Meet the Portfolio: How Sonian’s Sales Organization Uses Scrum to Hit Their Number

At OpenView’s recent BDR workshop in July, I had the opportunity to catch up with Sonian’s VP of Sales, Jenn McAuliffe about how her sales team uses Scrum to stay focused and hit their number. Over the last couple of years, I’ve had many heads of sales come to me and ask how they can best introduce Scrum into their Sales team’s rhythm, so I thought it would be worthwhile for Jenn to share her experiences.
Based on my observations, sales teams will likely always use an abbreviated version of Scrum (the way that developers use it seems just a little too rigid for sales folks). But even taking certain elements of Scrum such as daily Scrum standups, and retrospectives, can really help bolster this type of team’s productivity and focus.

Jenn McAuliffe, the VP of Sales at Sonian, and I caught up at OpenView's recent workshop event

DM: Jenn, can you give us a general overview of your sales team?
JM: Our sales team made up of BDRs, Account Managers, Channel Managers, and Sales Engineers. The model is strictly channel sales, and we are heavily campaign/sales play focused. The motto for the team is “Closers only allowed,” and we take that really seriously!
DM: When did your sales team start using Scrum and why?
JM: We started using Scrum earlier this year to make sure we were being efficient to get things done (i.e. close business). Ultimately, I really wanted to increase our team’s velocity of activity to results, and based on what I had heard from OpenView’s team, Scrum could help us get there.
DM: Can you describe your team’s adaptation of Scrum?
JM: We do daily stand-ups with action plans, campaign plans, and as the VP, those are my opportunities to ensure that impediments are removed so that my reps can hit their daily metrics and goals. At the end of every week, we have retrospectives and we invite our partners to all sessions. I try to keep it as open and collaborative as possible. Transparency is key in our business.
DM: What have been the challenges with maintaining Scrum?
JM: It is really a daily commitment, but because we have customer obligations that can sometimes get in the way of the daily sessions. That can make it difficult, but we try to stay as on top of it and adjust as much as possible. It really takes the leader of the team reinforcing it all the time.
DM: What have been some of the successes that the application of Scrum has brought your team?
JM: Since we’ve started using Scrum, we have seen a 25% increase in number of deals, a real boost in our close ratio, and overall we are much more focused on the right kind of sales activities each and every week.
DM: What recommendations do you have for a head of sales who wants to implement Scrum?
JM: Do it! It will change how you operate. One of the best things as a manager is that everyone knows exactly what they have to do everyday — there is no ambiguity. And if I am traveling or out of the office the process still runs without me there — no worrying that things aren’t getting done!
DM: Finish this sentence, “Don’t implement Scrum if…
JM: …you don’t want improved results. But honestly, if you truly can’t stay committed to it, or don’t have the organization to maintain it, it simply won’t work.

Thanks, Jenn! If you have any question about Scrum, and how a non-development team can use the methodology to improve effectiveness, I suggest you download our latest ebook, The Executive’s Guide to Scrum. Best of luck!


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