How to Spark Your Sales Creativity
The prospect is not returning my calls. It’s impossible to connect with the decision-maker. The gatekeeper keeps dropping my calls into voicemail. I’m going to miss my numbers. Maybe I don’t belong in sales. These are thoughts we’ve all had during a sales rough patch. When sales are slow, it’s not an excuse to get down on ourselves. It’s an opportunity to get creative and turn things around. In this article, we’ll discuss why creativity is a superpower in sales and how the unimaginative can ignite their inner Walt Disney.
If you have been in sales long enough, you know there are times when it seems like dark clouds are following you every day. Things that worked appear to have suddenly stopped. Sometimes, working harder is the last thing we should do. Make more calls, send more emails…prospect…prospect…and more prospecting. Instead, a sales slowdown is the perfect time to re-evaluate the opportunity and ask yourself, “What could I be doing differently?” This simple question gives you the right to explore what can lead to innovations and ah-ha moments.
Sales Creativity Needs to Be Cultivated
The right hemisphere of our brains controls critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Why does this matter, you ask? Because if you are sitting at the same desk, making the same calls, saying the same thing, the right side of your brain is in hibernation. Now is the time to rouse it from its sleep and tap into the vast, untapped potential of your sales creativity. Procrastination can be paralyzing, but action will activate brain chemicals and unshackle you from stagnation and propel you to progress.
I don’t know about other salespeople, but if I sit down and tell myself, “It’s time to get creative,” I start out with a variety of simple activities, which include:
- YouTube videos
- Writing or journaling
- Listening to an audio book
- Reading industry journals
- Reading customer reviews
- Going through the transcripts of quarterly earning reports
On YouTube, I may watch a comedian with the purpose of borrowing a joke to use as an ice-breaker with a gatekeeper or a prospect. My go-to comedians are George Carlin and Dave Chappelle. I listen with a notepad and write down keywords and phrases that I could re-write for sales. As a thought experiment, you can ask yourself, “How would Dave Chappelle handle my job?”
Another source are Ted Talks, like Kirby Ferguson’s Embrace the Remix. I find interesting topics and not only listen but study the speaker’s presentation style. Pay close attention to the speakers opening and closing remarks. If you do this, you will find new ways to capture your prospect’s attention early and are able to close a memorable presentation. Creativity is about breaking old thought patterns, extracting ideas from a variety of sources, and then combining the ideas.
The goal is to gain a new perspective. Have you heard the story of the three blind men at the circus? Each is allowed to touch an elephant but on three different parts. One is allowed to hold the trunk and say it feels like a snake. The second is allowed to feel a leg and say it’s thick and tall like a tree. The last person touches the elephant’s side and says it feels like a wall. Same elephant, different perspective. Changing perception is the start of sales creativity.
Turn Insights to Opportunities
Whatever resource you choose, the purpose is not to study or copy their content. The purpose is to develop insights, gain inspiration, and add new perspectives. For example, reading customer reviews of competitors will add new perspective, which can be leveraged for a cold email. Let’s say you discover customer reviews that consistently mention a specific issue. This is the perfect type of industry-specific knowledge to create a cold email that generates a reply. Example:
Subject: First Name, is (issue you discovered) a headache at end-of-the-month?
First Name, are you using (Type of software)? [Don’t mention the competitors Brand Name] Banking organizations that I work with are saying they’ve struggled with this same issue. Are you seeing the same thing on your end? We work with Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo, and I was curious if you would be open to a call where I share what insights I learned working with them?
Actions Sparks Creativity
In sales, when those dark clouds roll, it feels like we spent the entire week spinning our wheels. Once the weekend arrives, we just want to forget about work. When the alarm rings Monday morning, nothing has changed, and we are questioning our career choice. Now, imagine how you would feel if you invested a few hours over the weekend, gained a few insights, and your notebook was full of new ideas. A funny thing will happen when you discover a few gold nuggets. You will be looking forward to Monday morning. It’s the difference between the feeling of hoping a school quiz isn’t too hard, compared to knowing that you’ll ace the test. The actions that foster creativity also pump new enthusiasm into you.
Confidence is Contagious
Because you took action, fed your brain thought-provoking information, and applied it to your sales career, the black clouds will disappear and you will level up. Now, when you talk to clients, you have a funny one-liner and share on-point industry news. Your prospects will actually sense your confidence and energy. The company you work for is still the same. Your prospects are still the same. The only thing that changed was that you activated your creative side, changed your perspective, and likely learned something about yourself.
The ideal situation is that the extra effort did not feel like work at all. When you apply yourself to become an industry subject matter expert, it feels like a calling, not work. You recognize that you are not losing hours from your weekend you could have spent doing something else. Rather, know you are investing in yourself, your company, and your industry. And, like any wise investment, it will compound continually over time. When I hear salespeople define what they do with terms like, job, work, or grind, I know the spark has not been ignited. Becoming an industry expert is more than an occupation. It’s a calling, profession, and career.
Time to Call CEOs
As your commitment, confidence, and knowledge grows, so will your desire to communicate with larger companies and senior executives. If you want to sell to a CEO, it helps to talk like a CEO. A great way to talk like a CEO in your industry is by reading Quarterly Earning Call Reports. For example, Salesforce recently released the Q1 report for 2022. Marc Benioff, their CEO, was on the call. Here are a few nuggets:
- New Hire for Strategic Planning (Provided name, important if you want to partner)
- Mentioned many client wins, such as Bose & Goodyear
- Sales strategy shifted due to inflation, now focused on selling cost savings
- Focus helping clients with digital transformation, not just selling CRM software
- Top verticals are financial services, healthcare, consumer goods, and manufacturing.
Regardless if your desire is to sell to Salesforce directly, partner with them, sell to their customers, or if they are an actual competitor, the high-level information shared on these calls creates great talking points and insights. After reading a few dozen of these reports, you’ll pick up on the CEO vernacular and word choices, which you can incorporate into your own messaging.
“Why do all this?” you ask, “I just want to sell my products.” Would you rather communicate like a sales rep with a few months of industry experience or communicate like a CEO? Reading the Earning Call reports of competitors and prospects in your industry can be a great resource for inspiration. A benefit of being creative is that you can accelerate your career as fast as you would like. If you don’t want to sound like a first-year sales rep, even if you are, you don’t have to come across like one. You just have to activate your sales creativity.
There are millions of search results on Google for creativity. For sales professionals, the hardest part of being creative is getting out of our own heads. Creativity is not a rare gift reserved only for artists. It’s about gaining new perspectives from new sources. Steve Jobs summed it up best:
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”
Have you heard the phrase, “The solution to pollution is dilution?” When our brain is polluted with negative thoughts, and we need fresh ideas, pour fresh new material into our brains. Find a variety of resources that works for you and write down your thoughts as you go. Give the new material time to synthesize. If you are listening to legendary comedians, analyzing Ted Talks, or researching competitors and prospects, do it like a miner with gold fever. You are not working; you are uncovering nuggets that will enrich yourself, your company, and your clients.
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