There are many animals much more “agile” than humans are – cheetahs, gibbons, antelopes and coyotes are all blessed with tremendous speed, quickness and jumping ability. Yet, humans have one huge evolutionary advantage when it comes to true agility that no other animal can match:
Our ability to deftly adapt to new surroundings and scenarios – our agility – is what has made us definitively the most dominant species on the planet. We are iterative. We experiment. We learn new information, we master new skills, and we see ever-changing (for the positive) results. According to Jill Konrath, the bestselling author of Agile Selling: Get up to Speed Quickly in Today’s Ever-Changing Sales World, those traits are what makes us so agile.
Which brings us to the modern sales team, and why it is more critical than ever before – in today’s competitive and challenging sales landscape – for sales reps to be agile and adaptable.
1) Visibility into sales performance metrics
Traditional sales teams… Do not have regular access to sales performance metrics, since it takes so long to cull that data from Salesforce, export it to Excel and perform regression analysis on it to find trends. That relegates access to sales metrics only at the Quarterly Business Review or, if they’re lucky, at the end of each month. This means that these sales teams are always reactive, operating on the basis of lagging sales indicators instead of leading ones.
Agile sales teams… Have access to all relevant sales metrics right at their fingertips. They can – and should – be looking at this data every day to figure out what’s working and what’s not. Sales managers of such agile teams get a head start on the work day by receiving a nightly status email update the night before. Throughout the day, they can jump right into their metrics and pivot around to get the answers they need.
However, such visibility and access to sales metrics isn’t solely available to sales managers – a truly agile sales team makes all data, especially around sales rep performance, fully accessible to all members of the team. Such transparency allows for greater accountability and lets sales reps take ownership of their individual performance.
2) A culture of experimentation
Traditional sales teams… Frown down on experimenting, whether it’s with new talk tracks, creative sales emails or anything else out-of-the-box. After all, with a sales strategy and tactics that have always done adequately, and ever-growing sales goals to hit, who has the time to experiment and risk failure and a possible setback?
Agile sales teams… Embrace failure! Well, not necessarily…but they understand that the path to true success will be dotted with many failures. The key is to be willing to fail, and then to fail fast and apply those lessons from that failed experiment to better endeavors going forward. Your sales reps should not be afraid to experiment and test different tactics – “This is the way we’ve always done things,” should be banned from ever being uttered.
One area that agile sales teams often experiment with is in sales scripts and talk tracks. Have half your sales reps try a new talk track, and then measure the performance of that new script against the baseline of the old script. You might see a significant boost from the new script, suggesting that you scrap your old one. However, you have to strictly measure the performances of both to get your real answer. Which brings us to…
3) Emphasis on data collection and analysis
Traditional sales teams… Might measure a few sales metrics, like bookings. They stay on the surface-level of these metrics – for instance, tracking raw numbers of their sales rep activities (how many calls made, how many emails sent) instead of the efficiency of these activities (how many calls it takes to schedule one meeting). There is no data-driven culture or emphasis on running the business by the numbers, and that starts from the top.
Agile sales teams… Measure everything! Without measuring and comparing against historical data, you will have no idea if something is working or not. Agile sales teams understand that the basis from which they can pivot quickly and make the necessary adjustments on the fly is rooted in data, so they make sure that they have all the data they would ever need.
4) You win as a team, you lose as a team
Traditional sales teams… Lionize great sales reps. The best reps – the ones who book the most deals – are typically lone wolves who operate on their own, with their own workflow and their personal judgments. They know what makes them great, and they don’t feel a need to share their secrets – after all, it’s a dog-eat-dog world, and helping out the second- or third-best sales rep might weaken their hold on the top spot.
Agile sales teams… Understand that the concept of agile was originally sourced from engineering teams working within an agile software development framework, which is “a flexible, holistic product development strategy where a team works as a unit to reach a common goal.” They know that in order for the team to be truly successful and for the whole company to hit its goals, they should all be communicating openly and collectively optimizing their performances. The sales team is only as strong as its weakest link.
Agile sales teams that can pivot quickly, adapt to ever-evolving sales scenarios, love to experiment, work together as a collective unit and that measure everything by the numbers have undeniable advantages over their archaic competitors. Don’t let your sales team get stuck in the mud and moving backward – get them thinking agile today!