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Your Salesforce Can Be A Source Of Great Innovation - If You Listen To Them....

on Saturday, July 6, 2013

I'm writing an eBook for, and so have interviewed a few innovative heads of sales from different organizations. One of the anecdotes that struck me as really interesting, didn't make it into the final cut because the book took a slightly different track.

Here's a tale of how Salespeople Ensured Great Programming at the Food Network.
My friend Erica Gruen masterminded one of television’s biggest brands as President/CEO of The Food Network and, the #1 site for food. 

Taking over in June 1996 when the network had no ratings and no distribution, she staged a complete brand and programming turnaround and created a blockbuster in only two years - introducing the smash hits Emeril Live!, The Two Fat Ladies, and The Iron Chef.

Erica emphasizes the role sales colleagues played a critical role in keeping innovation efforts on track: “At every product meeting, I’d have someone tell me we should make a cooking program aimed at kids who cook. My sales folks would then remind us that there just weren’t any companies who would sponsor such programs – the McDonalds of the world had better spots to focus on, the Mattels of the world had Nickleodeon to advertise on, and anyway, did the idea generator think there were really that many kids were thinking this way. Our customer and our value proposition is about women 30 to 60 – they wanted to provide innovative food to their family, not figure out ways to make their family cook it.”

Erica’s team dreamed up the celebrity chef presenter, and all the products that were built out from there. Staying lazer focused on the customer, knowing what innovation would work, and delivering the eyeballs.
Ask yourself the following questions:
  • Does your sales organization make sure it’s in the right rooms as such critical strategic and product development decisions are being made?
  • Does your organization make it easy for your innovators to work across silos and truly tap into the organization's knowledge base?
  • Do you invest in bringing your far-flung sales people together virtually or physically, and make sure they engage with other parts of your company (marketing, business development, product development, your innovation team, R&D, etc.)?


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