Innovation Principles for Sales

Two weeks ago I wrote about how my experiences in art school shaped my thinking about sales – specifically, how creative thinking can churn out better customer solutions. I promised to complete the list of Innovation Principles, but a great question about cold calling last week caused me to digress.

In addition to the concepts of Pattern and Variety, there were several other design principles that, with a few practical modifications, apply beautifully to sales.

3. Unity describes how all of the elements and principles in a composition work together to make sense. All of the shapes, colors, lines, and spaces operate as a whole, rather than as separate parts. Pointillism, a style of post-Imperssionism painting, is an example of unity. In Georges-Pierre Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” (c. 1886), he uses thousands of colorful dots to create an easily discernible scene of Parisians in a park. We don’t look at the dots and colors, we see the whole picture.

In sales innovation, Unity also refers to how all of the elements work together to make a whole – although, in a sales organization we replace color and shape with sales team members. In Seurat’s painting, the individual dots come together as a whole with a greater vibrancy and energy than if the scene had been painted with single solid forms. With a sales innovation team, the collaboration of diverse individuals creates the same type of energy and output that’s greater than a single point-of-view.

4. Contrast describes the differences among elements used to create interest and tension. Contrast can break up the repetition and movement created by Pattern. One simple example of contrast is light and dark colors.

In sales innovation, contrast invites the sales team to critically question and push back against established practices. With Contrast, sales teams also get comfortable with divergent opinions and the initial criticism that almost invariably accompanies new ideas.

5. Movement creates the action in design. Closely related to Pattern, Movement uses elements of art – especially scale and proportion – to establish direction. In graphic design, movement is also described as flow. It usually starts with a dominant shape or color and leads the viewer a certain way.

In sales innovation, Movement refers to the natural progression of ideas as we proceed through the thinking process. Unfortunately, innovative ideas rarely occur in a flash, and we have to be disciplined in our approach to development.

6. Harmony is achieved when there are several different but related elements in a composition. By using similar elements throughout, the piece appears uncomplicated. If something is harmonious, we often say, “It works.”

Sales teams working toward innovation can use the principle of Harmony like a checklist to make sure what they’ve designed can be implemented by the organization. Do the elements of the idea work together in a cohesive way? How can we implement this new idea so it works for the customer?


How do you think these ideas might apply to your work?


Mark Donnolo is the author of “The Innovative Sale” and “What Your CEO Needs to Know About Sales Compensation,” and managing partner of SalesGlobe. Email him at .

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