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Sales Enablement Soirée: Applying Agile to Enablement, Fall 2020

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Shawnna Sumaoang: Welcome to the Sales Enablement Soirée session on Applying Agile to Enablement. Being able to adapt to change is essential for all organizations, especially this year. Many project managers have employed the agile methodology for this very reason, but there are challenges when it comes to applying that same methodology to sales and marketing teams. Anthony is the agile transformation lead for digital sales at IBM. He has helped teams get unstuck in weeks, not months, and has helped them understand the short term successes that will help motivate their teams to continuously improve for better long-term outcomes. He’s certified in agile coaching, agile leadership and agile marketing. I’m excited to learn from Anthony today on how sales enablement teams can apply an agile way of thinking to their organizations and lead culture change to make agile possible with that. Anthony, I’d love to hand it to you. 

Anthony Coppedge: Hi, I’m Anthony Coppedge. I am here to talk to you about agile for sales enablement. I’m really excited to be on this talk and excited to be a part of your event today. So let’s dive in and learn what it could be like to be agile in sales together. You’re going to find that there’s some ways of thinking about agile that are going to be at odds with what you’re used to. So we ask questions, like what could it be like if we value the reps, focusing on revenue, generating work over non-revenue generating work, or if we value continuous improvement over high levels of task activity, or we value better outcomes over just more outputs. Well, what you’re looking at is the sales manifesto, the agile sales manifesto that describes how agile the values, the things on the right side there, we just value the things on them more. This is a big shift in traditional sales to agile sales. I always start with this because I want people to see what’s possible.

And now, let’s break it down and walk through what it’s going to take to actually get there. So why would you want to be agile for digital sales? The answer is better client centric outcomes. This definition on the screen is a very simple way of describing why agile. If you find yourself frustrated by the activity metrics, you’ve got to do a certain number of calls, just to see if you made the calls or that you made the number of emails per week and all those type of tedious activities that are helpful in sales, but you don’t know why you’re doing it. If it’s not getting results, agile addresses that. And in fact, what we want to do is prioritize and visualize the highest value work and then ruthlessly reduce or eliminate the non-revenue generating activities and then continuously improve.

So we’re going to walk through this today, and I hope that by the end of this keynote, what you get is a sense of why and how you can apply it in your sales organization. So agile for sales enablement today is going to have three talking points. The new ways of working in agile, adopting at the speed of change, and we’ll talk about speed quite a bit, and then cultivating the culture of agility. Because if you think of the word agility, it means nimble, quick, able to pivot, turn on a dime. That’s very much the heartbeat of agile. Agile started from some software developers saying there’s gotta be a better way of doing it.

Does anybody here remember Windows 95? I mean, if you’re over 25, you may know what that is. A Windows 95 was an operating system for windows. And then the next release was not until Windows 98, three years later. And then beyond that 2000, et cetera. And it was very uncommon until this little device came along for people to start thinking about how to get there.

These software apps that we have coming to our smart devices are pushed all the time. You get updates happening all the time. Sure, there are some big ones every couple of months or so, but you get updates to your apps. The entire app economy existed. And entirely because of agile, because it was a way to break down those long product cycles of delivering value to the market and chunk that up into smaller releases more frequently. That’s the heartbeat behind it. Of course we’ve taken agile for sales and taken from the people who invented that for software development and changed it for sales and marketing. So let’s dive right in. First point is the new ways of working. So the first sub point here in which you would think about is that client centricity, it is really your only new normal and this new normal pandemic while there is no new normal. If there’s one, though, I would say it’s client centricity. The client is in the driver’s seat. 

Number two, you have to fail fast to succeed sooner. So rather than having a quarterly target and seeing how you do at the end of the quarter, you could start making pivots daily and weekly. So we don’t wait to fail. We fail fast and then we pivot to try to succeed sooner. Huge benefit of agile. And the third one is not sales and marketing. It’s sales with marketing. The customer does not make the delineation when they hit your website or attend a webinar. I need to talk to the marketing people. Now I need to talk to the salespeople, they don’t do that. They have your brand, your product, your service, your offering, and that’s what they’re focused on. They don’t make that internal delineation. We do, but why do we still do that? When the market shifted, the power is in the buyer’s hands, their customer journey is what we’re basing this around.

