Skip to content

Bringing Sales and Innovation Together

Product & Sales, Together Forever

Sales and innovation tend to be viewed as separate entities yet, depending on the size of the company, there might be more links than initially one might think. Startups might benefit from a melding of different departments, yet as companies grow their teams they might move into more established silo roles. So just how can we lessen the disconnect between product-facing teams, such as innovation and product development, with customer-facing teams, such as marketing and sales? According to research from BCG, the dynamic might also shift and depend upon just what type of innovation is being focused on—incremental, step by step innovation or more disruptive business model and digital service innovation.

According to BCG’s “How Leaders Bring Product and Sales Teams Together,” leadership can be key. Leaders can see the “requisite links between their technology and product development teams and their customer-facing teams to excel at three increasingly important types of innovation.” BCG notes that this includes disruptive product innovation—being first to find valuable use cases for a new technology. Second comes digital service innovation—adding digital service or subscription revenue to existing high-performing product- or hardware-driven business models. Third is business model innovation—radically innovating the core value streams of a business to deliver value to new customer groups or find new ways to monetize or deliver products or services.

So just what are some tactics that can help forge the relationship between innovation and sales? BCG lists a few directions:

  1. Build a One-Team Mentality. Cross-functional teams are a hallmark of many innovation leaders.
  2. Align Incentives with Matching Metrics. Matching metrics are said to address both sides of the innovation equation: R&D and business teams. Business unit leaders are incentivized on product vitality (the share of sales from products launched in the past three years) while R&D leaders and engineers are incentivized on new sales generated by the patented products or technologies they develop.
  3. Establish Clear Lines of Communication, Mandates, and Accountability. Clear accountability and communication are essential ingredients of effective innovation systems.
  4. Shift the Status Quo and Celebrate Success. Companies are finding lots of ways to shake things up and look at opportunities through new sets of eyes. This shift is often initially challenging for everyone involved, but once the new language is embedded across the organization, it creates the space necessary for more disruptive product and business model innovation.

For Sale—Sold!

In “Measuring Innovation Performance,” All Things Innovation looked at how the performance of innovation needs to be measured over time. Innovation can be a key component to drive a company’s sales success and performance, in both short-term and long-term initiatives. Yet many executives grapple with just how to measure innovation effectively. It can be challenging to find the best metrics to track, how to evaluate the impact of innovation and how to align it with strategic goals. However, there can be some common metrics to build a foundation and support the innovation framework, as well as different measurements that can be applied to different stages of the innovation process.

Looking forward to FEI 2024? The conference, which will be held June 10 to 12, will feature a session called “From Idea To GTM: Innovation & Sales Uniting For Growth,” presented by Michele Sandoval, Director of Innovation, and Steve Wallace, National Sales Director, both E&J Gallo Winery. Innovation people and salespeople usually speak different languages. They’re usually informed by seemingly divergent goals. Having said that, in the spirits industry, that alliance isn’t unusual. This session showcases how very easily innovation and sales can achieve impressive organizational returns. Beyond that, you’ll be able to take back tried and true principles of tying together front-end and back-end innovation for end-to-end results. Register for FEI 2024 here.

Sharing Synergies

Sales and innovation can work together in various ways to drive business growth and success. We asked ChatGPT to identify some of the top strategies to foster collaboration between sales and innovation teams:

  1. Cross-Functional Collaboration: Encourage regular communication and collaboration between sales and innovation teams. Facilitate meetings, workshops, or brainstorming sessions to bring these teams together.
  2. Feedback Loop: Establish a feedback loop between sales and innovation. Sales teams can provide valuable insights into customer needs, pain points, and market trends, which can inform the innovation process.
  3. Shared Goals: Align the goals of both teams to ensure they are working towards a common objective. This can foster a sense of shared responsibility for the company’s success.
  4. Innovation Training for Sales Teams: Provide sales teams with training on new products, features, or technologies. This equips them with the knowledge to effectively communicate these innovations to customers.
  5. Customer-Centric Approach: Ensure that innovation efforts are driven by a deep understanding of customer needs. Sales teams, being in direct contact with customers, can play a crucial role in conveying these needs to the innovation teams.
  6. Pilot Programs: Implement pilot programs or beta tests that involve collaboration between sales and innovation. This allows both teams to gather real-world feedback and iterate on solutions.
  7. Innovation Incentives: Create incentives for the sales team to promote and sell new innovations. This can include commission structures, bonuses, or recognition for successful adoption of innovative products.
  8. Regular Updates: Keep the sales team informed about ongoing and upcoming innovation projects. Regular updates help them stay ahead of the curve and anticipate customer inquiries.
  9. Innovation Champions: Identify individuals within the sales team who are passionate about innovation. These “innovation champions” can bridge the gap between the two departments and encourage collaboration.
  10. Data Sharing: Enable seamless sharing of data between sales and innovation teams. Access to customer feedback, sales data, and market trends can significantly enhance the innovation process.

