Agility is widespread within software development. But how can the term “agility”, which is also described with flexibility in business management, be applied to distribution? Let us first look at the definition of distribution. The Gabler Wirtschaftslexikon says: “Distribution involves, in the first place, the sale of goods; Distribution of goods (logistics, marketing logistics), management of the field service organization and maintenance of a manufacturer’s relations with retail or direct sales (direct sales) with the end customer. Newer approaches emphasize the high importance of customer management in the context of sales.

However, it should now be noted that sales departments in companies often focus on existing customers without the flexibility to tackle new projects and ideas within the department. Often with fatal consequences: If a major customer leaves, this often means economic difficulties for the entire company. If sales were to be used to initiate new sales processes instead of managing the existing customer base, any losses could be absorbed or sales figures could even be substantially increased.

To establish an agile sales department or agile sales, new processes and flat hierarchies are needed

In order to install such an agile department, agile processes must be introduced in sales. For example, sprints, as part of SCRUM, can bring more momentum to the department, which will give you faster results and better internal communication. In addition, a more democratically managed sales department, in which employees can become more involved, simply increases the possibility that interesting sales concepts can be discussed and ultimately implemented.

Customer Experience 3.0 and agile sales

Customer-Experience-3.0-1
Own presentation based on the idea of Goodman.

The figure from Goodman (2014, p. 23) shows where the feedback from customers on the products is mainly received – namely somewhere, but not at the manufacturer and the distribution of the company. In the end, it is only 5% of the customer feedback that is addressed directly to the manufacturer. Up to 25% of the feedback is received by the retailer or individual, specific distribution channels – but not by the sales department. Feedback that can relate to both products and distribution methods.

Thus, it is usually irreplaceable to make the channels so permeable and transparent that customer feedback is equally important to all members of the distribution chain. This is the only way to trade and react in a customer-oriented manner in the sense of agile sales.

  agiles-sales-agiler-vertrieb
A satisfied customer likes to buy again and recommends the product further (own presentation inspired by Boris Gloger)

Gloger & Margetich (2014, p. 184) show how important such a feedback loop is. Every child knows that word of mouth is the be-all and end-all. And only satisfied customers will independently report positively, recommending the company’s products and thus indirectly contributing to further sales.

Agile sales: Key account managers as an important component

After Richards & Jones (2009, p. 312), experienced key account managers are another hugely important component. As a central interface between companies and important customers, an experienced KeyAccount manager responds to the specific needs of customers and contributes significantly to building such a feedback loop. A decisive factor, therefore, in order to create sustainable transparency and thus satisfied customers. The other part is the entire department that handles this feedback and may need to adjust sales methods. In addition, as part of agility across the company, feedback should also be leaked to the entire development in order to be able to react flexibly to desired product changes.

agiler vertrieb
Representation from Richards & Jones (2009, p. 312)

Keyaccount Manager Profile

On the sales manager’s page, I found a great overview of what a Key Account Manager should be able to do and I want to summarize this here. Because an account manager is more than just a salesperson. He is also a friend and confidant of the customer.

Know your own product

Here, the article recommends building product and industry knowledge. You should know exactly what you are selling and to whom you are selling it. This ensures the necessary expertise at the customer and shows that you sell “honestly” (you would also buy your own product yourself).

Knowing customers’ goals

Here says the article of the sales manager: It is not enough just to know your own product and company. A successful key accounter knows the goals of his customers and the obstacles that stand in their way. So he understands the customer and thinks with him. He has also built up a high level of trust and strives for a certain long-term with customers.

Clear and easy communication

Here the articlesays: Especially when selling high-tech products, it is important to be able to give clear and simple answers. But this simple and comprehensible communication is not limited to communication about the product: it is also important to maintain customer relationships away from sales deals.

Learning, learning, learning…

The article says quite briefly: All the previous points have one thing in common: they require continuous learning. Whether it’s knowledge about your own product, the industry, the development of the customer or methods in communication: In today’s world, what was just “state often he art” is already outdated tomorrow.

Agile sales need the agile fixed price

The agile fixed price is a contract model for suppliers and customers in IT projects that are carried out using agile methods. The contract model provides that costs and deadlines are set after an initial test phase and that a procedure for controlling the scope is agreed within a fixed framework, as stated in Wikipedia.

In total, the article as well as many other 6 steps to setting such a fixed price so that agile sales can take place.

  • The first step describes the rough plane. This includes the vision and high-level epics. So a rough frame.
  • An epic representative of the project is then selected and specified to the level of user stories. With a suitable epic, a sufficient number of user stories of different types and functions are created, which may be considered as reference user stories (Wikipedia)
  • Using the reference userstory, other epics can also be determined and effort and risk can also be determined.
  • The fourth step is to define the checkpoint phase, which is considered a test phase for cooperation, as implementation is already underway there and initial empirical insights are being gained. A length between two and five sprints is recommended (with a sprint length of two weeks). At the end of the checkpoint phase, the customer and supplier check the initial assumptions and decide whether they want to implement the overall project (source Wikipedia)
  • In the 5th step, the roles are named such as PO, Scrum Master, etc.
  • Unlike traditional fixed-price projects, the agile fixed price is the end of the project if the customer considers the expected benefits of the deliveries already made to be fulfilled. This can happen before all agreed functionalities have been delivered. Agreements must be made to ensure that this flexibility is beneficial for customers and suppliers. For example, the supplier can receive a percentage of the price of the remaining scope or be assured of a new order in the value of the remaining scope, according to Wikipedia.
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Verwendete Quellen anzeigen

Gloger, B., & Margetich, J. (2014). The scrum principle. Building and shaping agile organizations. Stuttgart: Schäffer-Poeschel Verlag.

Goodman, J. (2014). Customer Experience 3.0: High-Profit Strategies in the Age of Techno Service. New York: Amacom.

Richards, K. A., & Jones, E. (2009). Key Account Management: Adding Elements of Account Fit to an Integrative Theoretical Framework. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 29(4), 305-320.

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I blog about the impact of digitalization on our working environment. For this purpose, I present content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday work. I am a manager in an SME myself and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the chair of IT Management.

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