Why would we have a false dichotomy of sales and marketing? I wouldn’t have sales with marketing. And so that’s part of what we’re going to talk about too. Here’s a great quote from one of the guys who helped invent agile. He says agile is neither top-down nor bottom-up, it’s outside in. The focus is on delivering value to people. The customer is the boss, not the manager. And Steve Denning, co-founder of agile and author of a book called the Age of Agile, which I highly recommend. What we’re going to do first is talk about the values of agile. When you think about it, we’re thinking, why would you do something? Well, you have to have that. Agile sales is based on short cycles of experiment, learn and iterate, and then doing it again and again, but the way we are not, we’re getting better. The way we know we’re continuously improving is being very outcome focused, very client centered and leaning into our values. In this case, respect, openness, courage, empathy, and trust.

And these are five values that here at IBM where I’m the agile transformation lead for digital sales, those are the five that we lean into for sales and marketing, but you can pick your own. It’s just the idea of knowing your values and then anything you do that doesn’t line up that needs to be addressed and likely changed. The next part of agile is visibility. We very much want that clarity, that alignment. The idea of iterations, quick tests so that your sellers aren’t stuck doing the things that aren’t working and then pushing control down to the reps self-directed in their focus. They’ve got their targets and quotas and things that they need to hit, but what they prioritize based on what they’re hearing in the market or the work that they’re doing based on how it’s going with their lead generation opportunity identification or their client success stories.

We want them to prioritize that because they’re closer to it than we are and management, they are the ones in the trenches and their voice, their validated opinion really matters. And so we visualize that, which we’ll walk through here in just a bit. So these are the ways we think about it in the middle of the screen is how we think about the ecosystem of agile sales. Your organization has a mission. It’s your why. It’s the purpose of your existence. And, by the way, that’s not to make money, making money is a by-product of delivering value to customers, especially when it’s aligned with who you are and why you exist. So your mission needs to be clearly understood by everybody in the organization. Then you have your objectives. These are client centric. So when I think of an objective of generating leads, that sounds like what’s in it for the company, but in agile, we would say what’s in it for the client. And if you’ve ever heard the Witham principle, what’s in it for me very much the objectives are about what’s in it for the client.

The key results are then the kind of actions and activities that your sellers and marketers would take in order to hit those objectives, to help those clients be identified and understand what value we can deliver to them. We then prioritize that work and we do quick iteration and constant feedback, which changes the game because that lets us figure out what’s working and what’s not at scale. And at speed with velocity what you’re seeing here is a visualization of that work. Remember I said, you got the values and the visualization. Well, here’s the visualization. This is an oversimplified version of a visual work board, just to demonstrate the concept. So let’s say the items in green and to be done are the highest value work. And then the work that’s coming due, not necessarily high value, but you’ve got a timeline on it. And then the rest of it is business as usual work, which now you got to do it, but it doesn’t meet the criteria of coming due. And it certainly isn’t high value work. So what we want to do is visualize that truth and figure out where the effort is going.

So in a particular week, let’s say we get to the end of the week. And I see that we got closing deals done. That was very important and it was definitely high value. It benefited the client, benefited the company and we did have our deals closed. Last report updated that’s important internally. So we did that work. It was done. We did an email campaign. Maybe that was good. Maybe it’s not. We did some new product training. Probably a good idea, but definitely not the highest value work. And during this example in this week, we would say, we didn’t finish our contracts, we didn’t finish our cold calls. So we left high-value work on the table. And worse than that, our business partner deals, which we decided was high value work that got stuck in to do it never even got done. And here we are at the end of the week assessing and saying that didn’t go as well as we’d like. Now the whole point of agile from a management standpoint is not to inspect the work.

