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2021 | Buch

Scrum for Sales

A B2B Guide to Agility in Organization, Performance, and Management


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Many companies want to make their sales agile. Some of them have tried to set up agile sales organizations, but such top-down approaches and big-bang rollouts seldom seem to work. This book shows how the elements of the leading agile framework “Scrum” should be applied to install agility in the salesforce, improve sales performance, and resolve typical performance issues in sales organizations. It contains concrete guidelines, real-world examples, and useful tools to create the necessary change step by step and built to last.


1. “Agility” Is More Than a Buzzword: Why B2B Sales Organizations Must Become Even More Adaptive
There are profound reasons why sales organizations must become more agile—no matter how big or small they are, no matter in which industry they play. This chapter lays out five fundamental challenges that require today’s sales organizations to become faster, more flexible, and more adaptive than before—and which every sales manager should know. Among other things, we learn that what customers really want is different from what most sales organizations think they want. Customer value is shifting—sales managers must understand what this shift is and what it means for their sales approach and organizations.
Michael J. Scherm
2. From Agony to Agility: The Emergence of Scrum as a Leading Agile Framework
The challenges experienced by the founders of Scrum were similar to those faced by today’s sales organizations. This chapter describes what they are and how the Scrum framework addresses the issues faced by its founders. Introducing key concepts and terminology, helps readers to understand how Scrum works. Tracing back the history of Scrum to its very beginnings and philosophical roots, Chap. 2 also shows that Scrum is much more than a barren framework of roles, rules, and artifacts. The six elements that characterize Scrum have their origins in the thinking of ancient philosophers, time-proven management principles, and fundamental truths substantiated by numerous scientific disciplines. The military’s influence should not be forgotten, either, if one wants to grasp the nature of Scrum.
Michael J. Scherm
3. Customer Acquisition: Team Dynamics and the Soft Beat of the Drum
Customer acquisition is difficult, expensive, and burdened with high levels of uncertainty and frustration. Most customers dread cold calls. So do most salespeople. Few companies have managed to turn Farmers into Hunters. Digital lead generation and social media may provide more promising leads than were possible before. Nevertheless, at some point, someone must bite the bullet, get on the phone, and call potential new customers. Chapter 3 describes how a customer acquisition project can be set up in “the Scrum way” to benefit both customers and salespeople. Customers will appreciate the Scrum team’s calls because they get real value from them. This chapter provides detailed examples of how the Product Backlog can be set up to achieve that. Salespeople will profit both from the Scrum setup as well as from the checklists, tools, and exercises provided here.
Michael J. Scherm
4. Opportunity Management: Managing Complexity and Ambiguity
Interactions between buyers and sellers have become so complex in companies’ highly networked business ecosystems that vendors increasingly fail to cope with the manifold challenges of opportunity management. Individuals performing a diverse range of functions in the vendor’s business community need to function as a team. Corporate silos must be eliminated. Vendors often fail to realize what customers really need in their buying journeys. This chapter describes a Scrum approach that fully aligns sales activities with the challenges that customers must overcome internally and externally. It provides a detailed account of buying and selling tasks in modern opportunity management as well as numerous User Stories that can be implemented by sales teams right away. Various examples show how gamification can be used to find creative solutions and overcome common obstacles in the customer’s buying journey. Scrumban is presented as an alternative approach for dealing with short-term changes in requirements during the opportunity management process.
Michael J. Scherm
5. Pipeline Management: Overcoming Our Reptile Brain
A company’s sales pipeline must be sufficiently large and healthy to deliver the desired revenue. Opportunities must be evaluated correctly, and the forecasted numbers must be realistic, so that sales results are predictable. Unfortunately, pipeline management, more than any other sales discipline, is subject to politics and behavioral issues. Moreover, few sales managers know the effects that cognitive biases can have on pipeline management and forecasting. A variety of these biases such as the Overconfidence Effect, Anchoring and the Endowment Effect are described, and the potential impact of each of them on pipeline management is examined. The Scrum setup, the User Stories in the Product Backlog, as well as multiple exercises provide sales teams both with best practice instructions for pipeline management and practical means to support accurate, objective, and reliable pipeline management.
