What would your start-up do without sales?
The most important measure of a successful commercial innovation is revenue traction. Operation’s requires it and VCs & Angels often demand it before engaging. Yet many innovators’ efforts end at the point of marketing. Completing the revenue capture process with a solid sales strategy is essential.
Perhaps Steve Jobs’ greatest gift was his understanding of the entire innovation life cycle, including the sales process.
He could envision products that consumers didn’t even know they needed to love. He was also a consummate and celebrated salesman – and knew the importance of that role. Success in the innovation economy requires an ability to execute at every stage of the entire lifecycle and adapt to changes in how companies and consumer buy products.
A recent Corporate Education Board study of more than 1,400 B2B customers found that these buyers completed nearly 60% of the purchasing decision – researching solutions, ranking options, setting requirements, benchmarking pricing, etc. – before even having a conversation with a supplier. In the enterprise marketplace, traditional media/marketing and solution selling have already given way to in-bound marketing and insight selling, strategies that demand new skills, tools, and techniques.
In the consumer market the sales process has also changed profoundly. Pew Research reported that in December 2011, nearly 50% of consumers used their smart phones while standing in a retail store to compare prices, research competitors, and find bargains and coupons to save money in real-time. It is estimated that this simple shift in consumer behavior influenced more than US$162 billion in retail sales for that month alone.
Selling Innovation successfully requires careful market and customer research, thoughtful product design, dynamically integrated methods and messages, and effective integrated tool-set. Selling Innovation also means the new tools and techniques for selling traditional products and services in innovative ways.
After each section of Selling Innovation is posted, Innovation Excellence will be hosting an InnoChat session live on Twitter. In a new format, innovation, start-up and content experts will moderate a question & answer session from readers. Please log onto your own Twitter account, Follow Innovation Excellence @IXChat, and include the following hashtags in your tweet: #InnoChat | #sellinginno
Editor’s note: In this 8-part series, we’ll be serializing Ken’s ‘actionable’ resource guidebook Selling Innovation; beginning with today’s intro, chapters 1-6 (The Spark, The Path, The Pitch, The Close, The Repeat, The Data) and concluding with the Start-up Checklist.
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Ken Smith, Business Plan Reviewer and Start-up Coach for Springboard Enterprises, served as Co-chair of CEO Service Committee for the MIT Enterprise Forum Cambridge; and is the author of the start-up resource guidebook Selling Innovation. Join the online discussion.