Try Scrum Concepts to Improve Sales Team Operations

Having had over 5 years experience in sales, I wanted to write a blog on Scrum concepts and how they can help sales team operations at a high level in a sales department today.

As a sales representative, I would work with a team of up to 10 sales representatives all with the common goal of increasing our reach in the market and attaining new revenue and customers for the company.  Sometimes what would happen is that different sales reps would call on the same people a couple days apart or try and up-sell a client that wasn’t “theirs” by definition. This would cause a lot of angst and issues with team morale and trust. Also, a lot of times we didn’t share a common goal as a team and would find ourselves in isolation rather than collaboration all for the same company mission. With different generations that are vastly different in some areas working together today, it is more important than ever to find a common way to communicate and continuously improve as a team around a shared goal.

Taking the scenario above, let’s see if we can improve the situation by introducing some Scrum concepts into our sales processes.

First, as a sales leader/manager, try introducing a sales (sprint) goal every 2 weeks (this time-frame can vary) for your team of sales reps that they collaborate on and collectively agree to. Let’s say this 2 week goal is to increase advertising spend on the company’s mobile website by 15% that has 50,000 unique visitors per month through new customer placements.  The data is in place to show the current sales and spend on the site prior to this goal starting. This concept in Scrum is a sprint goal that is commonly shared among the team.

Second, now that you have your sprint goal for the next two weeks, try having a planning session as a team to review the customers in your CRM tool (i.e. Salesforce) and decide how to go after the prospective customers. This could be a plan around what sales reps call on what customers and how do they do it (face to face visits, phone, email, etc.). Sales reps could join together on calls and visits depending on skills and needs. You could try doing this activity with post it cards on a glass wall that is ideally near the team’s work-space and/or using a digital board if remote. Team members assign themselves to certain items and may discuss that some items may take more effort depending on location and customer needs etc. A lot of programs allow you to do this digitally. However, by having conversations as a team, with a shared goal, you may learn a lot of things that you weren’t aware of and find ways to generate more sales together. This concept in Scrum is called sprint planning.

Third, start the sprint and let the sales begin and for the next two weeks, as a team, get together at the same time for 15 minutes daily that makes the most sense for you. In Scrum, this is called the daily scrum. Every day, each team member answers the following questions as taken/modified from the Scrum Guide:

  • What did I do yesterday that helped the sales team meet the sprint goal?
  • What will I do today to help the sales team meet the sprint goal?
  • Do I see any impediment (blocker) that prevents me or the sales team from meeting the sprint goal?

From the above, write down anything that may be impeding your work toward the team goal. A potential blocker may be that you find out that a company has just been sold and has a new manager. Another sales rep has a connection with the new owner and provides the information after the meeting.

Fourth, every day the data behind the goal is updated and transparent.  This means as sales are made/modified toward the 15% increase in new customer placements, everyone on the team will be able to see this progress/potential lack of progress daily raising any red flags early and often. Also, they may find they reach their goal early and are able to get other things done such as attend a sales training etc. There are different ways that this progress is shown in the software development realm such as through a burn down chart.

Next, try getting all team members together at the end of the sprint to discuss and review what the team did. Each sales rep/the team shows what they were able to sell and what challenges they faced. The stakeholders that attend may be the managers, graphic designers, etc. In Scrum, this is called the sprint review.

Last, try having a retrospective. This is for the sales team to discuss what went well, what didn’t go well, and what action items can be applied to the next sprint to improve as a team. An example action item may be to move the stand up to 10:00 AM instead of 9:00 AM as some aren’t able to attend due to other outside reasons. Another example may be to have a specific sales rep do a presentation on the new CRM tool this sprint as he has more experience then the rest of the team and they want to learn from him. In Scrum, this is called the sprint retrospective.

In conclusion, Scrum, this lightweight framework, may be applied to so many different parts of an organization. It’s meant to be loosely defined so that you as a team may figure out what works better for you. It doesn’t solve your problems as a team, however, it does expose problems and ideally helps you to see them and address them quickly. This was a high level overview of the concept of the Scrum framework in sales. There are many different things to try in any department to make it more agile and lean.

Have you tried applying these concepts with your team? Have you been in a sales rep position that uses these concepts and if so, has it helped and how?

Please feel free to reach out with any thoughts or questions. I enjoy connecting with and helping others succeed.

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