The Agile Sale: Looking at Sales from an Agilist’s Perspective.

I am sure you all know the tricks that a used car salesman gets up to. They have the gift of selling ice to Eskimos.  They are so busy talking the hind leg off a donkey that they don’t even know if the client is ‘around’.

I do at times get a little annoyed when I go with a salesman to a client meeting. Thoughts pop in my head – could they just stop talking for one second, could they just stop changing the subject, could they just stop rehearsing their prepared script.

Sales are fundamental to an organisation.  The sales department sets the wheels in motion for everyone else. Without sales no one in the backend has work, regardless of the type of organisation you are running.  A sale allows the organisation to create a relationship that, if sustained, will ensure a lifetime of ROI.  This ROI can be projected based on the mining of data (business intelligence).

How does a salesman become client centric? How does anyone become client centric for that matter?  Client centric is an attitude.

To become client centric:

  • One must be available in the moment – fully present
  • One must focus on the client’s needs – not yours
  • One must remain curious by probing, questioning
  • One must have no agenda
  • One must have no opinions
  • One must allow the client to become clear on their available opportunities
  • One must play a servant role looking at the positive aspect of what the client wants.

A great way to look at client centricity is through the eyes of Agile.  Agile incorporates Lean, Kanban, Kaizen, 6 Sigma and other quality methods which guides us to the client experience.

Two techniques come to mind in bridging the gap between sales and the client:

  1. The Kano Model which looks at product attributes from the client’s perspective.
    1. What are the basic attributes currently experienced?
    2. What are the performance attributes currently experienced?
    3. What attributes would delight the client? Once these attributes are created or implemented, understand that they then become basic attributes

The Kano Model aids an Agile team in coming up with creative attributes to create delight.

  1. The QFD model is the second technique I have in mind. QFD is known as Quality Function Deployment.  It is also known as the House of Quality as the matrix looks like a house because it contains various components. I will briefly touch on these and keep it simple.

First step in the process is to get the cross-functional team to the client.  I hear ‘but we don’t do that in our organisation! The salesman goes out and chats and comes back with the contract’.   My suggestion or a guideline to assist you in this process of transforming to Agile is:

  1. Educate the salesman on Agile
  2. Salesman educates the client on Agile (vitally important or you will have a war)
  3. Let the salesman go out and get a contract just to create the blueprint, the roadmap or the release plan
  4. The contract for the Blueprint entails
    1. The cross-functional (Agile) team is educated – understands agile, risks, quality and understands the importance of managing expectations
    2. Set up a cross functional workshop with the client i.e. the agile team which comprises the client, the architect, the developers, the business analyst, the testers and the agile lead/scrum master/agile coach.
  • Through collaboration and probing everyone gets to hear the voice of the client and so the QFD model is created. This holistic model looks at
    1. Client’s wants which can be capabilities, features, attributes
    2. How those wants can be met with discussions on risks vs cost vs technology – a dash of negotiation
    3. Looking at product comparison by helping the client understand their competition
    4. Looking at client value and the prioritisation of the value using weighted criteria
    5. Looking at the relationship between wants, the how and internal processes.
    6. For visual effect you could create a product breakdown structure and a product process flow so that everyone understands dependencies and relationships
    7. Finalise that release plan and the salesman obtains client sign off.

The next step for the salesman is to get the client to sign the contract for the project.  The QFD model will help with identifying the scope of work for the project that will be found in the contract.  Now perhaps in this contract (cost reimbursement with performance incentives contract) you may need to think of the exploration factor (risk).

A win-win situation for all.  The benefits are numerous. Agile promotes

  • A client centric focus
  • Collaboration and coordination up front fostering motivation and organisational performance
  • Quicker to market for the client
  • Looks at risk vs client value vs cost
  • Fosters innovation and creativity with the voice of the client in mind
  • Happy Project team
  • Happy Devops team

Agile is not mindless!   Agile is not adhoc mindless development!     Agile does not foster mindless change!

Business still needs a contract.  Sponsors still need plans in line with strategy.  Benefit realisation must still take place.

Happy Agile Transformation.  Taking it one step at a time.

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