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Innovation Management

Engaging Your Sales Organization in Collaborative Innovation

Published By Guest Blogger

As a practice leader at Mindjet, I get to see the many creative, thoughtful ways in which clients apply their practice of collaborative innovation with their stakeholders.

Here, I share with you a compelling scenario on which I engaged a client. You may find their approach useful as a way to extend your own practice to new stakeholders within your organization: the sales team (figure 1).

Figure 1: expanding your practice to the sales team


The Back Story

To explain, a long-time user of Mindjet’s Spigit manages a national network of retailers. Each retailer maintains a storefront in their local community. They employ sales people to serve the consumer. The client sponsors events for their retail network a couple times a year. The retailers convene to share practices and industry news.

Ahead of each event, the practice leaders at the client sponsor a collaborative innovation challenge. The challenge relates to the topics that the attendees will address when they meet. For one event, for example, the client sponsored a series of challenges by using Planview IdeaPlace to explore how they might best close business with the consumer on the showroom floor in specific scenarios.

The practice leaders invite the retailers to share their ideas on how they might address and overcome objections to a set of common selling scenarios. They create personas based on the primary customer segments they serve (e.g., “Luxurious Lucy,” “Price Conscious Pam,” etc.), and develop stories around each scenario.

The client uses the collaboration and the ideas that result to (a) inform the scenario-based training they offer the retailers; and (b) drive the event agenda, as relative to the topics they cover as a group (e.g., organize the time by scenario). Figure 2 shows the concept.

Figure 2: inviting the sales team to co-create the agenda


Beyond PowerPoint

This approach impresses me. The client has found a way to apply the practice of collaborative innovation to broaden and leaven an important conversation with their retail network. How might we convert more encounters with the consumer in the showroom to sales?

Two aspects to their approach warrant highlighting:

(1) The challenges enable the client to pursue “training” as an exercise in collaborative problem solving — the client’s training department develops scenario-based modules based on the challenge results.
(2) The challenges enable the client to build interest in, and engagement around, the agenda — together, their retailers and they themselves co-create the topics they explore when they meet in person, based on the ideas the retailers perceive as having the greatest potential to increase sales (a refreshing change from PowerPoint).

In sum, the client is being very savvy in how they weave together the virtual and in-person forms of collaborative innovation. Good stuff.

Reflection for You as a Fellow Practitioner

Some important questions to ask:

  1. Does your organization host sales meetings, either internally or externally?
  2. Do you, as a practice leader, see an opportunity to explore with your meeting sponsors the possibility of incorporating the practice into their approach, so that attendees become active participants and contributors to the agenda?
  3. How might your sales training group incorporate the outcomes of such a challenge into their work and deliverables?
  4. Intrigued? Please drop me a line in the comments section.

About Doug Collins
Doug serves as senior practice leader and Vice President, Innovation Architecture, at Mindjet. He focuses on helping clients realize their potential for leadership as they pursue their practice of collaborative innovation.

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