Agility can make or break an organization. That has become crystal clear as we cope with continued disruption in business and in the world.
But have you ever considered that agility is also an integral asset to us as sales professionals?
Sales agility will help you remain optimistic and harness opportunity, even through uncertainty. It is what teams need from their leaders, and what your prospects and customers are looking for from you as a trusted, strategic advisor.
You may have seen or heard me mention sales agility before. It’s one of the five capabilities I cover in my book, The Modern Seller.
Agility is the ability to strategically and decisively pivot to grow sales and best serve your clients.
Two decades ago, organizations sought out talent with skills like technical mastery, self-motivation, and confidence. Flash forward, and there has been a skills evolution. Today, adaptability/versatility and learning agility, along with communication ability, top the list of most-desired skills.
When you build sales agility, you can rapidly analyze, understand, and decide when faced with new situations and new business problems.
With agility, you can rapidly analyze, understand, and decide when faced with new situations and new business problems. #modernseller @amyfrankoClick to tweet
Benefits of Sales Agility
Consider the benefits of being a seller who is agile:
- You are recognized as a differentiator in your client’s business.
- The value of your product or service isn’t fully recognized without you.
- Your clients view you as strategic to their competitive advantage.
To put this into perspective in the current climate, think about how you need to adapt to the current economic and business environment.
- Are there aspects of your customers’ buying experiences that will remain virtual?
- How will you adapt your processes?
- Is your organization adjusting its offerings? Introducing new products, services or models all require agility.
Four Practical Ways to Build Sales Agility
1. Bust old patterns. Our behavior patterns, or our habits, are largely unconscious. Yet they’re so powerful that they either make or break our success. The first step is getting to know our patterns, and that usually requires an outside perspective—the help of a leader, a mentor, or a trusted peer. When we know our sales patterns, we can more effectively apply them, or know when we should short circuit them. Try looking at your routine, analyze what’s productive and what’s not, and find ways to change up the routine where it is bogging you down. Sometimes this requires a change to your environment to get back on track. For more on habit and pattern busting, I recommend the book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Or tune into this podcast on pattern busting.
2. Use Question Brainstorming with your next deal. You’ve probably experienced a traditional brainstorming session before, where someone brings a question to the table and participants toss out ideas to see what sticks. They’re usually not equitable conversations, as outspoken team members have a tendency to monopolize the conversation. I recently read an article called Better Brainstorming by Hal Gregersen in Harvard Business Review that turns this concept on its head. In the article, he suggests the secret to unlocking a better answer is to ask a better question. How it could work: bring your sales leader and 4-5 trusted peers together to brainstorm questions around an important deal, opportunity, or challenge. After five minutes of pure questioning, pick three questions to dig into deeper, to help you create a solution, optimize the opportunity, or move the deal forward. Sales leaders can routinely use this technique in pipeline analysis or in coaching individual team members.
3. Reframe failure (and success). Most of us are driven, hard-charging sales professionals, and we can tend to look through a lens of seeing things as total failure or total success. But life isn’t black and white. Those that practice agility have built a different muscle that allows us to look at any given situation, remove the emotion, and consider the data points within it. What are the key learnings you can take away and apply to the next situation? Put them down on paper. The trick is not to rest on the laurels of success or ruminate on failure, but to move productively into the future. A win/loss review or pipeline review is a practical way to apply this technique.
4. Practice curiosity. Agile sellers practice curiosity. Part of this is being willing to ask thoughtful questions. In a sales process, this is most helpful in discovery and qualifying prospects. Keep a question bank and consider categories such as trends, commitments, and qualifications. Another way to foster curiosity is to create hobbies outside of sales – maybe learning a new language, taking fitness classes, or learning an instrument. Having creative interests helps us be better in our sales craft. You may not see the application immediately, but part of agility is connecting different experiences from your life to the situation at hand. It makes you more well-rounded and more curious, and that makes you more valuable to your clients and prospects.
Sales agility is an inside job. You have to want to focus on it. It requires you to adopt the outlook and skills needed to best serve your clients and prospects – and succeed. You are not born with it. You have to build it. I challenge you to select one of the above techniques and make it a regular part of your sales activities. You’ll see your agility –and your sales success– grow.
Watch my related sales agility webinar on The Sales Experts Channel.
Help Your Team Become Agile Sellers
Don’t let your competition get an advantage. We can help. If you want to know how to improve sales agility in your team, let’s talk about sales training. Contact us to schedule time for a discovery conversation with Amy.