Agile Sales — How We Are Discovering Better Ways of Working

The timing to initiate the transformation from Business As Usual (BAU) in Digital Sales to Agile for Digital Sales at IBM was extremely fortunate given how a worldwide pandemic would change everything a mere six months later. What happened prior to COVID-19 and the impact on the world’s economies and businesses during these first six months would turn out to be providential as the newly formed and co-located sales teams were able to pivot seamlessly (or very nearly so) when the decision was made to begin a full-scale remote workforce. As a result of our decision to lean how to leverage business agility, we are continuously discovering better ways of working together in Digital Sales.

Nearly 20 years ago, a small working group came together to figure out how to articulate the mindset and practices changes necessary to forever alter how software was delivered. Their original thinking culminated in 2001 with ‘The Agile Manifesto’ — and the world has since seen unprecedented growth in organizations which have adopted this thinking. In fact, the largest and fastest growing companies in the history of mankind are built as scalable business models based on Agile. I wonder if the original signatories of the Agile Manifesto could have imagined their profound impact on the world back in 2001?

The Agile Manifesto is an important thought leadership record, for it has been a foundational part of every agilist’s training precisely because it stands apart from other rules-oriented dogma. Instead, the Agile Manifesto does not try to solve or remove human tendencies from the equation, but instead successfully manages the tension between the strategy and execution tug-of-war which is present in every organization of any size.

Here’s what the original Agile Manifesto says:

THE AGILE MANIFESTO

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Working software over comprehensive documentation

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

It is that last sentence which is the true genius of the Manifesto. This is how the tension between what we want to do and what we sometimes have to do is managed. It’s not either/or. It’s the genius of the and.

Building off of the simplicity and using the ‘this over that’ framework while working with dozens of Agile Sales teams led me to craft the Agile Sales Manifesto back in 2019.

THE AGILE SALES MANIFESTO

We are discovering better ways of working and delivering value by doing it and helping others do it. Our focus in Agile Sales is on prioritizing value for the benefit of the prospect and customer such that:

We value better business outcomes over more outputs.

We value ways to understand continuous improvement over high levels of activity measurement.

We value collaboration for client-centricity over silos of individual work.

We value quantitative and qualitative data-driven insight over opinions.

We value building a sustainable work culture over prioritizing last-minute requests.

We value reps focusing on revenue-generating work over non-revenue-generating work.

We value co-creating value with clients over extracting value from clients.

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

Sir Isaac Newton in 1675 likely said it best: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” The Agile Sales Manifesto is truly the cognitive offspring of the prescient thought leadership of the Agile Manifesto signatories: Kent Beck, Mike Beedle, Arie van Bennekum, Alistair Cockburn, Ward Cunningham, Martin Fowler, James Grenning, Jim Highsmith, Andrew Hunt, Ron Jeffries, Jon Kern, Brian Marick, Robert C. Martin, Steve Mellor, Ken Schwaber, Jeff Sutherland, and Dave Thomas. My thanks to each of these thinkers. I extend an open invitation to meet these leaders, virtually or in-person, so that I might personally thank them and share a beverage of their choosing.

— Anthony Coppedge

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Anthony Coppedge

Anthony Coppedge

I lead the vision for how business agility is infused in Digital Sales at IBM. I relish the chance to sabotage mediocrity.