Table of Contents
What is Agile Sales?
Agile sales is a sales methodology characterized by its focus on speed, flexibility, and minimal waste. It applies the principles of agile project management to the sales process, meaning teams are able to zero in on smaller and more immediate goals while still working towards larger, long-term objectives.
The agile sales methodology is built on five core principles:
- Accountability — With agile approaches, each individual and team is held accountable for their progress. This means greater transparency and more frequent check-ins from sales reps to managers on how sales efforts are progressing.
- Flexibility — Since projects (or, in this case, sales initiatives) are broken down into “sprints,” agile sales allows for rapid pivoting and testing of different strategies, so sales reps and organizational leaders alike can quickly determine what’s working and what needs changing.
- Measurement — Sales performance management is huge for an agile sales team. With specific, measurable goals in place, teams accurately (and continuously) measure their progress and success.
- Collaboration — The agile sales process is focused on collaboration between departments, customers, sellers, and all stakeholders involved. This facilitates better communication and faster decision-making.
- Continuous iteration — A defining characteristic of agile methods is constant iteration. It moves more quickly and involves more hands-on meetings, rather than long sessions or large gaps between sales cycles.
The main idea behind agile approaches is that the faster a sales team implements a new initiative, the faster they’ll figure out whether or not it works. Whether it’s selling into a new market, testing a new outbound strategy, or shifting the organizational structure, agile methods give sales professionals the flexibility to make changes, capitalize on opportunities, and ditch failures before they cost the company too much.
- Agile sales management
- Agile sales methodology
- Agile sales process
Advantages of Agile Sales Management
Although agile principles were initially designed for IT project management, businesses in all industries stand to benefit from agile sales management. Now, several departments have adopted them and report a 60% higher growth in revenue and profit because of it.
Here are some of agile’s key benefits for sales management:
Faster Time to Market
Just like a product developer would build a new product or feature in rapid sprints, an agile sales team can do the same. Especially in the case of new products with limited (if any) time on the market, it’s unlikely sales managers will know the right approach to selling them.
Using an agile approach to develop new products and features and following up with strong sales execution is the double-whammy — it ensures a good product doesn’t miss the mark because it wasn’t sold correctly.
Improved Selling Experience
It’s the frontline reps who interact with customers, and it’s important for them to feel comfortable making mistakes. Open communication, daily meetings, and continuous updates between sales managers and their team members make it so reps can improve immediately, and find their footing faster.
Many companies taking an agile approach also use collaborative selling, which helps reps educate and develop each other, expand their networks faster, and deliver a better customer experience through a team-oriented, consultative approach. Internally, a collaborative sales experience also improves employee job satisfaction and the overall company culture.
Improved Sales Employee Retention
The typical sales turnover rate is as high as 35% within a year. That’s about three times higher than any other profession. Sales is a difficult role no matter what, and agile sales management makes it easier on employees by providing more autonomy as well as a system of support.
Since reps and their managers meet on a daily (or near-daily) basis during sales sprints, employees improve in real-time instead of looking at their quota attainment retrospectively at their sales QBR.
Real-Time Insights and Improvement
All too often, sales analysis is a retrospective activity. It’s only when the sales organization wants to look at its performance in hindsight that they have an idea of how successful their efforts were. It isn’t every day sales managers report to their exec team or the execs deliver projections to the board.
Agile sales teams are able to gain insights in real-time and as a result, can make changes which increase the likelihood of success. It’s no longer about waiting for trends to come into place, but rather about taking action quickly and course correcting based on data.
The end result, of course, is considerably better performance once it is time to look at sales stats at the end of the month or quarter.
More Efficient Resource Allocation
In sales, every hot lead or qualified prospect that turns to closed lost because of a poor approach is tens of thousands (or more) the company could have had flowing in.
In that sense, time really is money. When teams spend too much time working deals the wrong way, the opportunity cost is tremendous.
Wasting excess resources on proces isn’t a thing with the agile methodology. Since sales sprints are shorter in length, and progress is measured frequently (and collaboratively), teams can quickly identify what’s working and focus their resources on those initiatives.
Breakdown of Agile Sales Methodology
In agile sales, the team organizes work into “sprints” — one- or two-week periods where the sales team works on achieving specific goals. They’re intended to increase collaboration between departments, enable better communication and decision-making, and facilitate rapid iteration of strategies.
