Here is a true-life story of a B2B Healthcare SaaS (software as a service) company with three sales teams over 18 months.
The account management team – staffed with talent from hospital marketing departments, not software sales – closed 70% of the company’s recurring annual revenue through contract renewals.
The business development team – staffed by several entrepreneurial company founders – helped close the remaining 30% of contract renewals and added 30% of non-recurring revenue in those 18 months.
The new business sales team – staffed by top sales performers from other industries armed with warm leads from business development – closed exactly zero new customers in the same 18-month timeframe.
The difference between these teams wasn’t sales skills or experience. The successful teams aligned their sales process with how their buyers wanted to buy the SaaS product. They adapted their sales process to align with each buyer to build relationships, earn trust, and move deals through an Agile Sales Pipeline.
Let’s break down the Agile Sales Pipeline concept and how to align it with your buyer’s journey.
What is an Agile Sales Pipeline?
The Agile Sales Pipeline is an adaptive sales process that directly aligns with the way your customer wants to purchase your product or service. The number of steps in the process varies depending on the complexity of each deal. The flexibility to synchronize the Agile Sales Pipeline to the buyer’s journey empowers sales team members to iterate quickly, building relationships that identify and meet customer’s needs throughout the sales cycle.
A recent Gartner study found that while there are six distinct phases of the typical B2B sales pipeline, the actual buyer’s journey looks more like a labyrinth than a straight line. Some buyers skip certain stages only to return to them out of order later. Others revisit phases in loops until they feel confident they are making the right decision. The amount of information available to the modern B2B customers allows many to make competitive comparisons without engaging sales teams until late in the process. The Agile Sales Pipeline will enable sales teams to apply the Agile Sales Mindset to the sales process, adapting it to each customer’s needs.
How to Create an Agile Sales Pipeline
Start with Discovery
The Agile Sales Pipeline always starts with the Discovery phase. The Discovery phase allows sales team members to build a customer relationship through emotional intelligence, empathy, and respect. We learn about customer needs, pain points, their company’s decision-making structure, and their company’s procurement process through that relationship. It is impossible to adapt the Agile Sales Pipeline to the Buyer’s Journey without discovering what that journey is.
Analyze Data from Your Existing Pipeline to Discover the Buyer’s Journey
Next, gather any data you have from your CRM about the existing sales pipeline, including the time to complete each step, events that caused taking steps backward in the process, and win-loss reports. Analyze this data and identify any unnecessary steps or redundancies. Look for data pointing to pipeline steps that put extra strain on your sales team or customers. Identify situations where pipeline steps looped through regularly. Create user stories for each Buyer’s Journey scenario you uncover.
Gather Feedback from the Sales Team
It is also vital to meet with your sales team and get feedback. Ask your team members what is working best and what needs to change. What are they hearing from their customers and prospects saying about the sales process? Don’t worry about terminology or industry-specific items at this point. The end goal of this step is to create user stories that describe what sales professionals and customers experience and break your current pipeline down into its most simple form.
Segment the Buyer’s Journey for Your Customers
The fourth step is to review the buyer’s journey for all of the different customer segments you serve. For example, if you have both business and individual buyers, you will need a buyer’s journey for each. You may also have a different buyer’s journey, depending on the customer’s industry. Separate lines of business require unique Agile Sales Pipelines. Reviewing past deals is an excellent place to start, but you also need to speak directly with your customers. You can accomplish this through one-on-one meetings or focus groups. Use these collaborative conversations to create user stories to drive the creation of Agile Sales Pipelines.
Compare Your Current Pipeline and the Buyer’s Journey
The fifth step is to identify where the user stories you have gathered align with your current process. You will compare these with your existing pipeline to determine what is missing and where improvements are needed. The goal of this step is to uncover where the misalignments are in the two different processes.
Create Your Agile Sales Pipeline
The final step is to bring your findings from the above steps to create your Agile Sales Pipeline. It is helpful to remember that all documentation, measurement, reporting, and CRM workflow needs to have the flexibility and adaptiveness that Agile Sales Pipelines require.
Taking an agile approach to your sales pipeline by aligning it with your buyer’s journey has real benefits in the ever-changing competitive business environment. Quickly responding to a customer’s buyer journey is more crucial now than ever before to create long-standing relationships.