What is an agile sales team?

23 June 2020
Author: Linzi McGuire

We talk a lot about agility and agile teams, but what does this really mean? There’s a bit of a misconception that agile means unskilled, so we’re here to prove that wrong.

Agile teams can mean two things

  • Drawing on a pool of casual workers to do a job as and when required, on a small or large scale.
  • Employ an optimised team of permanent colleagues who know their client and customers inside out, who manage relationships, and who can be agile in what they do on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Today we’ll focus on the latter.

In order to run a permanent team in an agile way you need 4 things to be true:

1. Great communication with your client. As an outsourced team, the account manager needs to know the brand priorities and to synchronise them with the actions of the field team. If the brand priorities change then so too must the team purpose.

2. Great relationships with your customers. It’s no secret that if people like you, you can achieve more, faster, so why not apply this to business models too? In order to implement fast change and see quick results, we need to set ourselves up so that we know the influential people at a local and national level, we know their policies and ways of working as if it were our own, and we work with them to drive success in their outlets.

3. Regular reporting and actionable insight. The specific actions of the field teams may not always be set by the brands. It’s their job to set the goals, it’s our job to find the best ways to hit them. This means that we may change our objectives and actions based on what the data tells us. In order to do this, we need to be creating, collecting and analysing data in real time. We need to understand how all the interventions interlink and where the biggest value lies.

4. A joint lens on now and the future, simultaneously. What we mean by this is that if a team is only set up to achieve the targets they were set at the start of the year, they take a long time to adapt to new conditions should the plan change. But if we take an approach that helps us do a great job right now, while also looking at market, industry and social trends that may change the way people shop, learn and live their lives, then we’ll be in a more agile position to plan and implement change at pace.

The team needs to be set up for flexibility and agility from the outset, with skilled people who live the brand, who know the marketplace inside out, who can pivot and refocus their purpose with speed, and who can influence at pace. All this needs to give the brand the edge versus their competition.

How does this work in real life? What does an agile team do?

To understand how agile teams work in real life we spoke to Technology Director, Lindsay Hey. Lindsay runs x teams across the UK and Ireland in the technology and consumer electronics sector, so we asked her for her view on this:

“When it comes to deploying field teams for brands, we take a very tailored approach. The customer journey is complicated, so a one size fits all approach to field teams just doesn’t work.

You might think that a permanent fixed team doesn’t allow agility, but when done right it actually allows more agility. If you’re trying to spin up a different population of people for each activity that a brand wants to do, that actually adds to the timeline because you’ve got to get those people onboarded and trained on the brand and the retailers before they can go out to work. Whereas, if you’ve got the right size permanent team you can set them up so they’re agile in terms of the set of objectives they can deliver. For us, we can suddenly change the set of objectives the following day if we need to because we’ve got resource that is as agile and knows what they’re doing. We can call on them to do a blitz activity if retail execution is required quickly. And that can be turned around in 24-48 hours.

Agility for us doesn’t just mean casual workers, it means using your core team in a really agile way.

We’ve seen how Covid-19 has disrupted the retail space, but when you’re agile, even a pandemic won’t stop teams in their tracks, even if it does close all the stores. For example, we’re still able to educate and engage both retail staff and consumers online, we’re auditing brands on ecommerce sites to make sure that consumers shopping in online stores are seeing and finding the product as intended, and we can run insight panels to discover what consumers want, how they feel about various brands and products, and predict what brands need to do to stay a priority in their consumer’s eyes.

As we go back into stores, we know everything will have changed. The stores themselves will change quite dramatically, the volume of people they allow through their doors will be reduced, health and hygiene will be a huge priority, the times that people shop and the locations they go to will be different, the volume of stores in the retail estate may decrease, the number of people they employ may be affected, and the way they will be allowed to engage with consumers will change. So how do we make sure that we support where it matters most to brands? Well we’re already planning for this.

What’s really important to us is making sure we’re always delivering value while also driving efficiencies and are able to switch our focus if we need to influence people in a different way or at a different place or time.”

Agile teams are proactive and reactive at the same time. They need to have a 360 view of what’s going on, and they need to have the foresight to be ready for change.

Agile teams, if done right, will be skilled, fast, scalable, cost efficient, drive the biggest bang for your buck, and be always evolving. It’s as simple as that. Contact us if you’re interested in how agile teams could work for your brand.


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For more information on Lindsay Hey, Technology Director, visit her LinkedIn page.


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