Traditional Sales vs. Agile Sales: the Key Differences

Aggressive sales, scripts, and cold calls should remain in the past. Otherwise, we will lose the grip on tomorrow.

When left with no choice

The world of sales has changed a lot over the past 10 years. Back then, cold calls, claim management, and manipulating the client were considered effective. In fact, customers were left with no choice: information about products and services was not readily available. It was sales managers who had all the information, and thus, the power over the customer. In those years, the main objective of the manager was to fulfill the sales plan and get a bonus.

Yet, with the advent of the internet, the situation has changed. The pace of business has changed as well: time is shorter and customer expectations are greater.

The client is evolving too. Before making a purchase, the customer learns about the product or service via internet, reads the reviews, and compares the prices. In fact, customers are often better versed on many issues than sales managers and associates. The customer values speed and expects to get answers to their questions here and now.

In truth, the purchase process is dictated by the customer as opposed to the sales manager. The time of annoying cold calls, client manipulation, and low-quality service has long gone. The customer of today appreciates the value that has been created just for them. The customer of today wants to have their needs met. Delivery? Bonus and cash-back? Payment options? These days, customer care is of the utmost importance.

The key ideas to be shared by the sales professionals today: we need to identify and then satisfy the needs of the end user. Likewise, we must keep in mind that the customer’s wishes are changing. We must create a valuable product. We need to collect feedback. Finally, we need to keep looking for opportunities for improvement — all to ensure the happiness of our customer.

Time and speed

10 years ago, employees could not have accessed their work emails via the phones, so all business communication was conducted via corporate email, phone calls, sms or ICQ (best case scenario!). Work from home was rare as communication channels were limited.

Today the world is different. Now, teams can employ dozens of communication platforms simultaneously: phone calls, SMS, Whatsapp, Telegram, Facebook, Vkontakte, Instagram, Viber, Slack, corporate chat, email, and so on. Yet, due to the variety of communication channels, some information can get lost, and the retrieval of necessary data might take some time. The speed of companies’ response to changes is now a competitive advantage. Once the company switches to Agile, it becomes easier to ensure its adaptability when facing modern winds of change.

This way, speed, flexibility, and focus on the customer are the defining competitive advantages of Agile sales in contrast with traditional sales models.

“Agile sales means you don’t really need to sell as people would buy your product independently, because they clearly understand the value that this product provides. It may come as a shock, or a paradox, yet, you will sell more when you stop selling. Do not ram your services or products down the customers’ throats, but share your knowledge with people, be honest, and be open. I believe that traditional sales characterized by aggressive upsell are a thing of the past, just like video rentals or pagers,” says Marina Alex, an international expert, Agile coach, and author of the SWAY system (Sales with Agile).

From Waterfall to Agile

In a traditional sales department, there is a boss and there are subordinates. In an Agile company, associates work together as a cohesive team. What’s more, the entire team bears responsibility for the final result. In case of failure, there is no blame shifting or deflection. The associates handle the problem together. For example, they help an overworked colleague to process the documents, or involve production representatives in negotiations, or explain the refund rules to the logistics service.

In the traditional sales model, the department head sets tasks for the employees, regulates sales plans, meetings, and calls, monitors the process, and reports the results to the upper management. In the Agile sales team, the position of the boss is replaced with the role of the Business Owner. The Business Owner knows what the customer wants, so all the quantitative and qualitative goals for the team members are set in accordance with those wishes. Yet, the Business Owner never imposes their vision on the team. It is the team who decides how to achieve the goals while independently distributing tasks among its members.

The team has a Coach who is skilled at training, facilitation, mediation, mentoring, and psychology. The Coach helps the Team to achieve super-results without giving orders, distributing tasks, or managing people. The Coach has completely different skills and responsibilities than the Head of the Department.

It is important to embrace the concept of a “sales team” as opposed to a “sales department”. In the department, employees function as separate entities. In Agile sales, team work is prioritized as it leads to super-results.

In traditional sales, every manager is for themselves. In Agile sales, there is a self-organized team that pursues continuous self-improvement and works as a cohesive unit.

In Agile sales, the main goal of the team is to create value for the customer, satisfy the customer’s needs and do so quickly. Money becomes the feedback. Completing and exceeding the sales plan proves that the team is up to the task and the customer is happy.

Marina Alex believes, “Agile is a new business mindset; it is company culture based on creating value for the customer. Profit is no longer the goal. Profit is both an indicator of success and the feedback from our customers. Revenue growth proves that we understand the wishes of our client and we fulfill them faster than our competitors. Perhaps, in anticipating the expectations of the customers, we can create something bigger. “



Founder of SWAY (Sales with Agile). High-Impact Sales Expert. Creator of Innovative Sales Techniques. SWAY helped earn $20M+ revenue in US businesses in 2021

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Marina Alex

Founder of SWAY (Sales with Agile). High-Impact Sales Expert. Creator of Innovative Sales Techniques. SWAY helped earn $20M+ revenue in US businesses in 2021