Boosting Productivity

By fostering a culture of collaboration, communication, and mutual understanding, sales and innovation teams can work synergistically and productively to drive business success and stay ahead in the market. There may be many paths forward depending upon the organization. As BCG notes, “Executives have a varied toolkit at their disposal, starting with tried-and-true organizational or governance measures and extending into initiatives such as incentive design, systematic relationship building, and culture change.” Of course, one hopes that ideally, companies can extend and nurture both sales and innovation for a long and fruitful partnership.

Video courtesy of Winning By Design

Contributor

  • Matt Kramer

    Matthew Kramer is the Digital Editor for All Things Insights & All Things Innovation. He has over 20 years of experience working in publishing and media companies, on a variety of business-to-business publications, websites and trade shows.

 
 

Related Content

digital transformation

Finding the Way to Business Transformation

The concept of business transformation can be defined with a broad range of meanings depending upon the business and the different stakeholders that p…

artificial intelligence

Gaining an Innovation Edge with Automation

With the focus on how artificial intelligence, as well as digital transformation efforts, can help streamline operations, it’s worth another look at…

innovation partnerships

Creating the Right Innovation Partnership

Corporations often face many challenges when it comes to developing innovation in a fast, evolving market. They can face barriers such as inertia, the…

innovation team

Winning the Innovation Strategy Game

We know that having a creative mindset can fuel innovation, and that fostering a culture of innovation is also important to get the job done. Yet ther…

innovation leadership

Taking Next Steps with Innovation Talent

As we head into the new year, taking the next steps with innovation talent remains an important question to explore. With the competitive landscape in…

innovation culture

PIE: Get Your Slice of Success

How can someone really stand out and succeed as a corporate innovator, get the most exciting projects, or secure a promotion? This is a question I enc…

future of work

Keeping Your Innovation Career Resilient

With the rise of technology, such as AI, impacting workers and workplaces, it’s safe to say the future of work is evolving—in innovation and in ma…

open innovation

Embracing Open Innovation

Open innovation is a growing tactic for today’s globalized enterprises. Rather than focusing just on closed loop systems and internal sources, such…

innovation collaboration

Balancing the Innovation Partnership

Startup and corporate partnerships are a delicate balancing act but one that can maximize innovation success for both partners. Certainly, there are c…

human centered design

Innovation Principles, 2/7

Successful innovation endeavors are built on creative tension between key enabling entrepreneurial trade-offs associated with four must-have constitue…

analytics

Solving the Data Bottleneck

The flow of data into an organization has increased as technology such as AI has been developed and rolled out. Big data is here. Some companies may f…

digital transformation

Unlocking Growth Through Innovation

The business world is changing quickly for innovators and there is a growing and ever-present imperative to keep up. Business model transformations an…

technology

Living in A Digital Transformation World

Digital transformation (DX) has been a hot topic in the innovation space for some time, but the term can be easily misunderstood as well. As we accele…

transformational innovation

Innovation Principles, 1/7

Imagine a case where a company’s growth depends on an innovation involving complex cross-disciplinary technologies such as electro-mechanical hardwa…

innovation mindset

Sustaining the Self-Disruption Journey

The adage “disrupt or be disrupted” may not necessarily always mean the same thing to the same companies. Even the original architects of disrupti…

foresights

Playing the Game of Disruption

At FEI, Angelina Carvajal, Strategy & Innovation Partner, Sr. Dir. (Optum Advisory), UnitedHealth Group, had a chance to share her thoughts on disrupt…

design thinking

Design Thinking Faces the Pace of Change

Seth Adler of All Things Innovation recently caught up with Prapti Jha, T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard University, at this year’s FEI co…

innovation process

Opening the Doors of Innovation Perception

Seth Adler of All Things Innovation caught up with Cory Sorice, SVP and Chief Innovation Officer, Masonite International, during this year’s FEI con…

transformational innovation

Beyond Innovation Theater

At FEI, All Things Innovation conducted a special roundtable, bringing cross industry, cross disciplinarians together to talk about transformation and…

technology

Supporting Data with Design Thinking

At FEI, All Things Innovation conducted a special roundtable, bringing cross industry, cross disciplinarians together to talk about transformation and…

technology

Achieving Transformational Innovation

At FEI, All Things Innovation conducted a special roundtable, bringing cross industry, cross disciplinarians together to talk about transformation and…

innovation culture

The Finance Factor in Innovation

The finance function in an organization often gets tabbed as a bottom line-oriented, conservative department that more often than not stifles innovati…

innovation culture

Setting the Strategic Direction

A chief strategy officer (CSO) is increasingly becoming a more relevant element to a research and development team in an organization. An innovation t…

innovation talent

Managing the Marketing of Innovation

Even some of the best new innovations might fail if there’s no effective marketing behind the product or service. With an emphasis on cross-collabor…