In a sales context, sprints could be used for a variety of objectives. Outbound campaigns, onboarding a new cohort, gaining sales opportunities in a new market or area, and structural shifts within the organization are a few of the most common purposes for sprints.
Set Short-Term Goals
Before every sprint cycle starts, the team holds a kickoff meeting to discuss goals, objectives, and strategies they should use. The meeting usually lasts two to four hours and breaks down key goals into specific daily tasks and incremental milestones.
Although short-term goals have seemingly less impact, they compound over time. Achieving small, short-term goals is actually the first step in achieving long-term objectives. All this part of the agile sales process does is break down the end goal into achievable increments.
Suppose you wanted to make it to your Winner’s Circle this quarter, but that would mean selling 130% of quota. It would also mean outperforming your pervious quarter’s sales metrics by 25%, which you don’t think you’re capable of.
Now, pretend your quota is $100,000. To earn your top-performer recognition, you’ll need to sell $130,000 this quarter (quite a big step up from your $104,000 achievement last quarter).
Rather than worrying about the big number ($130,000), break it down into smaller goals:
- Month 1: Sell $40,000
- Month 2: Sell $45,000
- Month 3: Sell $45,000
If you know your average deal size and close rate, you can break it down further — such as selling 25 deals of $3,000 each. And if you know your average sales cycle time, you’ll have a better idea of how much time you need to prepare for each prospect.
Every morning (or every other day), the team comes together for a “standup” meeting. The purpose of these meetings is to talk about progress, successes, and failures from the day before. During a standup, each person gives a brief update on their accomplishments and any blockers they’re faced with.
Standups are a good opportunity for collaboration between:
- BDR/AE teams
- Sales engineering
- Marketing teams (for lead generation)
- Customer success teams (for upsells and cross-sells)
A standup meeting only needs to last between 5 and 15 minutes — it’s simply meant to debrief on what each person has been working on and how their progress is going and share any quick updates.
Ideally, they should start at the beginning of the day to ensure any blockers are identified and worked out the same day they’re discussed.
React in Real Time
The huge benefit to standup meetings is they enable the team to react quickly and adjust their strategies as they go. If a certain strategy isn’t working, or if someone faces an unexpected issue while trying to close a deal, they can bring it up at the standup and have everyone change their course of action during that same day’s sales activities.
Standups provide transparency into each person’s work that day (or week): what’s working, what isn’t, and how everyone can adjust their approach to achieve the best results.
This type of real-time reaction is not possible with the traditional annual review model. But with agile sales it’s standard practice.
A Single Source of Truth
Low data quality is one of the biggest causes of misalignment within sales organizations. Each person is working from their own perspective, making it difficult to track what’s going on across the organization.
Through integrated CRM, sales enablement tools, and a sales engagement platform, agile sales gives everyone access to the same information in real-time. This includes up-to-date reports and analytics on deals, pipeline performance, sales call analysis, and customer feedback — all of which can be accessed collectively so everyone’s on the same page.
Leverage Metrics and Data
Of course, data isn’t worth anything unless it’s used properly. Sales metrics and insights matter situationally.
Maybe your last quarter’s prospects frequently dropped out of the pipeline after your initial discovery calls (shown in CRM). Since your sales engagement platform records your calls for later review, you diagnose the problem:
- You’re talking too much without giving your prospect time to answer.
- You’re overselling the product before you understand their needs.
- You aren’t asking enough open-ended questions.
Next month’s target KPIs should be:
- Asking at least six open-ended questions during every discovery call
- Giving the prospect time to answer before moving onto the next topic
- A talk-to-listen ratio of about 25:75
- A discovery-call-to-sales-demo conversion rate of 30%
A sales manager might focus on different KPIs, such as sales velocity, deal size, and quota attainment percentage. When sales reps focus on short-term goals like the ones above, they’re poised to hit their long-term objectives.
From a management perspective, this means working with the team (and each rep individually) to diagnose potential problems (like the example above), then work backwards to create and track short-term goals that will lead them to their long-term targets.
Waiting until the QBR to review progress is the traditional sales model (and it yields low engagement from the sales team). With agile sale, progress reviews are ongoing.
Every few weeks (or months, depending on how long your sprints last), the team holds a retrospective meeting to discuss successes and failures from that period. They talk about what worked well, what didn’t work as planned, and any changes they need to make for the upcoming sprint.
