Making Sure Sales Innovation is Practical

solutions that have worked in the past

When you are working on a new customer solution, what kinds of solutions does the sales organization usually propose? Radically new ideas or – on the other side of the spectrum – solutions that have worked in the past? According to our survey, most people are in the practical middle ground, choosing, “solutions that have some new ideas within an acceptable range.”

There’s a reason the middle ground has a place within innovation. Middle-ground ideas are often pragmatic and able to be implemented efficiently.

Almost every idea has a rough draft. When we talk about sales innovation, we have principles, a process, lots of places to source inspiration, and exercises to make what’s been done in the past new and extraordinary. Many times, you’ll think of an innovative idea that fits your customer’s needs in the middle of the process. But other times you might need to get serious about how all of your creative thinking converges into that final great idea.

It’s time to get serious about your solution, the practical ways it can work, and the details that can make or break it in the end.

Vertical development entails selecting the best ideas, and then digging deep down to build out the solution. Pick the finalists from the list of ideas that will fit the customer situation. You don’t yet have to settle on one. You may select two or three to share with the customer, depending on how willing the customer is to explore options. When I worked in the design world it was common for us to pitch several alternative ideas because we knew it was a whole lot easier for clients to accept our recommendation if they had a chance to reject another option.

To help narrow down the pool, think about how your customer solution helps your customer in each of four ways:

  1. Financial. How does your solution apply to the customer’s growth or profitability, either overall or in specific areas? Often, this appears be the customer’s main challenge and it’s usually the topic the customer talks about most. In the case of the beverage distributor at the beginning of this chapter, if the retailer customer wanted to grow financially they would want to understand how the beverage distributor’s products or services could help them grow.
  2. Market. How does our solution address issues the customer has in specific segments or geographies? Does the customer want to deal with a certain geography or customer segment that may be feeding into that challenge?
  3. Product. What is your customer trying to accomplish from a product or service standpoint? Is the customer’s challenge being driven by any priorities that can be solved with certain products or services?
  4. Resources. Can your solution be implemented with the customer’s current talent and organizational capabilities?

Consider the practicality of your innovative solutions in each of these lights to assess which are your best ideas.

Contact me at with any questions.

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