Michael J. Scherm
6. Managing the Agile Salesforce in Scrum
The world of sales has become too complex to be understood and managed by a single person. Sales managers need salespeople to think, decide, and act independently. Scrum fosters participation, autonomy, and decentralized decision-making. Scrum also has checks and balances for self-organizing, autonomous teams. This chapter lays out what they are and how they function specifically in sales organizations. But even self-organized teams need leadership. The chapter details out how sales leaders can lead their sales Scrum teams to productivity and success. It suggests how targets can be set and the performance of sales Scrum teams can be managed. The suggested sales planning method is different but can be highly effective in Scrum for sales. We learn how sales planning “the Scrum way” can lead to more accurate and reliable results and how sales teams can use agile fixed-price contracts and pricing to create a win-win situation for both customers and vendors. Sales-specific requirements must be kept in mind if the transition to Scrum is to be successful. Checklists, exercises, and tools are provided that help sales organizations to manage the change.
Given that “agility” has been one of the most abused words in the business world in recent years and the fact that Scrum is perceived as something specific to software development, it is not surprising that many people are skeptical about agile frameworks in general and Scrum in the context of sales. In corporate boardrooms, executive offices, shop floor cubicles, hotel bars and at dinner parties, the same statements can be heard again and again:
  • “Sales is not software development. Scrum will not work in sales.”
  • “Self-organized Scrum teams will do what they want but not what they are supposed to do.”
  • “Salespeople are not software developers. They are not intrinsically motivated.”
  • “How will self-organized teams perform when they set their goals by themselves?”
  • “Sharing opportunities, quotas and goals—that will never work.”
  • “Individual salespeople will slack off and hide behind others in the team.”
  • “There is no planning in Scrum.”
  • “I will not be able to forecast revenue anymore because iterative planning means teams will change their sales forecast after each iteration—if they plan at all.”
Most concerns about the use of Scrum in sales organizations have to do with management issues: Managers are concerned that “a bunch of self-organized agile hippies” will run the sales team, doing what they want and not being held accountable for anything they do. Salespeople, on the other hand, are often rather enthusiastic about the idea of working in an “agile” sales organization. Some of them are thrilled by the prospect of breaking up encrusted structures and actively participating in company decisions. Others see the opportunity to lean back and let others do their work because—due to the same misperceptions that many managers have—they think there is less management and control in self-organized teams.
Realistically speaking, there is quite a lot of management in Scrum. A short look at sales managers’ key responsibilities will help to understand what they do in general and what they must do differently in Scrum. According to Brock (2016), key requirements for sales management can be summarized as follows:
  • Organize how salespeople work.
    • Set up the sales organization.
    • Set up sales territories.
    • Set up sales processes.
  • Enable salespeople.
    • Set up sales systems and tools.
    • Translate market intelligence into sales strategy.
    • Provide content and collaterals.
    • Manage the politics within the company.
  • Manage salespeople’s performance.
    • Set sales strategy and goals.
    • Motivate and incentivize salespeople.
    • Conduct reviews.
    • Tackle performance problems.
  • Develop salespeople.
    • Run formal development programs.
    • Coach salespeople to success.
  • Hire salespeople.
    • Select them.
    • Train them.
Even sales management in Scrum must cover these areas. Management in Scrum is different from traditional management, though, because it aims at different things. The sections that follow explain how sales management must change, and how sales managers can fulfill the above requirements in a Scrum setting.
Michael J. Scherm
7. Epilogue: Agile Is Dead—Long Live Agile
While one company after the other is devoting itself to agility, INSEAD professors Phanish Puranam and Julien Clément ask whether Scrum really makes sense outside of software and typical development activities (“search situations”). Under the title, “Why agile may be fragile,” they wonder whether Scrum, when used in situations other than the framework’s core application areas, will not just be a temporary phenomenon. They question whether agile techniques will be able to produce the equality, participation, and autonomy that employees strive for across corporate areas. In their view, there is no “broadly applicable mechanism besides hierarchy for scaling collaboration among a diverse set of interdependent individuals.”
Michael J. Scherm
Scrum for Sales
verfasst von
Dr. Michael J. Scherm
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