Any team within your organization can benefit from measuring and experimentation. Creating an environment that embraces a trial-and-error approach encourages your employees to strive for constant improvement.
This is the heart of the agile principles, which were initially created for software developers but have been broadened for use by any type of team. The idea behind agile is never to become stagnant. Instead, your team should always be testing, experimenting, measuring results, and learning from them.
This is the way to continue to push forward with innovative ideas, without leaving a gap in service for your customers. Here, we’ll walk you through three ways your sales team can apply agile principles to improve their numbers and deliver even greater results for your customers.
Improving Early Communication
One of the central tenets of the agile principles is the idea of always delivering something to your customers. Even if the product isn’t perfect, they’d rather have access to that imperfect thing than to wait around forever for the flawless final product.
This can apply to the way your sales team interacts with customers. Research published in the Harvard Business Review found that for both B2B and B2C companies, a quick response time is critical. In fact, out of 1.25 million sales leads they analyzed, they discovered that companies that responded to prospects within an hour of their initial contact were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead as those who waited an hour.
Your sales team might feel hesitant to jump in and respond that quickly. What if they don’t have the information they need on hand? What if the lead is asking a complex question they don’t feel qualified to answer?
That’s where agile principles come in. It’s better to reach out to that lead and open up a dialogue right away. Even if you don’t have all the answers yet, don’t wait around, crafting the perfect email. Strike while the iron is hot.
Leadership can help here, too. Create a document for your sales team that walks them through appropriate responses to the questions you see most often. This can help them get on the phone more quickly and with greater confidence.
This is where the testing and learning come in: Track how prospects respond to these tactics. Are there some answers that consistently leave prospects confused or disenchanted? It’s time to revisit those scripts.
Similarly, it’s important to ask your sales team for feedback about other questions they’re receiving regularly. This help you craft messaging to respond to these new FAQs and also provides insight for other teams.
For example, let’s say all prospects come in confused about the same selling point for a new product. Perhaps your marketing team needs to revisit their copy on your website’s product description page. Or maybe prospects are consistently disappointed to hear that a product is missing a particular feature. Passing that information onto your product development team can help them either tweak the existing product to meet that need or develop a new, more comprehensive solution.
Unifying Sales and Marketing Efforts
We’ve written before about the importance of bridging the gap between sales and marketing. Marketing teams typically measure their success by the number of leads they bring in the door. Sales teams, meanwhile, are evaluated based on the deals they close.
The problem here is that when the sales team isn’t doing well, they might blame it on marketing for bringing in poor-quality leads. The marketing team then snaps back. They say they’re holding up their end of the bargain, and it’s too bad the sales team can’t say the same. Yikes.
Testing and learning, however, can help to unify the two teams. The first step is to encourage your marketing team to bring in as many leads as they can, then study those leads.
Which types of leads consistently become customers? Where are they coming from? What attributes do they share? Are there any marketing channels to which they gravitate?
Once you understand where your best leads are and how to reach them, you can amplify marketing efforts targeted at those top-tier prospects. This in turn provides your sales team with a whole host of qualified leads. From there, it’s up to them to move them down the funnel and towards the sale.
Throughout the process, though, the two teams should be in constant communication. The sales team often picks up even more valuable information about prospects during their discussions, which the marketing team can leverage in their future campaigns.
Shortening the Sales Cycle
The quicker you can convert leads into customers, the greater revenues you can generate. That’s why one of the best places to implement testing and experimenting is in the sales cycle.
Sometimes sales teams can get into a rut in terms of how they move prospects through the cycle. It could be because they’ve been working at your company for a long time and have their routine down pat. Or maybe it’s because there’s a rigid structure that’s been laid out by management. Whatever the underlying cause may be, it’s not beneficial to use the same sales tactics at the same pace and in the same order year after year.
Instead, it’s best to look for ways to improve your team’s approach. Perhaps there’s a way to incorporate an automated email marketing campaign early in the cycle, which keeps prospects warm without your sales team having to follow up with them manually. Maybe you have some case studies currently scattered around your website which you can gather into a single document to share with prospects.
You can test when it’s most effective to present that document. Maybe it works best later in the sales cycle, as the prospect is becoming more serious about researching your business. Or it could be most effective in the early stages of the sales cycle; when your prospects see themselves in your existing customers, they trust you to solve their problems, too.
As you test various tactics and approaches, it’s important to continue measuring results. A dashboard can help you track key metrics, empowering you to lean into what’s working, eliminate what’s not, and build the most efficient sales system possible.
Agile principles are all about creating a flexible team that continues to deliver for your customers, no matter what. Testing and learning throughout the sales process can help you build a team that knows where the best leads are, how to target them, and how to close the deal. And that means better results and more growth for your business.
About the Sterling Woods Group, LLC
The Sterling Woods Group’s mission is to help clients make sense of their data to predictably grow sales. We apply data science to help you optimize your sales funnel, improve your marketing ROI, launch new products successfully, and enter new markets profitably.
We use a hypothesis-driven, data-supported methodology to discover insights that no one else is paying attention to. Then, we help you assemble the right sales strategies, marketing plans, technologies, and resources to seize this opportunity.
About the Author
Rob Ristagno, founder and CEO of the Sterling Woods Group, previously served as a senior executive at several digital media and e-commerce businesses, including as COO of America’s Test Kitchen. Starting his career at McKinsey, his focus has always been on embracing digital technology and data science to spur strategic growth.
Rob is the author of A Member is Worth a Thousand Visitors and is a regular keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He has been featured on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and Digiday.
He holds degrees from the Harvard Business School and Dartmouth College and has taught at both Harvard and Boston College.
Rob lives outside Boston, MA with his wife, Kate; daughter, Leni; and black lab, Royce.