We’re not here to task manage and tell people what to do. We shift from inspection to understanding. So as a manager if I see this, the idea is to have conversations along the way and ask the reps what was up with the contracts, is anything we can do to help you get those across the line next week, or is there a reason you didn’t touch the biz partner deals? Those felt like they were pretty important and we’ve still got that product webinar coming up and it hasn’t yet had any legs attached to it. So are we going to get that done on time? We’re concerned and again, how do I help? What does it look like for me to understand what it’s like to be a seller so I can help you.

That’s why we visualize the work, not to inspect, but to understand, not to task manage is the opposite of that. We want to support you and get stuff out of your way so that reps are free to sell. The next piece of this is going to be our second one adapting at the speed of change. So the first thought there is you focus on outcomes, but kind of addressed already. We’re going to talk about it some more too. You do visualize what’s working and what’s not working incredibly important. And third, you move from superstars to super teams and agile is all about small teams, small squads working together to deliver greater value at scale and that’s speed. So let’s dive in on this.

Here’s Tim, CEO of IDEO. IDEO is a famous company for not being famous, they’re the ones behind so many of the innovative products and solutions over the last several decades. The other companies that they do the work for get the credit, but they’re really the genius behind it. And he has this great quote that says we’re at a critical point where rapid change is forcing us to look not just to new ways of solving problems, but to new problems to solve. Agile is very much in that camp of thinking. And so I lead with that to give you a way to chew on it and think about it. Let’s focus on some outcomes and not outputs. So in sales, we often have the quotas targets called off dogs, things like that, the activity matrix. But those are outputs. What we want to focus on instead with agile is outcomes like what is the customer satisfaction.

You might use a thing like NPS or net promoter score to figure out how likely someone is to recommend your company to their peers, retention. We all know this, right? That if you have customers that stick around and continue to buy from you, that lifetime value goes way up. And we know that referrals are easily the best way to get new business. So these are the kinds of outcomes that agile would focus on as an example. And what we’re looking for is then, okay, what kind of actions and activities are we doing that lead to getting higher NPS, having greater retention and getting more referrals. We measured that so that we get to the place where we start to understand our outcome, moving those needles and not just the daily task needles.

This is far more important. And what we want to do is give that control, push it down and give the authority, delegated authority to the reps so that they’re driving these kinds of business outcomes, not just delivering stuff, right. One way to do that is visualizing what happens. So at the end of that week, where we talked about what went well and what didn’t and I showed it what got to the done column. Well, here we would break it down. We would say there’s a retrospective or a reflection point with the squad. And the squad gets together and says, “Hey, so what went well?” And then they put their thoughts down, things worth sharing, and then they say, “what did not go so well?” And then they share those thoughts.

And during this discussion, they will come up with new and improved ideas, things we could just get 1% better even next week. That would be a win. And because 1% better is pretty attainable, but it also is cumulative 1% better every week. Over 50 weeks with a two week vacation is 50% better. And I don’t know, a sales manager on the planet would be thrilled with a 50% improvement in productivity and outputs and outcomes. So we very much focus on that. So what went well? What did not, and what are new and improved ideas? That’s the discussion point that happens every single week with the agile sales squads on every squad. And then we report on that and we say, “okay, of what you’ve just learned from what worked and what didn’t work, what would you prioritize?”

And this particular thing is called the retrospective radar. Something I’ve invented that is really based off of two other concepts, the starfish from Pat Koa and the circles of control influence and concern from Stephen Covey. And so what we want the reps to do is anything in that center circle is what they’re going to prioritize. Are you going to do more of it? Less of it, start, stop, or keep doing something. And then the yellow center ring is the managers. What can they do to get some help? And then finally, what would you like the senior leadership to address? And what you’re doing is representing feedback now directly from the sales activities, from the people doing the work, who were closest to the problem, but also closest to the solution. And you visualize that because an agile squad will self-direct and provide feedback to leadership, which changes the strategies, which gets rolled back to the squad. Which get tested and measured and understood. So then the new feedback goes and you never end that cycle of continuous improvement of feedback, driving strategy in the organization from those closest to it in a traditional team structure. 

