Part #1: Implementing an Agile Sales Framework

By their very nature sales people are agile in their approach to selling products and services. A good sales rep will intuitively carry out a quick inspection of the prospective customer’s situation, adapt themselves to make the customer feel at ease, and continue to inspect (by asking the appropriate questions) until they feel confident enough to present a solution to ease the customers business-pain. The problem occurs when the salesman becomes too agile by claiming to be able to solve a business pain to which they have no direct solution – or make a commitment to be able to deliver, a solution, with in a timescale that has not been agreed with the technology teams or Product Manager.
Sales teams need to also inspect the technology team’s capability of delivering bespoke or custom designed solutions – this should be done via the Product Manager.
To make a positive contribution to the agility of a company, sales need to operate within an agreed agile framework much in the same way as software development teams operate with in frameworks such as Scrum or DSDM.
A simple framework for the sales teams to operate in might look something like this:
  • Only make commitments on products that are released and being shipped.
  • If it does not do it out-of-the-box then do not make a commitment.
  • Understand the iteration of the software department – know when sprints are starting and when functionality will be released – again the job of the Product manager to communicate this information to the appropriate stakeholders.
  • Give feedback on requests for bespoke development, there may be synergy with other requests coming in from other sales teams with in the company.
  • Product Managers compare request for bespoke work with agreed roadmap.
Most Product Manager and developers have experienced having to put everything on hold, change direction, divert from the strategic roadmap and deliver a new product or new functionality in order to secure a deal. This is fine – because agile software development is flexible enough to facilitate ad-hoc changes to meet the customer’s needs, however constant chopping and changing has to weighed up against the companies desire to produce functionality and products that has been defined on the product roadmap. I’ve always admired Chief Executives who have walked away from a deal in order to keep the technology teams focused on the current roadmap. I’ve experienced diverting from the product road map to secure medium size deals only to loose bigger deals later on because we did not have that much needed functionality. Worst still I turned up to an exhibition only to see that the competition were demonstrating the feature we had delayed implementing while ours was not yet mature enough to even begin alpha testing.

Technology teams and Product Managers can help shape an agile sales framework by:
  • Being an example and demonstrate the benefits of using an agile framework
  • Communicate the capabilities of the team (velocity) and let sales know that we can react quickly BUT it comes at a cost (i.e. diverting form the current work).
  • Encourage regular and open dialog with the sales team to glean from them the problems their customers are facing - the solution just may be lingering in a developers or product mangers head.
  • Update the product roadmap based on feedback and then feed this back, at the appropriate time, to the sales team(s).
  • Accompany a sales man on at least one sales trip a year; this will help you understand the commercial pressures that the sales team are under – who knows it could lead to your career changing direction towards technical sales.
Sales teams play a vital part in any successful commercial operation. It is therefore vital for them to operate with in an agile framework in order to ensure that the company does not become a victim of its own success and to make a postive contribution to the agility of the organisations.

The combination of an ‘agile development frame work’ and a sales agile framework’ is akin to a combination of "business sense and technical sense" – it’s just common sense.


  1. i think it is a great website and i have now developed my skills on product managing. i am going to reccomend this website to all my other friends who want to learn about product managing.

  2. Derek I tried to email you but couldn't so I just wanted to let you know that this post has been included in the Carnival of Agilists for June 22: http://www.notesfjavascript:void(0)

    Mark Levison