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.

    View all posts
 
 

Related Content

Crumpled paper on top of idea/innovation sketch pad with drawing of light bulb.
FEI

FEI 2024 Report: The Future of Innovation

A successful three-day event marked Front End of Innovation (FEI) 2024 in Boston, held June 10 to 12 at the Omni Hotel at the Seaport. A reenergized a…

Lifting a hand weight at the gym/fitness theme.
data science

Harnessing the Power of Consumer Insights

Innovation doesn’t happen in a silo, and a great product or idea can only go so far on its own. Tapping into the pulse of your consumer is key to ta…

Man shouting into a large megaphone.
crisis innovation

Leaning into Crisis Innovation

In times of crisis, conventional wisdom seems to indicate that companies tighten the reins on personnel and their budgets, and that innovation efforts…

A variety of ingredients in spoons. Diversity.
open innovation

Creating the Right Innovation Team

Innovation was often seen as the task of a lone inventor, but that mindset has changed over the years. Rather than the solitary genius approach to inn…

Yellow and black Caution hazard lines on pavement.
exploration

Avoiding Innovation Traps

The road to innovation can sometimes be straight and unencumbered. But more than likely, it can also be a long and winding route, with many obstacles…

Red warning light, signaling hazard.
innovation mindset

Moving Past Innovation Roadblocks

With the pace of change accelerating, fostering innovation in corporate enterprises can be a challenging task—a task that is very much dependent on…

A blueprint with a pencil and ruler.
innovation talent

Innovation Principles, 7/7

Once adequate competency, support, and size of a new team are secured, clear direction based on a purposeful vision, alignment with a winning game pla…

coin operated binoculars and open blue sky
artificial intelligence

The Road to FEI24: Analytics for Innovation

Anu Sundaram, Vice President, Business Analytics, Rue Gilt Groupe, is planning an interactive analytics session for FEI 2024, taking place this June….

A smiling little robot
innovation culture

The Road to FEI24: Brunch with the Bots

Samantha Johnson, Founder & CEO at Tatum Robotics, will take part in FEI 2024 in several ways, including participating in the keynote sessions, “Bru…

honey jars with dripping honey
business model innovation

Capturing Value with Business Model Innovation

While product and service innovation are integral in today’s competitive business environment, one shouldn’t overlook creating value through busin…

Shopper in a grocery store.
innovation talent

8 Risks If You Don’t Have an AI Strategy

In the fast-paced world of Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), where product life cycles are short and consumer trends shift with lightning speed, stay…

agile innovation

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…

technology

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…

startup corporate 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 culture

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 culture

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…

innovation team

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 partnerships

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…

design thinking

Innovation Principles, 2/7

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

digital transformation

Unlocking Business 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…

innovation frameworks

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 culture

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…

digital transformation

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…

disruption

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…

innovation talent

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…

innovation talent

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 team

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…

business innovation

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…

objectives and key results

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…

innovation technology

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…

scalable 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…

product 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….

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…

innovation culture

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…

innovation culture

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…

consumer experience

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…

human resources

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…

innovation mindset

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…

metaverse

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…

advancing 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…

human resources

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…

virtual reality

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 talent

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 leadership

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…

innovation leadership

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…

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…