Agile Sales: What Salespeople Can Learn from Developers


According to Forbes, many sales teams are stuck in a paradigm that mirrors 1990s software development. Before Software as a Service (SaaS) achieved universal popularity, development teams had months or even years at their disposal to get their product running perfectly. In the same way, many sales teams act like they have all the time in the world to onboard new assets and respond to everyday challenges. However, just as software designers have been forced to become agile to keep up with semi-weekly updates, sales teams would do well to pick up some developer-style agility to foster dynamic collaboration and maximize productivity.

What Is the Agile Sales Method?

In today's SaaS world, developers have to be quick on their feet to meet the demands of the day. According to HubSpot, flexibility is the core of the agile sales method, and agile salespeople respond to challenges dynamically. In a word, the agile sales model is active instead of passive, and it relies on periodic bursts of energy set within a backdrop of steady, strategic energy conservation.

While having a guiding structure is important, agile salespeople embrace the chaos of innovation and tailor their approach to each individual interaction. If your team has agility, each member will collaborate with customers while using the theory of constraints (TOC) to identify and dissolve hangups in the sales process. To be agile, you'll need to crave constant change, value face-to-face-conversations, and engineer your every move to be elegant and effective.

Chaos theory dictates that factors beyond our control coalesce into recognizable systems, and an agile sales team will be similarly self-organizing. Instead of arbitrarily deciding who works with who, allow pairings to come about naturally, and encourage drivers (detail handlers) and navigators (strategizers) to mix and mingle throughout the day. If you generate adequate, genuine group cohesion, there's no need for a dictator.

When problems seem too tough, break them down into digestible chunks. Daily, weekly, and monthly goals keep everyone focused, and timeboxing, which is setting aside a specific amount of time for each activity, keeps particular processes from becoming overwhelming. Always strive for simplicity, and take the time necessary to step back and make sure that your pitch speaks to what your customer really wants.

Integrate the past to dominate the future. Follow the IDS model (Identify, Discuss, Solve) to get all of your team members on the same page with what you've achieved, and deconstruct any persistent obstacles. Reiterate daily that, regardless of what comes up in the IDS process, everyone did everything that they could do with the resources and information at their disposal. Build team cohesion by analyzing, as a group, the trajectory that led you to this point.

Encourage collaborative communication by generating an open sales environment. Allow your team members to overhear parallel conversations while minimizing interruptions by limiting communications to the first 10 minutes of every hour. Programmers know that it takes 15 minutes to get back in the flow after interruptions, and salespeople are no different.

In software and in sales, quick fixes cause more problems down the road, so always strive to implement the best possible solutions. To promote SaaS-style agility within your team, encourage the flow of information and resources to where they'll be implemented best.

Top Agile Sales Tips

  • Eat together: The team that eats together stays together. Agile salespeople promote unity by eating in the same room as their team.

  • Make it big: Put pertinent information on a big chart that everyone in the room can see.

  • Go home on time: If you have to resort to overtime to get things done, there's something wrong. Agile salespeople stay home when they're sick and leave work at the same time every day.

  • Prospect as a team: Instead of tracking down new leads on your own, make prospecting a team thing.

  • Scrum to get it done: For 5-10 minutes every day, have a standing, energized meeting where each team member goes over yesterday's triumphs, today's goals, and any obstacles standing in the way of success.

  • Equal access: Use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database that everyone in your team can access. That way, you can share information without barriers.

  • Maximize energy: You'll lose money if you bang your head against the wall. Take frequent breaks, get plenty of exercise, and eat healthy snacks throughout the day.

  • Mentorship:  It's important to find a good sales mentor outside your organization.
  • Timeboxing: Set aside a specific amount of time for an activity and stop regardless of the progress made.  Programmers do this all the time to make sure they are resetting their momentum.

  • Break it down:  If you’ve got a big hairy audacious sales goal, break it down into smaller, monthly, weekly, and daily challenges.

  • Retrospectives:  Debrief past deals to find the good and bad.  

Have the Courage to Write Your Own Sales Code

Developers have to think outside the box to write code that's innovative and paradigm-shifting. So too is it necessary for agile salespeople to occasionally step outside of their comfort zones to do what's right. A single line of code can botch a whole program, and a single wrong decision can leave your team dead in the water. Have the courage to do the right thing even when it's hard.