In my book Outpacing the Competition, I emphasize the importance of sales within the scope of an IP strategy. By sales, I mean the art of selling: prospecting, qualifying, presenting, overcoming objections, closing, and follow up. This, of course, is how IP ultimately realizes value. Somebody by some means needs to sell something, either the IP itself or a solution derived from that IP.
When I think of where companies leave the most value on the IP table, I have to say it is the capacity of the associated enterprise to sell that IP. Behind every great IP success, you will find a first rate sales function. Sometimes this will be in the form of a traditional face-to-face sales force. Sometimes it will be via other communications mediums – that will have actual people doing the selling.
The IBM direct sales force in the 1960s and 70s was legendary in taking a good enough – not the best – computer suite and making it the industry standard for computers in the free world. Microsoft got to where it is by leveraging the success of that sales force when it became the standard for IBM and then IBM compatible machines. Apple, recognizing that it cannot depend entirely on the Web or the sales forces of distributors, has its own sales people in its own stores – and Sony has recently seen to match. The big pharmaceutical companies all have large sales forces to sell their IP based solutions.
If your IP of merit is not delivering the value that you expect it to deliver, the problem will likely rest in the sales function. A fully integrated IP strategy has to include the sales component, and has to include a strong bridge of communication between those tasked to protect IP and those tasked to realize its value. Sales cannot work miracles; the IP needs to read on something that end users want and need. Sales can ensure that if you build it, people who you would like to come will see the benefit of doing so.
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