Adopting Agile Methodology for Auto Dealership Sales Teams
How can auto dealership sales teams adapt to the constantly-evolving business conditions? The answer: by adopting agile methodology to their sales processes.
There’s no question that technology has led to significant changes in the way businesses operate and the methods in which we communicate with one another. Companies that fail to adapt and are unable to keep up with these rapid changes are likely to see less success. Adaptability is especially essential to the auto sales industry — where being up-to-date with the latest trends in communication and buyer behavior is vital.
The traditional sales process we once knew and relied on has changed significantly. The original process consisted of some combination of 5 to 7 steps, including: identifying leads, qualifying leads, proposal, close and post-sale relationship nurturing.
However, research from Google and CEB has found that this sales process is no longer relevant because buyers today are already done with 60% of the sales process before they even come into contact with a sales professional. Those shopping for products now use the internet to do their own learning and research.
Buyers today are already done with 60% of the sales process before they even come into contact with a sales professional.
Buyers will first research and choose among the many companies that supply the products they are looking for, and then use social networks and reviews to validate their findings and cross-check product quality. As clients are beginning to gather more information prior to shopping and make more decisions on their own, the original sales cycle is becoming obsolete.
The ability to shop for vehicles online has made it more difficult for car salesmen, considering that potential buyers have already done significant research prior to entering a dealership. Online retail giants like Amazon are entering the auto industry, and dealerships must find new methods to make sure their sales teams are able to perform and meet buyers’ needs.
So how should sales teams adapt to these changing conditions? Lucky for them, there’s a methodology that allows teams to transform their procedures and workflow processes to best fit client and industry demands. This process is known as the agile approach, and it can significantly improve a team’s productivity.
What is Agile Methodology?
Agile is a method of project management that was originally coined by software developers as a better way to manage projects in the software industry. Agile attempts to eliminate the traditional ‘waterfall approach’ that required step-by-step processes of long planning sessions, coding and testing that were required prior to launching a product.
This new approach to project management spread rapidly beyond the tech sector and is now applicable to virtually any industry that relies on accomplishing large-scale projects. The agile method calls for “the completion of small chunks of ‘shippable code’ that can be defined, built, tested and shipped in the time span of a single ‘sprint,’ usually lasting 15 to 30 days.” Essentially, this means that rather than attempting to complete an entire project over a long period of time, those using agile work in shorter, defined periods (sprints) to accomplish a certain smaller goal or output.
These individual goals are briefly shared by each team member during a quick daily stand-up meeting and discussions about general achievements. Challenges and weaknesses throughout the sprint, etc. are held during sprint reviews, which take place at the end of each sprint.
Brad Brown, Technology Sales Manager at PERQ, has been in the process of transitioning his sales team into an agile methodologyfor the past six months. Brown is a major advocate of the agile process and says it has improved his sales team’s performance immensely. “What I really appreciate about agile is how you can take a big goal and break it down into smaller goals and then ultimately into chunks of time,” Brown says.
Agile Methodology Allows More Flexibility
A major advantage of adopting an agile methodology is that it is highly flexible and sales teams can change or adapt to meet the company’s needs and allow process improvement at any time. This high degree of flexibility allows agile sales teams to better respond to specific needs of customers.
This flexibility also means that nearly every team that uses agile probably uses an agile process that is slightly different from other teams’. It is rare that two team’s agile processes are exactly the same. We spoke with with three separate agile users, all from different companies, and each user had an entirely different method in which their team implements agile methodology.
A major advantage of adopting an agile methodology is that it is highly flexible and sales teams can change or adapt to meet the company’s needs and allow process improvement at any time.
“Our [agile process] is pretty different from anybody else,” says Jason Fletcher, Chief of Operations at Site Strategic, a digital marketing agency. “We don’t sell services, per say. We sell agile credits. Basically, we’ve aligned our sales process and our offerings around a point system.”
By selling their time in the form of agile credits, Site Strategic is able to have more flexibility based on individual client’s needs, and a clearer view into what exactly they are doing for each client.
On the other hand, Josh Brammer, Chief of Operations at Outside Source, a Marketing Agency in Indianapolis, says that his agile process is different in that they hold planning meetings every Monday to run through all of the backlogs and plan out any actions that they have. Outside Source has been transitioning to agile thinking over the last 2 years, and has changed and adapted their processes to find the best way to implement agile to improve their team.
Agile Simplifies and Improves Processes
The flexibility and easy adjustment to meet needs is just one of the many benefits that the agile methodology brings to teams that adopt it. Brown, Brammer and Fletcher all agree that agile makes processes simpler for both managers and employees.
“Agile makes it easier to manage others because we all have 100 other things we could do today,” Brammer says. “In traditional, top-down management, you have to guess at what [the manager] thinks the top 10 things to do are. And your guess is probably going to be wrong because we don’t spend enough time aligning on what the priorities are. But agile makes it part of the process to determine in public what the priorities are and which 90 other things we’re not going to worry about right now, and that makes management way easier.”
Brad Brown agrees that having an agile process makes it much easier to manage his sales team. “It’s a visibility factor,” Brown says. “I’m able to have this daily check-in where I know exactly what’s happening with the team and what they’re planning to do. That’s huge.”
Fletcher says he likes the agile process because it creates an atmosphere where everybody’s held to the same standards. “It definitely makes disciplinary actions easier, too. Discipline shouldn’t ever be a surprise, and at a lot of companies, it kind of is,” he says.
Teams who adopt an agile process can expect to see a significant improvement in accountability and productivity. Having the ability to channel a team’s energy into achieving concrete, tangible goals helps to prioritize tasks and work more efficiently as workflows become more public and open to improvement.
“Nobody wants to be the person that goes up during a stand-up meeting who has 3 goals set and moves them all into incomplete. What we find is that there’s always a push to get at least one or two of them done.”
Adopting an Agile Methodology
It’s important to point out, however, that while the agile process certainly has enormous benefits, the task of switching from a traditional to an agile management process is not always an easy task. The switch requires careful planning and depends on the willingness of both sales executives and team members to accept a new way of thinking and doing things.
Fletcher says it took Site Strategic some time using trial and error to adapt and truly see the benefits of agile. “It was super difficult at first, but it’s really interesting because it was very helpful with the business’s transition and growth we’ve seen over the past year or two.”
“Every organization that delivers value to customers will be better off if the whole organization adopts agile.”
Brown agreed that the transition was an adjustment, but also says that he saw benefits quickly after adopting an agile process. “Within 30 days, there was a substantial lift in our overall performance as a team, both in terms of our demo completed metrics as well as the strength of the demos, which is their ability to close a deal,” he explains.
If your auto dealership’s sales team decides to make a change and switch to an agile management process, don’t be discouraged if the process is difficult at first. Talk to other businesses who have embraced agile to work through any problems. The rewards certainly outweigh the risks. “Every organization that delivers value to customers will be better off if the whole organization adopts agile,” Brammer says.