I have writer’s block, and I’ve had it for a few months now. I spend at least an hour a day staring at the keyboard, waiting for words to flow. Instead, they’re stuck behind a stress-induced wall in my brain and they can’t make their way onto the page. It usually takes a while, but I eventually come up with enough words to string together to make a coherent though. Caffeine helps this process.
For most people, feeling creatively barren isn’t a big deal in their job. Even I have to admit that while this debilitating condition has affected my blogging, for the most part I’m able to continue on with my 9-5 life as per normal. But then again, my job also tends to be about data and numbers and it doesn’t require a lot of imagination or artistry. If I was in a sales position, I’d have a much bigger problem.
Most people don’t pair creativity with salesmanship, but the two really do go hand-in-hand. Being a salesperson is more than selling a product. You have to be better, smarter, and faster about selling that product than the guy in the store next door that is selling the same product. What is going to make me pick your pitch over his? It’s not because of your tie or because I like your smile. It’s because you’ve said or done something to draw my attention to you. You’ve made yourself stand out in such a way that I can see you and nothing else.
For a lot of salespeople, creativity can be a problem. They didn’t sign up for their jobs because they had great ideas and needed an outlet for them. Most salespeople are involved in an industry that they have some sort of knowledge in and therefore they can speak intelligently about a product. And don’t misunderstand – that is a very valuable tool. But unless your company is the only one on the planet that sells that product, chances are high that you’re going to have some competition in the marketplace. Knowledge of the product won’t be enough to sell it – you’re going to have to come up with an unique approach to the sale.
So if you’re not a naturally creative person, what can you do to spark that side of your brain into waking up? There are tons of great suggestions to be found online for getting you and your sales force into an inspired state of mind. Beyond that, though, you need to have the creative mentality in place in your organization. Encourage your sales reps get together to brainstorm and communicate and think outside-the-box. The one of the biggest mistakes that most companies make is that they pit their sales reps against each other in a competition to see who can get the most sales/commission. And that will usually work….to a point. If you want to build a long-lasting relationship with a customer, the foundation needs to be stronger than a load of nonsense that was served up out of desperation because your sales agent had a power bill coming due. It needs to be about being memorable. I have to see something in you and your product that makes me keep coming back. I’ve got my own power bill to pay, so scamming me and making me regret the transaction probably isn’t going to accomplish much over the long run. But if you can put some thought and imagination and resourcefulness into an approach that is going to make me want to come back to you over and over again, then everyone will benefit from that burst of originality.
Do you see a need for creativity in sales? As a salesperson, what creative methods do you use?
I recently had what I considered to be a great idea. It was something that would help both me and my department and it was, in my opinion, the next best thing to sliced bread. I shared my brilliance with some of my co-workers and everyone agreed that I was on the right track, that what I was looking for not only could be accomplished but that it could be considered a benefit to our clients. I modestly pat myself on the back, and then tried to find someone with more experience in these matters to help me.
After a month nothing happened and no one could find time to help me. I assumed that my proposal was dead in the water.
It’s not that my idea wasn’t a good suggestion, and it’s not that no one else thought it was a good plan. But when your employees are constantly trying to help clients and improve current products and bring in new clients and put out today’s fires, who has time to think about tomorrow or the next day? It’s great to be creative and try to bring something innovative into the fold, but unless that new product is a time machine that lets you get more done in the course of a day, there’s a big chance that your next big thing is never going to leave the drawing board.
Innovation is what drives the economy. Without someone creating and implementing an idea for a product, businesses would never develop. Some of the most creative people that you will ever meet are highly successful entrepreneurs, because they can see something that the rest of the general public can’t and they can see how to make that idea happen. The problem is that this surge of inspiration can be hard to maintain over the long term, especially once your business starts to grow. Many business owners and managers are struggling to keep their operations above water, fighting recessions and downturns in economy and competition and market saturation. Bringing something new into play usually is not an option. But innovation is what can keep a business afloat even if it seems like too much time/effort/money at the start. The right idea at the right time can mean a whole new avenue of options for your business, including an increased market share, new clients, and new branding. Of course, all of these things usually result in more revenue, as well.
The best ideas and inspiration will come from two places: your employees and your clients. Who knows your product better than the people that you’ve hired to create it, and the people who pay you to use it? Keep the lines of communication open, both internally and externally. No idea is too small or insignificant to be looked at. Encourage your staff to work together and brainstorm and help each other come up with solutions to problems, rather than just managing the day’s to-do list and moving on. Not every suggestion is going to result in a reasonable product, but you’ll never know that if you don’t take the time to examine the risk/reward factors and determine the idea’s true potential.
If your organization doesn’t currently have something in place that allows employees to communicate ideas to their managers, you can always suggest that it should be. I’m fortunate enough to work at a place that is encouraging this type of openness (which is how I found out that my idea isn’t dead but rather it’s being considered and talked about), but not everyone has that creative channel available to them. Maybe that can be your first great innovation. You should never be afraid to talk to the people in charge and let them know that you have an idea that could make the company better.