It’s often going to look like this and a lot of you are in something that’s going to probably look exactly like this, where you’ve got that VP, the senior managers, and then maybe roles of an inside, outside sales integration, tech sales, and then the reps accordingly underneath. And I want to tell you there’s nothing wrong with this particular structure in terms of a hierarchy, hierarchy is not bad. We just don’t want it to get in the way. What we do is we say, who are the right people to come together to deliver the greatest value at speed for our clients. And we do it a little differently. So common ads, agile sales squad, scrubs, structure could look like this, multiple squads, we’d call that a D tribe. And then there’s chapters, which are groups of individual experts. This is just a way to describe the thinking. Don’t get hung up here. It just shows that this scales when you have many, many, but what we really want to focus on is just a squad.

Let’s talk about squad alignment and squad agreements. To align a squad you have to have that shared mission and a shared objective for the squad members. It doesn’t make sense to have an inside sales person talking to brand new people. Who’ve never done business with your company. Having a renewal rep, working with existing customers and the same squad there’s probably very low likelihood that their objectives would match. They have different things. They’re doing sure every once in a while, the renewals rep would get a good case study, an example that could be shared with an inside sales person who’s talking to new prospects, but they shouldn’t probably sit in the same squad because there’s not a lot of overlap and value.

So, what we want to do is make sure that they have shared or similar key results. They have greater than 50% rural coordination at some point like inside and outside sales, frequent communication, that might be daily stand-ups, definitely a weekly retrospective and then a shared squad social contract, which is a way they choose to agree to work together like behavior agreements, shared responsibility and what kind of culture they want on those squad. When you do that, and you have that level of agreement, you’re going to have a shared visibility of work prioritization, frequent cadence is for sharing a commitment to quickly identify blockers, a culture of measured, continuous improvement and authentic feedback for, and with management to bring about the necessary changes based on what’s happening in the market.

That’s the whole point of the squad so that the squads, it’s not us telling them what to do. They’re telling us what they need us to do to benefit them, to benefit the client. So it’s a little bit of a role reversal from traditional management, which we’ll talk about more in just a little bit here. So let’s look at it this way. We’ve gone now through the first two, let’s go into the third one, cultivating that culture of agility. How do you get there? Well, first you have to have a shared agile leadership. This is not just, what are the squads doing? The organization has to think about learning how to be agile together too. You want to prioritize through friction, agile always prioritizes through friction. Friction is not bad. Conflict is not bad, right? There’s no product on the market. That’s an innovation that came about because someone didn’t have a contrarian viewpoint, right. Someone thought so radically differently than something different was innovated upon.

It’s really the only way you lead to innovation. So if you don’t have some level of conflict, right, probably just stuck in the status quo. Now there is a difference between unhealthy and healthy conflict and we want it to be healthy, but that’s how agile prioritizes through healthy friction. And then three, transforming to agile sales is very much a journey. And it’s going to be months and years. That’s when I say that in the front months and years, because you’re not just changing processes and some tools and some ways of working, you’re fundamentally changing the culture of the business because agile at its heart is a culture play. Let’s see a quote here. Agility is not a technology science or product, but a culture. Dr. Phillipe Crucian is a professor and he has got his doctorate in process engineering. He’s a genius guy and deeply understands agility. And I just love that idea, that agility is a culture. 

