Agile Sales Methodology vs. Sales Agility: Impact on Revenue

Many of us are now talking about an agile sales methodology and agility. Why wouldn’t we? We need to be faster and more responsive to our buyer’s needs. We need to help our salespeople engage in the chaos of a sale. And, it is chaos out there. Gartner recently shared that:

  • The average size of a buying team is now almost 11 people
  • The average number of channels that each person on the buying team consults with is 4.5
  • Of all the time spent over the course of a purchasing evaluation, only 17% of their time is spent with salespeople.

And, while no one knows how the volatility and uncertainty of the current global environment will impact buying behaviors and buying cycles moving forward, we do know that one of these terms is a nice to have and one can significantly impact your revenue—potentially even more so with the current market conditions. So, while these terms are often used interchangeably, they are not interchangeable ideas.

What is an Agile Sales Methodology?

Typically, when organizations are writing and talking about an agile sales methodology, they’re referring to adopting a process created by software developers. This process is meant to rapidly deploy and test new ideas and increase the speed of those ideas to market. They involve sprints, daily meetings, short-term goals and reviews.

Hubspot shares “Agile sales takes project management strategies from the IT world — such as sprints, daily stand-ups, and constant iteration — and applies them to selling. This methodology helps sales teams be more flexible, data-driven, and effective.”

Here’s where we believe the confusion sets in. In technology, discussing a methodology is the act of defining a development process. In sales, a methodology is a standard way to train your sellers to engage with buyers. The lines get blurred here because agile sales, as most define it these days, is centered around defining and refining procedures and processes, not about training your salespeople to win.

There are no hard numbers or quantifiable results (that we could find) proving the benefits of bringing an agile methodology to a sales organization.

Sales Agility is More Impactful than an Agile Sales Methodology

What do fighter pilots, first responders and athletes all over the world have in common? What’s that? Did we hear you say “the ability to diagnose what’s going on and adjust on a dime?” You’re so smart. Correct.

If you’ve ever read anything we’ve written in the last several years, you know that Florida State University did a study of thousands of salespeople across a variety of industries over several years. The question asked by a consortium of 40 companies was one asked by sales leaders all over the world. It goes something like this: If only I could find the best standard sales methodology, roll it out to my team and get all of them to adopt it, that would be Nirvana. So, FSU, “what is the best sales methodology?”

You can read a summary of the report here if you haven’t seen it, but in a nutshell, the answer was all of them or none of them. It depends on the situation. More specifically, all of the methodologies work some of the time. At best, quantifiably it’s about 25% of the time. However, here’s the key: High performing sales people intuitively know this and ignore your standard methodology training. They adapt to the situation presented to them. It’s your average performers who are doing what you ask!

You Can’t Train Sales Agility, It’s Just Something High Performers Do

False. If that were the case, only a certain percentage of ER doctors, fighter pilots, athletes and so many other fields would be in the same situation as sales teams with only 4 of 10 team members producing to the level desired. That is not the case. You can systematize training agility. How? To answer that we have to look at fighter pilots, athletes and doctors and apply a similar framework for sales agility.

First, you need data on previous engagements. We call it situational intelligence (or if you prefer, the military calls it DOPE – we’ll let you insert your own joke here).

Then you teach your sellers how to be aware of the common situations they will encounter. We define that as situational readiness.

And finally, you train and reinforce. We define that as situational fluency.

Unlike the more commonly discussed agile sales, sales agility does have quantifiable results. How would you like a 22% increase in win rates?