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Trend 5 – Process AND Agency

This is Trend 7 from Barrett’s 12 Business and Sales Trends for 2024. You can download the full report here.

In 30 seconds

Excellence in sales team performance relies on a balance between well-established processes and individual agency. Sales and service processes offer consistency, efficiency, scalability, and risk management. Agency fosters adaptability, creativity, ownership, customer-centricity, and empowerment. Combining both is essential for success. Processes provide a framework for creative thinking, balanced risk-taking, and increased employee engagement. Striking this balance ensures outstanding performance, even in a rapidly changing business landscape.

In 2 minutes

Traditionally, teams have either had a strict process to follow, or little guidance at all. This usually left client-facing teams in particular with no autonomy to help prospects and customers in meaningful ways, or with interactions defined by the personality of the salesperson and often lacked professionalism, clear aim, or a consistent experience for the customer.

This is now changing. Businesses are realising that the most successful teams need clear processes AND agency to act in a manner that solves the issue at hand and advances the conversation.

Processes provide structure, consistency, and efficiency, and agency empowers team members to make decisions, exercise creativity, and adapt to dynamic situations. Striking the right balance between the two is essential for sales teams – and any team for that matter – to achieve outstanding performance and succeed.

Processes for Consistency and Efficiency:

Processes serve as the backbone of any successful team. They offer several benefits that contribute to outstanding performance:

  • Consistency: Established sales processes ensure that tasks are executed consistently, that everyone knows ‘how we sell and service around here’ and promote a uniform customer experience. This consistency is crucial in building trust and credibility with clients.
  • Efficiency: Well-defined sales processes help streamline work. Time and resources are optimised, allowing sales teams to focus on high-value activities, such as engaging with clients.
  • Scalability: Processes can be scaled as the team grows. This ensures that the team’s performance remains consistent, regardless of its size.
  • Risk Management: Sales processes can help mitigate risks by providing guidelines for ethical and compliant behaviour. This is crucial in industries with stringent regulations.
Agency for Adaptability and Creativity:

While processes are indispensable, agency is equally critical for achieving outstanding performance.

What is Agency and how do we develop it in our teams?

In social science, agency is defined as the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices.

To develop agency in our people and teams we need to give them the skills, knowledge, and capabilities to perform their role with confidence.

Here’s how agency contributes to team success:

  • Adaptability: Team members with agency can respond to unforeseen challenges and adjust their approach to seize opportunities as they arise.
  • Innovation and Creativity: Agency empowers sales and service people to think outside the box and develop innovative solutions.
  • Ownership and Accountability: Agency fosters a sense of ownership and accountability where people take responsibility for their work and its outcomes.
  • Customer-Centricity: Client-facing teams with agency can tailor their approach to the unique needs and preferences of each customer. This personalised touch enhances customer satisfaction and increases the likelihood of closing deals.
  • Empowerment: When team members have agency, they feel valued and empowered. This, in turn, boosts morale and job satisfaction, which has a positive impact on performance.
The Synergy of Processes and Agency:

Outstanding performance occurs when teams have both clearly defined sales processes AND agency. Here’s how the two complement each other:

  • Process-Guided Creativity: Established processes serve as a framework within which team members can exercise creativity. They provide a foundation and clear guidelines, encouraging innovative thinking and problem-solving.
  • Balanced Risk-Taking: While agency allows for calculated risk-taking, clearly articulated sales processes ensure that these risks are taken within boundaries. This balance prevents reckless decisions and maintains a level of predictability.
  • High Employee Engagement: Sales and service people who have a clear process to follow feel safer in doing their work and that results in higher employee engagement.

Designing clear sales and service processes with minimum standards of excellence AND giving sales and service people agency is vital to achieving outstanding performance and success. Processes provide structure, consistency, and efficiency, while agency empowers team members to adapt, innovate, and be creative. The intersection of processes and agency is where success and excellence converge.

Remember, everybody lives by selling something.


“They [the sales teams] have had some of the best two months in the all-time history of the division (Dec 21 & Jan 22), we have finished the year with the greatest sales ever. The last four months [of 2021] they have been working extremely hard with their customers, and they’re going to see the best profit we’ve seen in about four years at each of the sites, and the greatest revenue.

“Despite [the business] finishing the financial year down on volume by 6%, they have increased their sales revenue by 16% and their profitability has grown by 15% compared to the prior fiscal year.” From the Vice President – Sales & Business Development of a multinational supplier to the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry.

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