Part 3 - Creating a Culture of Innovation: Start in Your Sales & Marketing Departments

In the first part of this three-part blog series we introduced the idea of starting with your sales and marketing departments as places where you can innovate some new best practices/processes. In the second blog we looked at WHY they are important to your company’s future and then examined some examples of WHAT they are and what they have to offer. In this, the third and last blog of the series, we’ll look at the WHEN and HOW. WHEN is the best time to innovate and implement these new best practices/processes and HOW should they be integrated with your existing people, processes and presence (culture)?



It’s important to assess the season that your company is in before initiating a practice/process improvement program.  At any point in time a company can be in one of three modes: Trouble, Even Keel or Growth. 

  • Trouble – Inquiries and/or sales, margins and/or profits are down
  • Even Keel - Inquiries and/or sales, margins and/or profits are stable
  • Growth - Inquiries and/or sales, margins and/or profits are up

Trouble Mode

When your company is in the Trouble mode you are motivated by the need to do something different because what you're now doing isn't working.  Unfortunately, because revenues are down, this is not the best time to be spending money.  However, if you don’t make the investment now your sales may continue to decline.  Even if you have to shift some funds from one budget to another, or tap into your line of credit, it's recommended that you consider making the investment now. Assuming you have tested the new initiatives and are confident they will produce the results you want, this may be the best investment you can make at this time.


Even Keel Mode

When your company is in the Even Keel mode things are going along smoothly. Lead volume, sales and margins are normal. Some months your numbers are up and some they are down, but overall they’re pretty steady. There’s no pressing need to do anything different.  My experience has been that if there’s no urgent need for change, unless your company’s culture is very proactive, you may not do anything. Although you're not likely to act,  assuming you have the time and money resources, this could be the best time to make the commitment to invest in the new practices/processes. 


Growth Mode

When you are in Growth mode your company’s sales, margins and/or profits are up or trending up. Generally speaking, things are good, however, people and processes are being stretched to keep up with your target market's demands and the pace and expectations of your company’s leaders.  The fact that cash reserves and cash flow may be at their highest level doesn't necessarily mean this is a good time to commit resources to a new project.  What you don't want is your key revenue producing people in key positions to take their eye off the ball. You want them  fully engaged in sustaining the momentum you are experiencing as you take your company to a higher level. 

Looking at the three corporate modes you can see there are pros and cons to each.  Is one of the modes better than the others when it comes to the right time for change? I would put them in the following order:

  1. Even Keel
  2. Trouble 
  3. Growth.

I believe the best mode, from which to invest, is the Even Keel mode for this reason - it allows you to prioritize your corporate priorities so you have the necessary time and resources to research, decide, fund and implement the new practices/processes.  I would put the Trouble mode second because if you don’t act now you may not have a second chance. Circumstances may be such that it’s critical for you to find the necessary resources to do the work now. The third and last mode I would select is the Growth mode because when things are going well you want all hands on deck to market, sell, deliver, bill and implement your solution to your prospects and customers. You want and need everyone’s full attention and band-width to execute on your existing core sales and marketing processes.

To sum up:

  1. It’s important to prioritize the implementation and integration of innovative sales and marketing best practices/processes.
  2. Try to deploy them while your company is in either the Even Keel or Trouble modes.


HOW can you integrate the new practices/processes in your company’s people, processes and presence (culture)?

The first thing you want to do is get your new initiative blessed from the top. Start with your president and work down. You want complete buy-in from those approving and allocating the funds for the work as well as those who will eventually select and approve the practices/processes that will be implemented.

Second, you need one or more internal sponsors or champions. Often this is one or both of your VP’s or Directors of Marketing and Sales. In small companies, sometimes the President serves in both these capacities.  Another important role is the project lead you select as the point person for your initiative. He/she will also be the person(s) ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the project. They also should have the commitment and passion to persevere from project start to project finish.

Third, you need to relate the vision for the project to the entire company, not just the sales and marketing people. What changes in the sales and marketing departments will affect the entire company. And it's how the rest of the company reacts to this change that may determine the overall success or failure of the project. During deployment of the new practices/processes other departments in the company may need to consider making changes in their own processes so things work.  Obviously, if the people in your other departments share the new initiative's vision they're more likely to embrace and cooperate with the changes that are required of them.

Fourth, create a document that describes your current and future desired states. It’s like a blueprint or schematic of your current practices/processes as well as the new ones you want to integrate. We call this documents your Sales and Marketing Process Maps. They are living documents that guide your initiative. They are edited and updated frequently to reflect any new ideas and changes that are made. 

Finally, invest in your people. Provide them the time and training they need to succeed at accepting and integrating the new practices/processes in their departments and individual jobs. When you invest in your people you will see the principle of sowing and reaping fulfilled within your company.

So there you have it. The Why, What, How and When of beginning with your sales and marketing departments when considering an innovation initiative.  Use those departments as places to try new things – practices, processes, methodologies, and technologies. Select your best people to lead the new initiatives and provide them the resources they need to implement them.

One last thought that might help motivate you  - companies that merge or acquire other companies say that a company's established sales and marketing practices/processes are second in importance (to their IP, technology or product/service offering) when they evaluate and put a value on their assets. So an investment in them is not only wise but will add to the equity you have in your company.


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