March 13, 2018

Agile in Everywhere: Sales

An experiment as a ScrumMaster and Agile coach working with a Sales team, where Agile practices are supporting new acquisition and retention targets

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.

Agile in Everywhere-Sales


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.

Conclusion

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.

Image of ebru4984

Ebru Yalçınkaya

I act as a change agent where the teams, domains need to enhance agility to reach their goals, to create a shared vision if needed. I coach every kind of team , every domain, like management teams or like customer care, technology and sales groups.
blog comments powered by Disqus
Image of ebru4984

Ebru Yalçınkaya

I act as a change agent where the teams, domains need to enhance agility to reach their goals, to create a shared vision if needed. I coach every kind of team , every domain, like management teams or like customer care, technology and sales groups.

Latest Posts

Meet us at Agile People Sweden 2018

Come and join the coaching clinic with agile42 at Agile People Sweden 2018 Conference in Stockholm

Image of sofia.svanback

Sofia Svanbäck

I am the Business Relationship Manager of agile42 in Finland and Sweden. I started working at agile42 in May 2018 and haven’t done anything so interesting before. The decision to join agile42 is a decision I am proud of today. My days are filled with customer related things, like negotiations, offers, and training / coaching bookings to mention a few.

Meet The Coach: Sunny Dhillon

For our Meet The Coach series, agile42 coach Sunny Dhillon talks about his background, his agile journey,  and insights about Agile adoption. 

Image of agile42

agile42

News and views from the Headquarter of the agile42 team

A word from our coaches

In this video our coaches explain why they have chosen to work with agile42 and the company culture that the team has established

Image of marion

Marion Eickmann

I am one of the founders and the executive director of agile42. I am supporting strategic product development and leadership challenges for more than 15 years now. Since 2007 I have been realizing local and global agile projects with agile42's international team successfully. You like to talk about: Organic Agility, complexity, resilience, organizational culture & Agile? Just send an email :-)

How we facilitated an all-hands retrospective for 60 people in three hours

Imagine a retrospective that is attended by multiple teams, such as those of an entire program, or even organization. What would it look like?

Image of lklose

Lukas Klose

My first time at the agile42 Innovation Sprint

A look at the agile42 Innovation Sprint that took place in Thailand in July 2018

Image of sofia.svanback

Sofia Svanbäck

I am the Business Relationship Manager of agile42 in Finland and Sweden. I started working at agile42 in May 2018 and haven’t done anything so interesting before. The decision to join agile42 is a decision I am proud of today. My days are filled with customer related things, like negotiations, offers, and training / coaching bookings to mention a few.