Capitalise on Innovation

Capitalise on Innovation

Is the UK “…where inventions are born, but not bred for long-term success”?

This was the contention of the then chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, in his 2011 James MacTaggart Memorial lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival.

He went on to say “The UK does a great job of backing small firms and cottage industries, but there’s little point getting a thousand seeds to sprout if they are then left to wither or transplanted overseas. UK businesses need championing to help them grow into global powerhouses, without having to sell out to foreign-owned companies.”

I’m not sure I agree fully with his reading on the backing available for small firms but he is spot on with the other points. This is a country that punches way above its weight for inventiveness but is, in general, not as good at turning ideas into money. (Put your notable exceptions in the Comments section. I’ll start you off with Dyson. A great, innovative company that knows how to market it’s products well.)

It has been said that

Nothing happens until somebody sells something.

Whilst this is a slightly one-sided view, there is a grain of truth in it. However, it’s the repeated ‘selling of something’ that can be the issue after the initial flush of success. You know, when the novelty value has worn off or that pesky competitor has appeared.

But why should we expect inventors to be good at sales and marketing? Their strength lies in their ability to turn their ideas into something real and tangible, not necessarily in creating companies with sustained growth.

How do you jump the gap from great idea to great-selling product?

That’s why I created Arrosam. I had spent the previous 25+ years working for a number of companies selling a variety of technical products and services into a wide range of customers around the world.

Whilst a couple of these companies did well, most of them just did ‘OK’ and could have done a better job of selling their products. (Mea culpa. “If you’re not part of the solution, you must be part of the problem” and all that. Experience is gained from failing, as well as from winning.)

Why was this?

Across most of the companies I’ve worked for, the individual sales people were left to their own devices in terms of how to win business.

“But that’s their job” I hear you say. True but let’s look at it from a different angle. Pick your favourite sports star or team. It’s their job to excel at what they do – to win the League, the Cup, the gold medal. Do they do that on their own?

Of course not!

  1. Training. When they are not actually competing, they will undergo continual training to maintain and improve fitness and skills. As I wrote in Sales Lessons from the Operating Theatre, I’ve probably spent a total of about 14 days on external sales training courses and probably less than that on internal sales training. Not exactly continual!

  2. Coaching. Elite performers don’t work it out for themselves. They have specialist coaches monitoring and analysing their performance and looking at ways to improve it. Coaching is NOT telling someone they are not doing well enough and need to buck up their ideas! (Yes, before you ask.)

  3. Strategy (and tactics). Very few individuals and teams aim to win everything all of the time. Don’t believe me? Look at those football and rugby teams competing in two or three Cup competitions as well as their respective leagues. Most of them will focus on winning one or two of the overall competitions at the expense of the others.

  4. Process. Improvement and success don’t often come from random events. They come from a deep understanding of what success looks like and the creation of a series of formal steps to get there. Do you allow your production staff to assemble your products in any way they see fit? Why then do you allow your salespeople to sell those products in any way they see fit?

Just as I don’t expect inventors to be great at everything that isn’t innovating, I also don’t expect sales and marketing directors and managers to be great at every single aspect of their jobs. I know I’m not!

None of us is as smart as all of us.

We all have our strengths and weaknesses and part of what I’m trying to achieve with Arrosam is to combine my strengths with those of the inventors, innovators and directors/managers so that the UK becomes a country where inventions are born and bred for long term success.

If you’re happy being just OK, that’s fine; it’s your choice.

If you’re not happy and you feel that the combination of our strengths would help, then contact me for an initial chat. What have you got to lose?

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Note: This blog post was substantially rewritten on 19th April 2016 to give a greater emphasis on the ‘why’ behind Arrosam.

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