There’s a temptation to think that innovation is only to be found in technological advances, especially if you work in a high-tech sector. Yet as British cybersecurity firm Darktrace discovered, the most effective innovations can be as simple as adopting a sales strategy that challenges industry norms.
Poppy Gustafsson, who spun the business out of the Cambridge University Maths Department in 2013 and led it as co-CEO to a $1.65bn valuation, explains further:
"Darktrace was still in its first year and a bunch of us were kicking around ideas about how we could grow the business. We had a presence in the UK, we’d just started selling to the States, but we hadn’t touched Asia and we wanted to expand faster.
"One of our bright young grads asked ‘Why are we offering clients a free three-month demo?’ and instead suggested offering a shorter one.
"We hadn’t even considered that before; three-month demos were the custom in the software industry so we’d just gone along with it. That’s what all our competitors were offering - but their software was much more cumbersome, complicated and difficult to install. So instead of following the incumbents, we made a decision then and there to cut our product demos from three months to three weeks.
"It was a brilliant time-saver, it gave us an edge and it gave us a much quicker route to market. Within six months, we’d expanded into Asia. Now we’re in 150 countries, we have over 800 employees and we’ve swapped the third-floor office for the penthouse in Cambridge’s new Maurice Wilkes Building.
"I didn’t realise it at the time but that one decision - that one comment from a colleague with zero experience - changed our trajectory. You need to surround yourself with people who bring different perspectives, challenge preconceptions and are prepared to say ‘Well, that’s just silly’."
FOR MORE INFORMATION
To find out how white goods giant Miele was also able to bring innovation to its sales process, click here. Read this piece to understand why the best leaders accept they don’t have all the answers. Poppy Gustafsson was also nominated as one of Management Today’s 35 Women Under 35 2018.
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