Agile process for an agile sales force

Studies show that the buyer is already somewhere between 57%-67% into the buyer journey before they even get in touch with a representative from your sales force. Google has even coined a term for this: Zero-moment-of-truth (ZMOT), a play on the P&G’s phrase First-moment-of-truth (FMOT). FMOT is when the user first encounters your product and the perception that results because of your messaging. ZMOT goes on to suggest that there is a moment even before the customer sees your product. This in the B2B context means that the customer has already formed perceptions before he meets your sales rep.

To engage such well-informed customer, today’s front-line salespeople need to be trained, coached and provided with shareable content so that they can perform better on the field by winning more deals, faster. This act of empowering the salespeople with right information at the right time is called Sales Enablement.

Let’s say, we are working on developing one such sales enablement product for a company. Some of the features that might be required for such a product are:

  1. Search feature: needs to be powerful enough to look for documents based on filters such as industry vertical, collateral type, product or service line etc.
  2. Find key contacts within sales, marketing and other functions so that they can collaborate with them on deals, should a need arise
  3. Integrate with CRM systems such as Salesforce.com. This will enable recommendations from within the CRM tool for a specific account, deal and contact.
  4. Integrate with internal document management systems such as SharePoint, Box etc.

If we were to follow Agile methodology for implementation of this product, we need to prioritise the features accordingly.

Feature 1 is the highest priority feature and hence needs to go right at the top. But, feature 4 is an absolute basic without which we cannot implement feature 1. Owing to this dependency, we need to put feature 4 before feature 1. Also, let us assume that your user research has shown that SharePoint is the most widely used document management system and hence we shall integrate with SharePoint before exploring other options such and Box, OneDrive, Dropbox etc. Then integration with CRM platforms comes next. Since we have most of our target users using Salesforce.com, integration with SFDC will be taken up first and then other CRM integrations will be undertaken. The people search (feature 2) comes later as it is just a good-to-have feature.

Now, the product backlog looks something like this:

  1. Integrate with SharePoint document management system
  2. Search feature: needs to be powerful enough to look for documents based on filters such as industry vertical, collateral type, product or service line etc.
  3. Integrate with Salesforce.com. This will enable recommendations from within the CRM tool for a specific account, deal and contact
  4. Find key contacts within sales, marketing and other functions so that they can collaborate with them on deals, should a need arise
  5. Integrate with other DMS platforms such as Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, One Drive etc.
  6. Integrate with MS Dynamics CRM system

Each of the above is a very large feature and would take more than a single sprint to implement. Let us prioritise then then split the epic into multiple user stories.

Prioritized list of User Stories

EPIC: Integrate with SharePoint document management system

  1. As an administrator, I would like to select specific document libraries, import the metadata and index them appropriately, so that the search feature works as intended
  2. As an administrator, I would like to synchronize the active directory of SharePoint with the directory server of the enablement platform, so that Single Sign-On works as intended

EPIC: Search feature: needs to be powerful enough to look for documents based on filters such as industry vertical, collateral type, product or service line etc.

  1. As a user, I would like to enter strings in the search bar, so that I can get relevant results
  2. As a user, I would like to use filters on multiple tags, so that I can get very focused search results
  3. As a user, I would like to click on the search results, so that I can download the file into my laptop or e-mail it to my account contact

Let us say, we had the Sprint planning meeting and it was decided that the team can take up the first three user stories in the first sprint, which is decided to be let’s say, 2 weeks, and hence are moved to the sprint backlog. And the stories 2 and 3 from the second epic remain on the product backlog. These stories will go in with the rest of the stories into further sprints.

The activities involved in bringing each of the stories alive involve developing the information architecture, conceptual design, prototypes, wireframes, visual design, HTMLs and finally testing the feature out to make it potentially shippable. Hence, the team should cross-functional comprising of UI/UX designers, programmers (for e.g. HTML and PHP) and testers.

Since, we have the sprint backlog, the team, we can basically get cracking at it. While we are at it, the product backlog is further groomed to prepare estimates for each story and then the development ensues in an iterative and incremental manner further adding features and make it more market ready with each sprint. Thus we have a successful Agile process implemented with a vision to achieve an agile sales force.