Reflections
Innovate Your Way To Increasing Revenue
Innovation is critical to so many growth strategies, but you don’t hear about it a lot when it comes to sales. If you are looking for top line revenue strategies, applying some innovation to your sales function can fuel your growth. Here are three areas you can look at differently to foster innovation for your sales organization.

1. Innovate with metrics. The easy thing about measuring sales is the clarity of focus that comes with revenue and margin targets. They are the scoreboards. But when you collect and evaluate success in these areas you’re looking backward instead of forward. Apply some creative energy to determine the measures that are predictive of success and portend good results on the horizon. They may be subtle and they won’t likely exist on a report from finance. For example, the number of active sales cycles where there is an executive level relationship. Or opportunities advancing from early to middle pipeline stages. I’ve written more about the topic of metrics in this article for Harvard Business Review.

2. Innovate with time. Selling is both a strategic and interactive skill set. So when your sales team isn’t developing strategies and executing them with customers, you’re probably wasting a lot of money. Take a granular look at the tasks you expect your sales team to perform. Most organizations are surprised when they see the amount of time professional sellers spend not selling. Innovation includes elimination in this case. Ask yourself what tasks your sales team shouldn’t be doing.

3. Innovate with talent. Many of the best sellers I’ve observed tell me, “I’m not really good at selling.” I’ve heard it so often that when someone I’ve just met says it, I assume they are actually very good at selling. The old – yet curiously persistent – profile of a good seller being someone extroverted and heavily motivated by money is patently untrue in today’s sales environment. Take a fresh view of what your clients expect and want in sales professionals. You can read more on that idea in another of my articles here.

Remember, innovation doesn’t just apply to creating breakthrough products. Some of the best innovations create incremental performance improvements that add up. It’s called the aggregation of marginal gains, and most leaders would be thrilled to have 30-40 incremental improvements multiplied over the course of an entire sales team any day.
A Slice of Life Balance
It’s the time of year for commencement ceremonies at schools and universities. Most commencement speeches are dull and offer similar kinds of advice. But here is a gem I’d suggest watching or listening to. It’s by Pulitzer Prize finalist David Foster Wallace who poignantly expresses just how unaware so many of us can be. You can find it here .

He starts with this parable:

“There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, ‘Morning, boys. How’s the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, ‘What the hell is water?’”

He then goes on to share:

“The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. ...The fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance.”

It’s an excellent lesson about how we can make meaning of the world around us. And the power that comes from understanding the depth behind that which seems obvious. 
“I look forward to Scott’s newsletter every month. When I was the commander of a 1400-person battalion in Korea, his words were always right what I needed at the moment. They are as applicable as ever today.”

Aimee DeJarnette
Colonel, U.S. Army