What an Agile Sales Team Looks Like at IBM


Dan Seabrook
Reading Time: 3 minutes



What an Agile Sales Team Looks Like at IBM

Dan Seabrook

VP Sales at Operatix

Ewing Gillaspy

Outbound Sales Enablement Leader at IBM

An agile sales team is really, uh, agile.

But there’s got to be more to it than that.

What’s the secret sauce that allows reps to handle 400+ accounts?

I sat down with Ewing Gillaspy, Outbound Sales Enablement Leader at IBM, to talk about what an agile sales team really is.

Ewing is a self-described failed software developer whose love for technology led him to focus on talent acquisition using technology.

“IBM is all in on agile,” he said. “Industry benchmarks would tell you that roughly 85 to 90% of most agile projects are successful.”

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We look at in terms of the skills. What’s the skill mix of the team?

Ewing Gillaspy – Outbound Sales Enablement Leader at IBM

Agile Methodology and AI

“It has a relentless focus on the most value added activity on that given day. So that’s the concept,” Ewing explained.

His talent acquisition team has reinvented itself by emulating HR’s talent acquisition processes using the agile methodology.

He said they’re twice as good as they were before–and they don’t own jobs anymore. “They’re in pods, they’re in teams, they’re in sprints,” he said.

This success comes from breaking down the siloed accountability where one person “owns” an account or job or client and thinks it’s all up to “me.”

Skills Diversity

Why is this team mentality so successful?

“The skills needed to be successful in any job are changing at a rate that we can’t really keep up with,” Ewing said.

The more diverse skillset you have within your team, the more likely you have the right person executing each task. Therefore, your outputs become better.

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The skills needed to be successful in any job are changing at a rate we can’t really keep up with.

Ewing Gillaspy – Outbound Sales Enablement Leader at IBM

Technology Demands

Some people, weirdly enough, are still resistant to implementing that agile methodology. But that resistance is maybe just a consequence of tool overload.

With digital tools, there are really only two kinds.

  • Needs tons of clicks
  • Zero clicks

“There’s technology that I have to click to do something with, and there’s technology that does all the clicks for me and delivers me an outcome,” Ewing explained. “The second category has almost no naysayers.”

When he talks to people about agile, Ewing notices they’re very tool overloaded. Basically, they have an unlimited appetite for the zero-click tools.

“That change is hard because so many of these sellers and recruiters use these interfaces that, quite frankly, are just not intuitive,” he said.

Nobody wants to learn a new tool. “It requires a lot of failure to get to efficiency if it’s the kind that I have to click and do everything,” he added.

Company-Wide Strategy

At IBM, “agile has beaten us to the punch in marketing,” Ewing said.

Though it’s new to sales, they’re starting to embrace the idea that if talent acquisition can work better in teams, it could work for them too.

Then they can go back and see how to roll it out further.

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There’s technology that I have to click to do something with, and there’s technology that does all the clicks for me and delivers the outcome.

Ewing Gillaspy – Outbound Sales Enablement Leader at IBM

How to Keep AI Human-to-Human

AI makes lives easier for humans.

In talent acquisition, an AI can scour a CV as much as it wants but still miss personality.

So how does AI make the candidate experience both automated and human?

“I would say to any organization not using our technology that you are definitely missing hundreds and thousands of great personalities that don’t even get a look,” Ewing said.

Here’s a little math.

Imagine Casey’s filling 28 jobs with an average applicant volume of 125 and 7 interviews per job. Well, half the candidate population is never getting looked at.

“How much buried treasure is in that group?” Ewing asked.

The human model doesn’t have time to inspect everything.

The machine model gives you a start that’s statistically more likely to have a positive outcome and let you pick personalities.

“When you compare that to looking at the people in your populations with the best skill fit for the job, you still run a human process from there and assess personality and culture fit,” he said.

It’s not about reducing Casey’s job. It’s about increasing Casey’s ability to make efficient and accurate judgments.

Again, Skills Diversity Is Really Important

We cycled back around to talking about how skills diversity is a necessity for an agile methodology.

Ewing described two models.

1) The reps have 4 accounts.

2) The reps have 400 accounts.

“The closer you get to 400, the more that agile framework is going to make an immediate and significant impact,” Ewing said. “Whereas the closer you are to four accounts each, the economies of scale won’t be there.”

It’s where you have the opportunity to scale into more accounts that you’re going to get the synergy of agile sales.

“We look at it in terms of the skills. What’s the skill mix of the team?” he said.

To contact Ewing about talent acquisition, AI, and skills diversity in agile methodology, email him at ewing.gillaspy@ibm.com.

This post is based on a B2B Revenue Acceleration podcast with Ewing Gillaspy. To hear this episode and many more like it, subscribe here.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can find all our episodes here.

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About Operatix

Operatix is a Sales Acceleration company specialized in supporting B2B Software vendors to identify new revenue streams, increase qualified sales pipeline, and accelerate channel development across Europe and North America. Operatix has a wealth of experience in working with the biggest tech players worldwide as well as a multitude of emerging software vendors.

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