Is There A Project Purple On Your Selling Benches

Apple’s imminent latest iphone update (’12’), brings to mind the storied history of the device. Remember the ‘iphone ten’ launch facial unlock demo FAIL? Or recall more the audience gasps at the smartphone era emergence?

Their Project Purple was famously the name of their designers’ efforts to create the first released form of the iPhone.

Even when I was at b-school, my lecturers constantly bemoaned how lowly R&D was regarded. When to a boffin they all considered it to be a huge contributor to whether a company grows long-term.

Indeed, each dawn seems to spawn analysis stating that firms who spend (elsewhere) without restraint underperform. When questioning Amazon’s plans for their Bond Villain Lair, aka HQ2, the Wall Street Journal listed such culprits as “diversification into new industries, changes of business model, massive hiring programs, unfettered CEO power, distracted management, and high capital spending”.

Yet put money into R&D and you will earn success commensurate with that investment.

Which can – and usually is – considerable. Outstripping competing efforts. Bettering the norm.

Is it the short-termism of The Markets, the thinning length of exec tenures or the quickening tech disruption cycles that’s flattening R&D budgets?

In whichever case, it’s been so long since I saw any sales operation conduct any true R&D I struggle to recall a good example.

Part of the problem being, what exactly is Sales R&D?

One thing it perhaps is not alone, is training. Although that vital ‘development’ ingredient also suffers from being neglected too often. Even with firms that sell obligatory maintenance packages along with their products. I’ve seen people insist on the ‘extra ten percent’ on this kind of thing with their customers. Stating that it’s essential to keep the wheels oiled. Yet do they invest said percentage on maintaining their own Sales ‘machinery’? …Never.

Then there’s the issue of if you do some type of Sales prototyping. Which salesperson is going to let that loose on one of their deals? You’ll not find many hands raised for that.

One problem is that you likely have people without a quota for all this kind of thing. But I’m not talking about product tweaks or collateral designs. Sales Ops pros are increasingly diverted to the technology of selling. From being submerged in sales reporting, evolving from spreadsheets back in the day, through SFA to CRM and today’s explosion of apps.

Genuine Sales R&D can take a number of forms.

If you sense a new market niche, then how do you approach it? A global salesteam incentive or a targeted test in a specific locale?

Which of the array of options do you consider?

A/B Testing, Market Testing, Rep Experiment, Soft Launch, Swat Team, Ansoff Box-ing, Team Meeting Ideas?

Apple famously deploy codenames for most upcoming releases.

From a standpoint of secrecy, now a pillar of culture.

Variant codenames of the latest iphone 12 appear to be sadly uninspiring; D52G, D53G, D53P, D54P.

Whatever the internal name – and there should be one – Sales always needs such a project bubbling up in their labs.

Something on ‘the benches’ focused on the MACs of our daily selling (Modifications, Additions, Changes).

Not that you should take note of such people, especially when they pollute wikipedia with their commandments, yet here are two lines adapted for our cause here;

The Path to Developing Successful New [Products Sales Ideas] (via joint research by MIT & McKinseys) points out three key practices that can play critical role in R&D Management: Talk to the customer, Nurture a project culture, Keep it focused.

You got your lab coat on?

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