Product innovation – sales needs to join the game

Product innovation and Sales

Competition continues to increase in today’s global market. No industry is immune.  Companies in the emerging economies are doing things quicker, cheaper, and better than yesteryear.  In that market milieu leading companies are changing what it takes to win the innovation race.

So how do companies get better at bring innovative and cost effective products to the market?  How can they not only stay in the race but also make sure they make it to the finish line first? McKinsey explored this question and suggested the answer is not just about doing a better job doing what they are doing.

Regarding innovation the authors suggest:  “More focused collaboration among multiple functional groups notably marketing and sales, operations, engineering, R&D, and procurement.” The authors go on to suggest that if companies can achieve this collaboration – “better products, happier customers, higher margins, and, ultimately, a stronger ability to innovate – should serve these organizations well in years to come.”

When it comes to the sales function if one agrees with this collaborative picture of the future of product innovation, it means some changes need to be made in the attitudes and practices of sales leadership.  In means the sales team should not only be concerned about how to sell value; they should contribute to how to design value. Let’s explore this challenge.

Most sales forces are busy doing what they are doing.  So is it really a good idea to add to their list of responsibilities?  The answer, of course, varies by industry, company, and competitive profile.  However, what constitutes value tends to shift over time and the individual sales manager and sales rep is in the best position to be aware of and be an early warning system for that value migration.

So, we suggest they can do it and in many cases should do it.  Given large companies have hundreds of really smart sales people interacting everyday with really smart customers, it’s easy to imagine acquiring a lot of information and insights that could contribute to creating that next great product.

If you are interested in learning more about training your sales force when introducing new products, two prior posts you might find interesting are:

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About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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