Today’s post is by Ben Taylor, MBA and content marketing manager at Richardson, a global sales training and performance improvement company. Connect with him on LinkedIn.
Agile selling works because it accounts for the most common aspect in selling: change.
Unexpected change is not only a common experience in selling, it’s becoming increasingly frequent. Businesses and governments have seen unprecedented changes in consumer demand, supply chain logistics, and forecasts as macro-economic changes and geopolitical trends evolve. There has never been a more appropriate time to leverage the battle-tested agile selling methodology.
Why Does Agile Selling Matter Today?
An agile model focuses on customer collaboration and responsiveness to change rather than adherence to a single, unchanging plan. Put simply, agility in selling means being flexible and using different skills when and where you need them.
This fluidity matters not only in the context of recent economic upheavals but also in the context of sweeping changes to the way businesses operate. Consider research from BCG showing that “businesses move through their life cycles twice as quickly as they did 30 years ago.” Today, success belongs to businesses that have an agile approach.
How to Apply Agile Selling
Adopting the agile selling methodology means first becoming comfortable with change – because change is inevitable, and change signifies that the customer is thinking critically about the best way forward.
Sales professionals can develop their agile approach using these three capabilities:
Read the Buying Factors
The customer’s journey revolves around a set of buying factors – the facts, influences, and circumstances that all contribute to the result of a decision to buy or not buy. These factors are dynamic and interrelated and exert pressure on customers throughout all stages of their buying journey. These factors: the case for change, the stakeholder dynamics, and the decision process.
The case for change is the what and why of the buying decision. Customers are determining if the desired outcomes, solution options, and value vs. risk are all strong enough to warrant making a purchase. The most common and immovable obstacle in building the case for change is the status quo – representing what the customer considers normal.
The stakeholder dynamics represent the various decision makers involved in the buying process. Each buyer has a distinct definition of opportunity and risk. The sales professional must first identify these different perceptions, then address each one.
The decision process represents the iterative steps the customer takes toward the purchase. This process is complex (and often non-linear) as a result of changing priorities and stakeholders who enter and exit the picture.
Once sales professionals understand the buying factors behind each of the above categories, they can begin to build consensus by building alignment. Doing so is an increasingly important skill as buying decisions become more diffused in organizations. The challenge, however, is that alignment is not natural. Each stakeholder has individual leanings and likely wants something different from the solution.
In the early stages of consensus building, sales professionals are forming a relationship with the customers. In the middle stages, sales professionals coalesce the different perspectives and needs into one cohesive case-for-change narrative. Finally, in the late stages, alignment is more about driving the decision and managing the perceptions of risk.
Explore the Customer’s White Space
When sales professionals identify the white space in an existing account, they are creating opportunities by positioning solutions that align with the customer’s goals, challenges, and initiatives. An agile approach fits this strategy because sales professionals benefit from the momentum they’ve already created. With an existing understanding of the buying factors and the stages for alignment, it is easier to find the areas in the customer’s business where the solution will add value.
At Richardson and Sales Performance International, we are equipping sales professionals with these agile selling skills via our Virtual Instructor-Led Training Workshops, which replicate the classroom experience and are highly effective tools for sales teams working remotely.