A successful and growing sales team often operates in two modes: factory and studio (Nelson P. Repenning 2018).
We are all familiar with the factory mode. A car factory comes to mind. Every step in the process is well understood. Narrow specialists perform highly standardized tasks. Workers are grouped into functional units. Collaboration across units is relatively infrequent and limited. Learning and innovation are directed at improving quality and productivity.
The factory mode is highly scalable. It is ideally suited for selling mature products in established markets. I will refer to it as traditional selling.
The studio mode is very different. In this mode, members of a small cross-functional go-to-market team collaborate, learn, and iterate daily to discover customer needs, identify product features that sell, achieve a product-market fit, and design a repeatable and scalable sales process.
The studio mode is ideal for operating in highly ambiguous, unpredictable, and changing business environments, such as when a company is launching a new product, expanding into new territory, or when the economy goes into an extended lockdown.
I will refer to selling in studio mode as agile selling.
The two modes are not mutually exclusive. In fact, it is perfectly normal for a larger company to have both traditional selling teams and agile selling teams operating concurrently.
A larger company may spawn an agile selling unit in response to a trigger event. The team’s objective is to accumulate knowledge and transfer it back to the main team, as shown below.
A startup company starts in the agile selling mode. Initially, founders do all the selling (Martin Giese 2021), (Aulet 2013). As the team expands and accumulates knowledge, the company hires VPs of sales and marketing and transitions to factory mode.
Authors in (Nelson P. Repenning 2018) identified two danger zones that every sales and marketing leader must be aware of.
In the upper left corner, we have the wasted attention zone where an agile selling method is used to sell a mature product in an established market.
In the lower right corner, we have the ineffective iteration zone where traditional selling is used to sell a new product, expand into a new market, or react to external shocks.
The two zones are known as the axis of frustration, something to be avoided at all costs.
Let me stretch the factory analogy into the realm of tools.
Every tool in an assembly line on a factory floor is finely tuned to perform one specific task at the highest rate possible. In a studio, on the other hand, it is not uncommon to develop a custom tool for a task that will be performed once and never repeated.
The toolsets used in factory and studio modes can be and often are very different.
Let us turn our attention now to the sales and marketing tech stacks. Even a casual examination reveals the fact that they evolved into complex and highly tuned systems designed to serve every need of the specialist teams operating in factory mode.
HubSpot, for instance, offers dedicated marketing, sales, service, CMS, and operations hubs. Each hub comes with a separate set of tools, rules, processes, data sets, APIs, and KPIs.
So how many hubs does an agile team need to perform a single market discovery iteration?
It is easy to see how an agile selling unit can quickly devolve into a matrix of specialists operating the factory machinery on its behalf. With the traditional sales and marketing stacks, the ineffective iteration danger zone cannot be avoided.
To solve this problem, we started Morebell.
For companies that need to turn business and product innovation into revenue, Morebell provides an agile sales enablement platform that helps cross-functional go-to-market teams to collaborate, learn, and iterate quickly in search of a repeatable and scalable sales process.
Unlike the traditional sales enablement platforms, Morebell supports dynamic studio work design and ensures the success of teams operating in ambiguous and unpredictable business environments.
Aulet, Bill. 2013. Disciplined Entrepreneurship . Wiley.
Martin Giese, Matthias Hilpert. 2021. Fast Forward: Accelerating B2B Sales for Startups. Verlag Matthias Hilpert.
Nelson P. Repenning, Don Kieffer, James Repenning. 2018. A New Approach to Designing Work . Cambridge: MIT Sloan Management Review.