Innovation in Sales is More Important Then Ever

6th Sales and Marketing Officers Meeting

19/04/2013 Madrid

VI Encuentro de dirección comercial

Is it possible to go on innovating in sales? In an atmosphere of crisis, what strategies should a company adopt? What should a team leader do in the current situation? How can we get closer to today’s client? These were just some of the questions discussed at the 6th Sales and Marketing Officers Meeting  that was held on April 17 on IESE’s Madrid campus.

The title of this year’s meeting, “Reinventing Yourself in Order to Advance: Innovation in Sales” was a declaration of intent. During three intense working sessions, the meeting, led by IESE professors Julián Villanueva and Cosimo Chiesa, discussed the importance innovation in the sales model, in management and the sales team.

 Innovating in new markets (that is to say, operating in other countries), training programs for sales staff, new formats, new technological tools and improving the motivation of sales networks were some of the most important aspects presented in the 4th Study of Innovation in Sales Teams. Executives also saw the need to innovate and produce ideas, and to involve employees in the process.  “Now is the time to introduce changes in the sales force, because there is much room for improvement,” said Prof. Villanueva, co-coordinator of the study with Prof. Chiesa.

The document also shows that only 15% of sectors had grown in sales volume and only 7% had raised their prices during the crisis. Regarding how to grow in the future, the study was quite clear: 43% of this growth must come from new clients and another 27% from maximizing existing clients. A high percentage of those questioned (66%) emphasized the importance of innovation in delivering value and another 65% highlighted the necessity to innovate in products and services.

Unstoppable Change

Cosimo Chiesa emphasized that “we are in the midst of an unstoppable process of change. The consumer, the product, technology and habits have all changed. Markets are more complex, confusing and competitive and it’s increasingly difficult to stand out,” although that is fundamental if you are to offer “value propositions” to the consumer.  To survive in an increasingly uncertain future he said it was necessary to make decisions in three fields: creativity, beliefs and values (what he called the “inside game”) and interpersonal and intrapersonal qualities (“the outside game”).

“Some 80% of professional success depends on attitude,” he said. “Beliefs can be motivating or limiting, and the latter paralyze the attitudes of many sales people,” he added. What steps do you have to take to move from a limiting belief to one with more possibilities? “Have clear goals, question your beliefs and your excuses, get out of your comfort zone and accept challenges and decide whether you want to be the protagonist in your life or just a spectator. Be proactive,” he recommended.

Meeting New Demands

Angelo Ruggieri, Desigual sales manager in Europe, said that “we have to meet new market demands. Our philosophy has always been to look for something new. This is why we have set up DShop.” This is a new business concept for multibrand outlets in small and medium-sized cities. In these establishments, Desigual occupies between 80% and 100% of the sales area with its collection, furniture, lighting and logo in the shop window. The plan is to open 300 DShops in three years, which implies a strategic alignment throughout the company. So far, Desigual has opened 50 DShops in six months with a turnover of €6.5 million, 20% more than expected.

Miguel Giribet, country manager of Privalia in Spain, spoke about the importance of using new technologies in business development. Engagement is fundamental if you want to innovate, he said. For his business, “shopping on Facebook is a big part of our innovation.”

Javier Pijoán, head of sales and distribution for Heineken in central and eastern Europe,  emphasized the importance of execution in competitive advantage. “Success comes from a combination of strategy and execution,” he said. In his opinion, aspects such as ambition, alignment through all departments of the company, covering all the market, focusing efforts and measuring performance of the sales team are key to understanding the success and expansion of the beer company in various European markets.

Effectiveness and Efficiency 

Salvador Pons, director-general in Spain of Laboratorios Menarini,  said that one of the main values of this pharmaceutical company was in its sales network. “We want to be more effective and more efficient. That requires strategic planning and sharing and internalizing this strategy across all departments and increasing the quality of visits because preparation is fundamental to our sales techniques,” he said.

“Anyone who is well-prepared has a future in spite of the crisis. Motivation, innovation, client relations, good incentive and compensation systems, all of these factors affect the well-being of companies. Although there is a long way to go, we need to advance with humility. Success is the fruit of values, dedication and hard work,” said Chiesa, winding up the meeting.