So how do you cultivate that? Well, there’s a few things we need to do. We need to understand what we know already traditional versus what could be, which is agile sales leadership. And as the scrolls through on the screen, I just want you to read the one-to-one match-ups. So if you’re primarily focused on profits and increasing shelter, while your value, that’s a core principle of traditional sales management. Well, in agile, we’re obsessed with client centricity and profits are byproducts delivering value. And traditional sales management KPIs are very much focused on those short-term profits. What happens this month? What happens this quarter? Right? Very much right here in front of you, but we would rather focus on fast, intimate and frictionless delivery of value through income and incremental value delivery for our customers and all at scale, we’re still gonna get our profits, but we probably will get there better and faster in the long run. But you’re going to have to make that debt. The implementation mindset, that iterative mindset leadership has definitely top down in traditional sales management, but agile sales, leadership and leadership at every level is just a choice. And it’s not a hierarchy. It’s not a rank. And you might see on the left, risk is viewed as a threat.

Well, we see it as an opportunity. You might see there’s a limited trust or distrust in your culture today while we lead out of the way. Values of respect, openness, courage, empathy, and trust. For example, a compliance and inspection of task completion is the way things happen. Well, to change those practices, we’re going to create microcultures of self-directed squads where sharing is how feedback leads to change. And this is a long journey and it takes a lot of shifts in the culture to get there. But what you get on the right is far more scalable and far more healthy and far more viable. Traditional sales organizations often look like this pyramid, right? The someone at the top, the top down hierarchy of bosses, a lot of red tape and bureaucracy, and of course silos. 

There’s detailed instructions of you do this, you do this, you do this, and there are the two shall meet. There’s also a lot of left-hand proverbial left. 10 doesn’t know what the right hand is doing in these situations. These are very much organizations as machines, right? People are seen as resources, but in agile it’s very different. It’s more from organizations to organisms. And you’ll see here, then this Petri dish kind of describes what we’re looking for. How do we get better together? That’s a big, huge focus. These are some examples of ways to shift from organizations as machines, to organizations as organisms. We want to visualize that journey. So there are still things we prescribe down to the squads, right? You have your targets, that’s the quotas or goals, the objectives, how you deliver value and the key results. Those are recommended actions and activities to achieve objectives. The whole key here is to visualize this so that you represent what the management view is on the left and dependent on what the squad view is.

On the right where they manage against those things that are asked of them, how are they going to prioritize themselves to deliver that value and what you’re looking at as a way to make that truth visible. And what we say is that when the squad has given this delegated authority, what ends up happening is we get to see the truth. Sometimes that truth is not very pretty, but at least it’s true because then you can do something about it. So, the truth gets better at prioritizing against value. You get teachable, coachable moments with them to help them skill up and we get to understand what’s actually really happening and you never have to ask, so what are you working on today? So what did you do today? So what did you accomplish today? Always going to know and not for the inspection, but for understanding. Agile sales transformation infrastructure is required. And these are four pillars of that, that you must have sales rep and squad agility.

You have to have leadership and management onboard. You must have some clear KPIs, right? That are based on those missions and objectives. What are your objectives and key results that you want to go after? And then finally, the agile coaching and facilitation. This doesn’t just happen. People don’t just say I’m going to be agile and bold. Figure it out. You’re going to want help. So you will have the professional coaches, of course, over time, peer to peer, and then build a community for agile sales inside your organization. That’s, what’s required to really transform and you can see how that’s a lot of work. If it looks like hard work, because it is, it’s just really worth it. When you transform to agile sales, you’re going on a journey. And what you’re looking at really building is an agile culture. It’s the practices and skills, it’s the mindset and the values, and it is a structure and leadership, but we are far more interested in building something that is about the right mindset than the right tools or processes.

We will figure those out, but we don’t want to be framework focused. We’ll want to be mindset. We don’t want to do agile. We want to be agile. So in closing today, remember what I said about what it could be like. Well, imagine for your organization, what happens with sales and it can be agile when these become true, when you value the things on the right, but you prioritize, focus on, and build the culture for everything on the left. That is the heartbeat of agility and what it’s going to take for us to have agile for sales enablement. I’m looking forward to your questions here in the Q and A time. And I’m really glad to get this opportunity to speak for sales enablement pro and give this keynote on agile for sales enablement. Thank you.