As already everyone is aware that Agile has become a mainstream way of working in many companies. This is not only in tech departments, but also sales, marketing, customer care and human resources. So I wanted to share my experiences in a series of blog posts in which I will mention Agile experiences out of IT departments. Recently I have posted my takeaways and comments after working with human resources department. If you are interested to know the details why HR people need to know and apply Agile practices you can revisit that blog post.
In this particular article, I will recapture my experience as a ScrumMaster and then Agile coach working with sales teams.
Applying Agile practices and mindset with Sales teams started as an experiment in one region with one team. We inspected on the outcomes after three months and it was decided that Agile practices are supporting Sales teams in their new acquisition and retention targets.
So let’s take a deeper look into details.
Experiment: Sales teams can benefit from Agile principles and practices
Sales teams had difficulties in particular areas:
- They had challenging monthly, quarterly sales targets
- Acquiring a new client was taking a long time(lead times were long)
- Even when fixed offers exist, every client asked for extra customizations
- Clients needs and problems are different
- Different activities in sales and retention process needed to be completed with different skills and domain knowledge so salespeople were dependent on other departments of the company to hit their targets.
Given these facts, sales management was looking for alternatives to address these issues and overcome the difficulties.
The IT department in the company was already applying Agile principles and had Scrum teams and had considerably good results and benefits as a result of an Agile way of working. So running an experiment in the sales team seemed a reasonable solution.
Defining the Experiment in the Sales team
First, we described the current conditions. We invited all the people involved in the sales process and run a workshop for half a day to discuss all the issues from different perspectives transparently. Also, all the groups described their departmental responsibilities in the current sales process workflow.
The workshop helped to make it visible that every department needed to work closely together to make it happen. It was not only simple tasks they were performing, they saw the whole workflow.
We had significant outcomes of the workshop
- Transparently discussed the current situation
- Expectations were shared
- Identified the need for teamwork and a shared goal
Defining the desired future and target
After the initial workshop, we had several sessions with sponsors and sales management to define the desired situation. We discussed how we could figure out common goals covering all the departments involved in the value stream and defined future success and failure conditions and desired outcome. Getting support from all the departments was important since they needed to be actively involved in this new way of working.
Some prerequisites before starting the new way of working:
- It was clearly understood that a new Scrum team to be formed and should be cross-functional.
- We defined the complementary necessary skills and domain knowledge to add on sales skills which will enable this new team to work independently and execute all the necessary activities
- We formed a Scrum team from different from different departments which are co-located. We needed to change the offices of some team members to make this happen so volunteers were asked from each group.
- Finally, the team consisted of members from 3 different departments from the company with a Product Owner and a ScrumMaster, myself
- We arranged the logistics and everything we could imagine before team kick-off.
- All Scrum team members had Agile training.
- Checked the sales funnel and worked on Product Backlog for the first Sprint Planning.
- We decided to have weekly Sprints which was also compatible with sales management expectations.
Running the Experiment itself
After fulfilling all the prerequisites our team was ready to go. Our decision point to evaluate the experiment was 12 weeks.
- We chose Scrum
- Running Daily Stand ups every day as a start of a workday
- We had a physical Taskboard, an impediment backlog next to it
- Encouraged team members to pull the Backlog items from the Sprint backlog
- Kept all the team members colocated
- Run all scrum ceremonies
- Worked with the Product owner to change Push behavior
- Updated sponsors regularly
- Encouraged collaboration amongst team members, pulling tasks which were not written in their formal job descriptions
- Supported these group of people to build trust and act as a team
- Enabled them to find solutions and learn from each other to the problems which were in their authority
- And identified issues which were out of team’s control and highlight and address them as organizational issues and worked with sponsors and various other departments.
The Outcome of the experiment
Before starting the experiment we defined some KPIs for us to inspect if we are meeting the success criteria or not. These were new client acquisitions, the income of the signed contracts, and number of deactivated clients to inspect retention efforts.
The team working in an Agile way had significantly better results (around%50) than the other team we kept as a control group (the other region) who kept working as their usual way.
The sales management team then decided to change the control group team set us ap a Scrum team and implement all the learnings with them. And this experiment also gave an opinion and encouraged all of us to apply Agile principles and practices to the other groups of Sales group even the external dealer channel and also the other departments in the company.
Before starting the Sales Experiment everyone was a little bit suspicious if Agile principles came from the IT domain would fit also other domains in a company and the company would benefit from it.
Of course, when running an experiment we can’t expect that everything will go smoothly. We had a lot of challenges, ups and downs, conflicts among team members and involved departments and faced organizational issues. But finally working everyday altogether to improve step by step and seeing this reflected in the numbers motivated us to keep going.
Management support, motivation to change and insisting on transparency were the key factors that supported us during this experiment.
But finally, after this experiment, it was clear and significant that if there is a need for a cross-functional team or a workflow and you are working in a complex and complicated environment then you should give yourself a chance to experience Agile.