These meetings should also include time to acknowledge everyone’s contributions — which often doesn’t happen in traditional sales teams.
At every retrospective, each person should be given a few minutes to talk about their successes and failures from that period, as well as what they learned. This helps build team rapport and promotes personal growth within the organization.
Agile Sales Frameworks
The three main agile frameworks are Scrum, Kanban, and Scrumban (hybrid).
Scrum is by far the most popular agile framework. It’s a formalized process that breaks down work into sprints (no more than 4 weeks). During each sprint, teams work on specific tasks and priorities until the sprint is complete.
In the case of agile sales management, the Scrum team comprises of the sales reps and managers, BDRs, AEs, and a few critical players in customer success and marketing departments. They would focus on the tasks and goals outlined in their sprint, such as closing certain deals, setting up discovery calls, or creating content for customer engagement.
Scrum focuses on the most important features first. In agile sales, this means focusing on one or two KPIs and which activities can be carried on a daily basis to meet those targets.
Kanban is an agile framework focused on workflow. It emphasizes “just in time” delivery, which helps teams quickly respond to customer needs and adjust their workflows throughout the customer journey.
Kanban boards are made up of sticky notes or digital cards that visualize the entire sales process from start to finish. Each card represents a task and its progress — when it’s been completed, who’s working on it, when it’s due, and any blockers.
An agile sales team might put the following information on Kanban boards:
- Deals that are in the pipeline
- Tasks associated with each deal
- Their progress on those tasks
- Who is responsible for them
The sales team can use these to quickly identify which tasks they should tackle first in order to achieve their sprint goals. They track progress of each task as they move through the sales funnel, and can adjust their approach as needed.
The hybrid approach — also called Scrumban — combines elements of scrum and kanban, giving teams the flexibility to customize their process.
It fuses the best of both worlds: the granular task tracking of Kanban and the focus on short-term goals characteristic of Scrum. Using both could help your sales team make the most of their sprints while tracking the progress of each activity within each deal.
Tools Required to Implement Agile Sales
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
At the core of any sales operation is CRM. It’s the house for all customer data, the single source of truth when it comes to sales performance, and the visualizer for each sales pipeline. Essentially, if a sales activity isn’t in CRM, it didn’t happen.
Using CRM, sales reps can easily track the progress of their deals, view customer profiles and contact information in one place, and keep an eye on competitor activity.
Sales managers can do the same — plus they can analyze data, track team performance, and manage sales operations.
Pipeline and Opportunity Management
Pipelining and opportunity management are usually functions of CRM, but there are also standalone tools that offer specialized features. These include forecasting and analysis capabilities, reporting tools, and advanced workflow automation for complex selling.
The most important aspect of a pipelining tool is its ability to provide visibility into the sales process. It should be able to display which deals are in each stage at any given time, so sales managers can easily track progress and move deals forward.
Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ)
CPQ software dramatically speeds up the deal cycle, making it essential to any agile sales operation. Rather than having reps configure products or product packages manually, they can use CPQ to curate them for prospects based on predefined rules set by the company.
Once the product configuration is complete, CPQ automatically generates a quote, proposal, or even a contract, reducing manual effort and error-prone work. It’s also able to track the progress of each quote throughout the deal cycle — from when it was sent to when it’s accepted or rejected.
Since it works directly with product data, it knows who’s buying which products and how long they’re taking to close. Reviewing this data at daily standups can help reps quickly identify any blocks in the sales process.
Sales engagement tools track everything from customer responsiveness to sentiment. In the agile sales process, they’re invaluable for helping reps understand how they can improve their sales interactions.
Basically, sales engagement software comprises tools that streamline customer interactions and keep records of what those interactions were. It should be able to provide data on things like how quickly reps are responding to leads, what kind of content they’re sending out, and how customers are consuming it.
People Also Ask
What is an agile sales sprint?
An agile sales sprint is a period of time — no more than 4 weeks — where sales teams focus on a specific set of tasks and goals. During the sprint, they work together to complete those tasks and reach their goals, conducting short daily standup meetings, collaborating on strategies, and looking at short-term data to shift their approach.
What are the principles of agile sales?
The principles of agile sales involve focusing on customer goals, breaking down activities into sprints, and continuously reassessing strategies. Agile sales encourages teams to work together to get things done quickly and efficiently, be flexible in their approach, and focus on the highest-value tasks first.