Agility is widespread in software development. But how can the term “agility”, which is also described in business terms with flexibility, be transferred to sales? Let’s take a look at the definition of sales first. The Gabler Wirtschaftslexikon says: “Sales mainly includes the sale of goods; distribution of goods (logistics, marketing logistics), control of the sales force organization and maintenance of the relationships between a manufacturer and retailers or, in the case of direct sales (direct sales), to the end customer. Newer approaches emphasize the great importance of customer management in the context of sales.
It should be noted, however, that sales departments in companies often focus on existing customers without the flexibility to tackle new projects and ideas within the department. Often with fatal consequences: If a major customer breaks away, this often means economic difficulties for the entire company. If sales, instead of managing the existing customer base, were additionally busy setting new sales processes in motion, any losses could be absorbed or sales figures could even be increased fundamentally.

In order to establish an agile sales department or agile sales, new processes and flat hierarchies are required

In order to install such an agile department, agile processes have to find their way into sales. For example, sprints as part of SCRUM can bring more momentum to the department, which leads to faster results and better internal communication. A more democratic sales department, in which employees can get more involved, also increases the possibility of discussing interesting sales concepts and ultimately implementing them.

Customer Experience 3.0 and agile sales

Customer-Experience-3.0-1
Own illustration based on the idea of Goodman.

The figure from Goodman (2014, p. 23) shows where customer feedback on the products mainly arrives – namely somewhere, just not with the manufacturer and the company’s sales department. In the end, only 5% of customer feedback is addressed directly to the manufacturer. After all, up to 25% of the feedback reaches the retailer or individual, specific sales channels – but not the sales department. Feedback, which can relate to both the products and sales methods.
It is therefore usually irreplaceable to make the channels so permeable and transparent that the feedback from customers reaches all links in the sales chain to the same extent. This is the only way to act and react in a customer-oriented manner in the sense of agile sales.

  agiles-sales-agiler-vertrieb
A satisfied customer likes to buy again and recommends the product to others (own illustration inspired by Boris Gloger)

Gloger & Margetich (2014, p. 184) show how important such a feedback loop is. Every child knows that word of mouth is essential. And only satisfied customers will report positively on their own, recommend the company’s products and thus indirectly contribute to further sales.

Agile sales: key account manager as an important component

According to Richards & Jones (2009, p. 312), experienced key account managers are another extremely important component. As the central interface between the company and important customers, an experienced key account manager responds to the specific needs of the customer and makes a significant contribution to establishing such a feedback loop. A decisive factor in creating sustainable transparency and thus satisfied customers. The other part is made up of the entire department, which processes this feedback and may have to adapt sales methods accordingly. In addition, as part of the agility in the entire company, the feedback should also leak to development in full in order to be able to react flexibly to desired product changes.

agiler vertrieb
Illustration from Richards & Jones (2009, p. 312)

Profile of the key account manager

On the side of the Sales manager I have found a great overview of what a key account manager should be able to do and would like to summarize this here. Because an account manager is more than just a salesperson. He is also a friend and confidante of the customer.

Know your own product

Here the article recommends building up product and industry knowledge. You should know exactly what you are selling and who you are selling it to. This ensures that the customer has the necessary expertise and shows that you are selling “honestly” (you would also buy your own product yourself).

Know the goals of the customers

Here says the article of the Sales manager : It is not enough just to know your own product and company. A successful key account manager knows the goals of his customers and the obstacles that stand in their way. So he understands the customer and thinks along with them. He has also built up a high level of trust and strives for a certain long-term relationship with customers.

Clear and easy communication

Here he says items : When it comes to selling highly technical products, it is important to be able to give clear and simple answers. But this simple and understandable communication is not limited to communication about the product: it is also important to maintain customer relationships apart from sales.

Learn learn learn…

The article says briefly about this: All of the previous points have one thing in common: They require continuous learning. Whether it is knowledge about one’s own product, the industry, customer development or methods of communication: In today’s world, what was just “state of the art” will be out of date tomorrow.

Agile sales need the agile fixed price

Of the agile fixed price is a contract model for suppliers and customers in IT projects that are carried out using agile methods. The contract model stipulates that after an initial test phase, costs and deadlines are set and a procedure for controlling the scope (“scope”) is agreed within a fixed framework Wikipedia .
Overall, the article and many other 6 steps to set such a fixed price so that agile sales can take place.

  • In the first step, the rough level is described. This includes the vision and high-level epics. So a rough framework.
  • Then an epic representative of the project is selected and specified down to the level of user stories. In the case of a suitable epic, a sufficient number of user stories of different types and with different scope of functions is created, which may be considered reference user stories ( Wikipedia )
  • Using the reference user story, other epics can also be determined, and effort and risk can also be determined.
  • In the fourth step, the checkpoint phase is defined, which is the test phase for the cooperation, since implementation begins there and the first empirical findings are obtained. A length of between two and five sprints is recommended (with a sprint length of two weeks). At the end of the checkpoint phase, the customer and supplier review the assumptions made at the beginning and decide whether they want to implement the overall project (source Wikipedia )
  • In the 5th step, the roles such as PO, Scrum Master etc. are named.
  • In contrast to classic fixed-price projects, with agile fixed-price projects, the project is ended when the customer considers the expected benefits from the deliveries already made to have been fulfilled. This can happen before all the agreed functionalities have been delivered. Agreements must be made so that this flexibility is advantageous for customers and suppliers. For example, the supplier can receive a percentage of the price of the remaining volume or can be assured of a new order worth the remaining volume, see above Wikipedia .

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Verwendete Quellen anzeigen

Gloger, B., & Margetich, J. (2014). The scrum principle. Build and design agile organizations. Stuttgart: Schäffer-Poeschel Verlag.

Goodman, J. (2014). Customer Experience 3.0: High-Profit Strategies in the Age of Techno Service . New York: Amacom.

Richards, KA, & Jones, E. (2009). Key Account Management: Adding Elements of Account Fit to an Integrative Theoretical Framework. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management , 29 (4), 305-320.


Image-Source Titlepicture: Fotolia.de 2016 – buyed License

Author

I blog about the influence of digitalization on our working world. For this purpose, I provide content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday professional life. I am an executive in an SME and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the Chair of IT Management.

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