(This is a snapshot of my old weblog. New posts and selected republished essays can be found at raganwald.com.)

Monday, July 26, 2004
  Selling Agile: The Difference Between Sales and Marketing

There's an interesting Yahoo! Group centered around "selling" agile: convincing stakeholders and developers to adopt Agile Methods to improve their software development.


I spent a few years as a salesman, with decent results. I recall one thing from my sales career that seems quite relevant to the 'problem' of selling organizations on changing their development culture:

Know the difference between Sales and Marketing

Sales is persuading a prospect that now is the time to act and that you are the best choice. Everything else is marketing.

What's the difference? Fundamentally, marketing lowers the cost of getting your message to prospects by publishing a fairly generic message in bulk. Sales increases the effectiveness by arranging for a sales person to engage a prospect interactively.

Effective sales companies use lower-cost marketing to educate customers about their products or services so that customers understand whether or not they have a problem and at the very least know that the company should be on the short list for choosing a solution when the customer is ready to act.

Then, effective sales companies use medium-cost prospecting (like direct mail and tele-sales) to locate customers that may make a decision in the near future. Those 'leads' are turned over to salespeople for closing.

The high-cost sales-people then have just two jobs: urge the customer to act now and urge the customer to buy from the company. If the customer needs to be convinced that there is a problem worth solving, the salesperson shouldn't be talking to the customer.

That's why salespeople spend so much time qualifying. Talk to a top salesperson. They'll tell you that there are only two skills that pay the mortgage: qualifying and closing. Everything else is secondary.

Why do we Agilists care? Because most companies don't think they have problem. Or if they think they have a problem, they think they have a personnel problem, or an estimation problem, or a discipline problem. They don't think their methodology is fundamentally broken.

By my reckoning, this is a marketing problem, not a sales problem. If you talk to these companies about Agile, you need to get them to understand that their process is broken. That's an expensive conversation. It's far, far better to market Agile to those companies. That means write books, publish weblogs, speak at seminars... All low-ish cost ways of getting the message out.

There's one big problem with this. Some Agilists take full-time jobs with non-Agile organizations and want to "sell" internally. That's a problem, because they have failed to perform the crucial first step in Sales: they failed to qualify the customer. If you want to practice Agile, you need to restrict your job search to companies that practice Agile, or at the very least companies that are hiring you because what they're currently doing doesn't work.

If your boss thinks that what you're currently doing is "not bad" or "good enough," then there's no sale to be made. You need to market, not sell. And that's a long, drawn-out proposition.

Labels: ,


Comments on “Selling Agile: The Difference Between Sales and Marketing :
Never having worked in either sales or marketing, I (like many other geeks, I'm sure) tended to blur the distinction. You have set me straight! I like your definitions, and as I get my business rolling, I will most certainly use the definitions you have postulated. Thanks!
As an Agilist currently working for a non-agile company, I agree that your comments are spot on.

In my case, I did qualify the customer but , for reasons which I won't go into, the reality didn't match what they told me in the interviews. It turns out they're much more interested in traditional project management than they are in Agile.

Interestingly, my attempts to "sell" agile have been greeted with interest by my developer colleagues but considerable skepticism from management. In fact, I think "selling" agile has counted against me in management's eyes. So much so, that I've basically stopped trying, which is a shame, because Agile would suit the company's projects well.
"Sales is persuading a prospect that now is the time to act and that you are the best choice. Everything else is marketing."

How can I make this more clear?

If you are persuading the propsect that she has a problem: you're marketing. If you're persuading the prospect that your product solves her problem: you're marketing. And so on.

Selling is strictly the act of converting desire into action. Markting generates the desire.
i am a software engg from india . i have few years experience in sales as i was a sales guy for a MicrosISV selling Shrinkwrap software fr Staffing Doamin . i identify with your views and problem becaue i have lived them personally .
but i think you can never tightly define the line bitween sales and marketing . with workflow software

you always have to fight an inertia.inertia of doing things your own way . client is always on the brink of roll back ,close her eyes and assume that there is no problem . nobody wants to take responsibility and initiative and put his ass on fire .

so you untill you collect the Purchase order therre is a chance that cleint will fool himself in believing that this is not the time , this is not the vendore and this is not the prolem and why bother
so a salesman need to do the marketing every time every minute.

i am a regular reader of your blog . your posting about Failure is one of my fave post about Software development project managment . i liked this post also
i wish i could have readit few years back :-)


Perhaps I'm a newbie in the 'comercial' terminology of it, but what exactly means to "qualify" the customer, is it some kind of previous research on the customer needs/methodologies?

Can you--or anyone--clarify on this?

Thanks! and by the way congratulations for many of your articles, they're very insightful!

"qualifying" means determinging whether a individual/organisation is a likely candidate for whatever you're selling. When a sales person has a "qualified lead" they have someone who is known to be a potential buyer of whatever they're selling. I'm not in sales/mktng but I believe the phrase only gets used in a situation where a traditional sale person is involved - ie McDonalds don't consider you're a "qualified lead" if you haven't eaten lunch yet ;-)
Having read this blog it has renewed my interest in Agile methods. Would anyone like to recommend an overview document of what's involved and why it's thought to be a good technique. I scanned the Wikipedia entry but it's all a bit abstract from a developers point of view.


<< Home
Reg Braithwaite

Recent Writing
Homoiconic Technical Writing / raganwald.posterous.com

What I‘ve Learned From Failure / Kestrels, Quirky Birds, and Hopeless Egocentricity

rewrite_rails / andand / unfold.rb / string_to_proc.rb / dsl_and_let.rb / comprehension.rb / lazy_lists.rb

IS-STRICTLY-EQUIVALENT-TO-A / Spaghetti-Western Coding / Golf is a good program spoiled / Programming conventions as signals / Not all functions should be object methods

The Not So Big Software Design / Writing programs for people to read / Why Why Functional Programming Matters Matters / But Y would I want to do a thing like this?

The single most important thing you must do to improve your programming career / The Naïve Approach to Hiring People / No Disrespect / Take control of your interview / Three tips for getting a job through a recruiter / My favourite interview question

Exception Handling in Software Development / What if powerful languages and idioms only work for small teams? / Bricks / Which theory fits the evidence? / Still failing, still learning / What I’ve learned from failure

The unary ampersand in Ruby / (1..100).inject(&:+) / The challenge of teaching yourself a programming language / The significance of the meta-circular interpreter / Block-Structured Javascript / Haskell, Ruby and Infinity / Closures and Higher-Order Functions

Why Apple is more expensive than Amazon / Why we are the biggest obstacles to our own growth / Is software the documentation of business process mistakes? / We have lost control of the apparatus / What I’ve Learned From Sales I, II, III

The Narcissism of Small Code Differences / Billy Martin’s Technique for Managing his Manager / Three stories about The Tao / Programming Language Stories / Why You Need a Degree to Work For BigCo

06/04 / 07/04 / 08/04 / 09/04 / 10/04 / 11/04 / 12/04 / 01/05 / 02/05 / 03/05 / 04/05 / 06/05 / 07/05 / 08/05 / 09/05 / 10/05 / 11/05 / 01/06 / 02/06 / 03/06 / 04/06 / 05/06 / 06/06 / 07/06 / 08/06 / 09/06 / 10/06 / 11/06 / 12/06 / 01/07 / 02/07 / 03/07 / 04/07 / 05/07 / 06/07 / 07/07 / 08/07 / 09/07 / 10/07 / 11/07 / 12/07 / 01/08 / 02/08 / 03/08 / 04/08 / 05/08 / 06/08 / 07/08 /