some sales professionals fear they’ll remove themselves from the selling process – mistaking autonomy for independence. The two, however, are not the same. A sales professional can promote the customer’s autonomy while also moving the sale to a close.
A consultative approach enables sellers to move in tandem with their customers and adjust to business changes in real time.
Buying isn’t linear, so neither is selling. Sellers need to know and execute critical actions that drive momentum and win deals, yet they must be ready to react to inevitable changes. Buying is fraught with risk that incites emotion that can stall or kill the deal – this, essentially, is the main blocker for a sale. To win, sellers must build trust and confidence in a world where customers are highly skeptical and risk-averse.
As sales professionals become agile, they discover that customer changes are not setbacks. Instead, they are opportunities to build that consultative relationship and continue the momentum forward rather than backward.
Crucially, sellers must leverage agility throughout the sales process. This approach is important because it prevents the common risk of becoming less agile as the sales process nears its end due to sales professionals developing a false sense of certainty as they conduct more conversations with stakeholders.
Customers have a heightened need for trust because they are experiencing greater risk than ever as they discover the sensitivity of their business to external factors.
When another person sees our actions as consistent with what we say, we establish knowledge-based trust. Always sending a written summary and delivering on your promises after each customer meeting demonstrates competence, consistency, and predictability – all essential to building knowledge-based trust. Debriefing with the customer to gain feedback demonstrates openness, respect, and sensitivity to the customer’s needs.
The Advance segment provides a process for taking the right internal and external actions immediately following a customer interaction to maintain momentum. Advancing consists of three steps:
First, sales professionals must take the time to reflect and review the results of the call, and lessons learned. While reflecting, it is important to determine if the call objectives were satisfied. Sales professionals must consider what they learned and how that information will inform next steps. This exercise is not just informative for navigating the path forward; reflection is also an opportunity to analyze the interaction and discover what worked and what did not.
Second, follow-up is required in the form of a debriefing with the customer and an updated collaboration plan, if appropriate. Sales professionals need to seek feedback and additional insights from stakeholders to create a more dimensional picture of needs. Follow-up is also a great opportunity to leverage other forms of media, including digital and print assets.
Third, sales professionals must demonstrate follow-through by meeting customer commitments while completing all necessary internal actions. This includes updating other team members on the latest understanding of the customer’s pain points and how it flows and changes throughout the hierarchy of the customer’s organization.
When a sales professional truly becomes agile, they bring a differentiated buying experience to stakeholders. Becoming agile in the sales pursuit means meeting the customer where they are in the buying journey, putting the customer at the center of all selling actions, and working in a non-linear format.
Click here to learn more about Richardson Sales Performance’s Sprint Selling™ program and the critical actions needed to win deals, and how to apply those actions with an agile approach.