„In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” – Abraham Maslow
Sooner or later we all act agile, we are actually all built like that, survivors. The fight or flight response from the amygdala, if you ask me, is a perfect agile action. In prehistoric times all of human kind was acting on the agile principle, things were changing rapidly, we were not on top of the food chain and let’s face it, we didn’t have tools to analyze and plan so we based mostly everything on trial and error, on rapid tests and sprints. And step by step we evolved, we developed tools and built the pyramids but we also got comfortable and lazy. Good news is that our animal brain still remembers all those agility principles that kept us alive, it just needs motivation to get out of the comfort zone.
The even better news is that sales people are highly motivated individuals. In sales, all the principles, techniques and strategies were based on rapid result sprints, back in the day, and from all the tests and sprints the first merchants thousands of years ago just selected the working ones and nobody else remembers the hundreds of sprints that ended in failure.
I don’t agree 100% with the ideas that modern sellers must change, I just think we must dig down and go back to the roots because modern sellers are fluid thinkers responsive to change, quick witted able to adapt to a VUCA environment, it’s just not called and defined as agile until now. And after we get our instincts back we can learn agility also as a modern sales skill that helps us to go deeper into business problems, be more innovative, and uncover unidentified problems.
When modern science become a tool in sales and we identified patterns and scripts and cold calling so we built predictable ways of selling we had efficiency. We defined clusters of customers and designed processes to sell to those clusters and not to individuals. We studied about the „pray” and set traps and wait for them to get caught, and the result is a lack in skill/competency in basic curiosity, critical thinking, and problem solving limiting the ability to engage customers in conversations most important to them. The market changes, customers changed, the way we communicate changes and now is a new world, it’s a new day. And its name is agile. Customers are self-educated, they go online, study and take educated decision, they don’t necessarily need a fast talking sales man to guide them anymore. The new market empowers the customer, they are distinct individuals with specific needs and patterns don’t work anymore. We must adapt and be flexible, agility is not just a buzz word anymore, it is a must have in the new age and the ones who are going to implement it sooner will emerge victorious.
“Eat your pride; ask for help earlier rather than later.”
More than ever being agile in relationship with your clients means to make it more about them. Know more about them, their struggles and their challenges, understand their business and know their objectives. Also, every interaction has to bring value to that customer, you are graded and evaluated on every single interaction and the client decides rapidly if you are his partner or not. Clients don’t just want the service and product you provide, they look for innovation, ideas, sense and also the clients don’t come to you that often anymore, you must go to them, you must anticipate needs, come up with the future today. And remember that you have to be the expert of your field, the access to huge amounts of information that your clients have may lead to a situation when he knows more than you about your products. And this is something you need to avoid by improving your game daily.
But in the end, what is all the fuss about, what is this agile paradigm? We are talking about simple principles; work is organized into “rapid results sprints” which last from a couple of weeks to a couple of months depending on complexity. It starts by forming a team which has a sprint pilot and with a planning meeting to decide the goals. Often short meetings during the sprints, called stand-ups because everybody stands so that you keep the team energized and involved, and team members explain what they did, what they will do in the next segment of the sprint and what are the obstacles they encountered.
Agile selling is more a concept than something concrete, it is more about the mindset of the sales people than about a process. Still we can draw a road map than can help in designing the new sales paradigm. Start with a dedicated team, that has the same goals and together identify the best way to go on that journey. Set up daily short stand-up meetings and implement accountability for the actions each team member is doing. Provide support for every step of the road with numbers and statistics and every time something changes in your context, be prepared to adapt quickly and build contingency plans. Just remember on this journey it is not about you, it is about them, the customers!!!!And the most important aspect of this new approach – always be learning!
„Agile is an attitude, not a technique with boundaries. An attitude has no boundaries so we wouldn’t ask <can i use agile here?> but rather <how would i act in the agile way here?> or <how agile can we be, here?> – Alistair Cockburn