Drive sales innovation by bottom up entrepreneurialism


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Many markets are undergoing a transformational change where the customer is demanding salespeople bring innovative thinking and new insights.

A good case in point is the health care market where the Affordable Care Act plus other social and economic trends are transforming the health care landscape.  Hospitals now expect their suppliers to become partners to help them to deal with significant challenges driven by reduction in reimbursements and changes in their care delivery models.

In markets like this one, the higher up in the organization, the truer this proposition.  Senior managers expect salespeople to have a good handle on their needs and interests before sales calls. Time in sales calls can be spent diagnosing and integrating the problems and on generating alternative innovative solutions that will have positive impact on their business.

One way to drive sales creativity and innovation is from the top down.  An equally viable idea, and one that receives less attention, is driving innovation from the bottom up.  Think about it!  Every day major corporations have hundreds of salespeople on the street engaging with customers. They are busy understanding the customers business and the challenges they face.  What a resource for innovation.  The lesson is your sales team cannot only sell value; they can be used to inform you how to create value.

Recently we can across an interesting study by Accenture about how to support idea generation through entrepreneurialism.  Although the study focused on the business world in general, we thought several of the ideas were particularly important for how innovation can be infused into to the selling function.

Accenture surveyed 600 corporate employees, 200 corporate business decision makers and 200 self-employed individuals in the United States to better understand how the workforce views the importance of entrepreneurialism and how companies support idea generation.

Here are five key findings that related well to Sales:

  • Nine in 10 respondents say an entrepreneurial attitude can lead to new ideas that promote growth in a tough economy.
  • Nearly half the respondents believe management support is critical, but only one in five believes their company delivers it.
  • More than one in four respondents seem to have avoided pursuing an idea due to concerns about negative consequences, and three in four say their company rewards an entrepreneurial idea only if it works.
  • More than 60 percent believe collaborative thinking, which corporations can readily support, is the best source for new ideas.
  • There is some good news too: 55 percent say their companies are better at supporting entrepreneurialism than they were five years ago.

The authors went on to recommend that companies create a climate for idea generation built on a push-pull model:

  • Push: Encourage senior management to incorporate appropriate levels of risk and tolerance of failure within business units and implement processes and infrastructures to enable collaborative idea generation.
  • Pull: Implement clear incentive policies that offer appropriate rewards for idea generation, not just successful implementation

In times of transformational market change there are new winners and losers.  A piece of the puzzle for being among the former is leveraging the entrepreneurialism of your sales team to help generate the innovations that will set you apart.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Janet Spirer
For more than 30 years Janet Spirer has worked with the Fortune 1000 to craft sales training programs that make a difference. Working with market leaders Janet has learned that today's great sales force significantly differs from yesterday. So, Sales Momentum offers firms effective sales training programs affordably priced. Janet is the co-author of Parlez-Vous Business, to help sales people have smart business conversations with customers and the Sales Training Connection.


  1. ‘The devil is in the details.’ I agree that there are some excellent ideas contained in the Accenture study. Implementation – well, that’s another story. Even something as innocuous as “Encourage senior management to incorporate appropriate levels of risk,” stops people cold. Including me, because over the past several years, I have delved deeply into understanding this very statement. In the context of an enterprise, what, exactly, is (are?) ‘appropriate levels of risk?’ I’ve learned this is a very difficult question to answer.

    I’ve sought the wisdom of accounting professors and other academics to gain insight into this issue. Searched for algorithms, heuristics, accounting ratios, and rules of thumb. Along the way, I’ve collected some excellent ideas, but, alas, nothing that even remotely resembles a “hard and fast rule.” Crud! This should be so easy!

    In any case, the issue caught my eye in your blog, because it’s actually the centerpiece of Part 3 (to be released) of my series about revenue risk management. When it’s published, the article will address a company’s risk capacity, and the title will be “Risk. What Happens When You Aren’t Getting Enough?”


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