You may assume that ‘agile’ approaches to projects and management is limited to the worlds of IT and software development. This may have been where the term ‘agile’ was coined, but the methodology is now spreading rapidly to other industries – including sales.

The principles of agile management

Agilemethodology.org, a site dedicated to helping people to understand the agile movement, describes it as follows:

“Helping teams respond to unpredictability through incremental, iterative work cadences and empirical feedback.”

It prioritises:

  • Responding effectively to change over strictly following a plan
  • Interactions and individuals over processes and tools
  • Collaboration with customers over contract negotiations
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation

At its heart, agile is about responding to change. It’s a new way of managing projects that removes the rigidity of old methods and takes a more flexible, responsive approach. Feedback is encouraged, and projects can be re-shaped by this feedback at any time.

Agile management and sales

The reason that agile methodology is so relevant to sales is that the way we communicate has changed dramatically, with technology driving this change. The way buyers find information on products has changed, with research suggesting that the average buyer is done with 60% of the sales process before the salesperson is even involved.

Just like in any other industry, if sales teams are not able to adapt to change, they will become extinct. As published in a recent LeadGenius blog, sales trainer John Barrows explains:

“When applied to sales, core agile principles like accountability, measurement, and continuous iteration can up-level not only sales performance but also organizational stability, effectiveness, and contentment as a whole.”

Meanwhile, speaker, author and The Sales Blog owner Anthony Iannarino offers his take on why agile methodologies should be applied to sales:

“The future of the sales process is going to address the nonlinear nature of buying and selling, something that will likely be more nonlinear in the future, not less. This will require more commitment-gaining, and more of an effort to control the process, recognizing the nonlinearity, and greater decision-making on how to move things forward.

“The sales process of the future is going to need to be dynamic, agile, and address the nonlinear, unpredictable nature of human interactions.”

The switch to agile can’t happen overnight

If you’re thinking that this approach sounds exactly what your team needs, you need to be prepared to rip up everything you currently do and start again. To switch to a new agile way of working isn’t a case of changing a few things, it involves changing everything. This isn’t to say that it can’t be done, or isn’t worth investing time and money in. The rewards – a more efficient, responsive, flexible and future-proof way of managing sales – are well worth having.

The Institute of Sales Management offers a range of professional training and development opportunities for sales managers and executives, all of which can help you along the path to a new agile approach. Get in touch with the team to see how we can help.