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: agile, popular