innovation culture

Playing Moneyball for the Win

In the popular baseball movie “Moneyball,” the character Peter Brand (played by Jonah Hill) highlights the “epic failure” of MLB leadership in managin…

innovation team

Putting Together Your Innovation Team

As the community’s recent Innovation Spend & Trends Report indicated, innovation teams are not working in a bubble, or at least not as much as they…

digital transformation

The Progress of Innovation

Technology is shaping our society, taking us in new directions and playing a key role in our lives every day. These forces can disrupt, or delight, co…

product innovation

Sizing Up Your Innovation’s Impact

If your company has successfully developed an innovative product or service, you might be at the stage of the process known as scalability. Perhaps yo…

brand innovation

Leading with Product Innovation

At its core, in the consumer packaged goods world, an innovative product can make an impact in the marketplace and stand out with a focus on newness….

innovation talent

Managing Talent to Drive Innovation

With the economy producing mixed signals, and companies often in a state of flux, managing innovation talent has never been a more challenging and imp…

ambidexterity

Balancing Innovation with Ambidexterity

Innovators have long been tasked with being a flexible part of an ambidextrous team, as part of an organizational cog that can easily pivot and manage…

business transformation

Going ‘All In’ On Business Transformation

There are many different types of business transformations at play in today’s corporate world. This could, for example, encompass the significant di…

sustaining innovation

Growing a Culture for Business Innovation

Whether it entails a large jump or a small step, the innovation pipeline for a business keeps it moving forward through a competitive landscape. Busin…

brand innovation

Embrace Good Friction to Stimulate Growth

The concept of positive brand friction postulates that it can be used to stimulate and maximize growth, improve the customer experience and enhance ma…

innovation talent

Tapping Into the Innovation Talent Pipeline

In the last few years, the pandemic and a range of other economic factors have influenced the talent recruitment, development and retention practices…

innovation talent

Ignite a Culture of Innovation

From the successes to the failures, from the breakthroughs to the breaking points, the innovation community knows all too well that fostering a cultur…

business innovation

Innovation During A Downturn

Whether you believe the USA is headed toward or already in a recession, there are signs of a slowing or reversal of economic activity. Of the 15 metri…

product innovation

Innovating Through the Metaverse

The Metaverse is a shifting, undefined topic, which is currently the center of much speculation and hype. However, at its center, the concept of the M…

product innovation

15 Second Workday

This morning I generated 40 new product ideas with concepts and ad copy to accompany each.  It took 15 seconds. This is just a small fraction of what…

business innovation

Innovation Survey

The All Things Innovation Survey Committee along with FEI have created a Spend & Trends survey to provide you the opportunity to benchmark with your p…

2023 Outlook

Known uncertainty. We enter 2023 with some of the most known uncertainty of our lives. Going into 2019- certainty. Going into 2020- certainty-albeit m…

innovation talent

Fostering Innovation

When you start to talk that way and lead that way, people do feel more psychologically safe to support change and support innovation that’s happenin…

innovation culture

Innovation Reality

When working remotely, the main challenge is bringing people into an office when they live across the country or around the world. The AES Corporation…

innovation ecosystems

Innovation Ecosystems

Innovation is a journey, it’s a continuum of experiences, an act of exploration. The orchestration of ecosystems is more and more important in consi…

innovation culture

Control The Sails

Although the world was affected heavily with change in the last few years, not much in the business world has changed as far as topics and issues go….

innovation culture

Innovation Culture

Innovation starts with the employees of an organization. As we know, the people that work for a business are some of its greatest assets. In today’s…

innovation culture

Interaction Innovation

We are at a time in history of incredible change and technological innovations, such as the rise of machine intelligence, and companies who keep doing…

innovation culture

Measurable Innovation

Each company has their own KPIs that are important to their specific business in place to progress and be successful. Are people at the forefront of i…

uncertainty

Certain Uncertainty

Life is uncertain in every way. It’s always interesting to meet new people and try new things. On the other hand, attackers may sometimes appear out o…

rolling innovation

Rolling Innovation

If you’ve done it once, you can do it again. Make sure to keep doing it, it’s rolling innovation. Amber Case sits down with us to discuss how impo…

Innovation Spend & Trends Report

The Innovation Spend & Trends Report has just been released onsite at FEI: Front End of Innovation. Be among the first to gain from this benchmarking…

strategic innovation

Innovation Intelligence

It seems that innovation is one of the biggest buzzwords in business now. To sustain growth and be competitive in the marketplace, companies in every…

constant change

Innovation As Constant Change

The key strategy to a successful business is to know when they are being innovative or are just transforming their status quo according to market tren…

business transformation

Innovation versus Transformation

Many people think digital transformation and innovation are one in the same, but according to Hatrick, while they are closely related, there is a diff…