A lot of people tend to think of sales as being a technical, boring, nose-to-the-grindstone, “business-oriented” type of work. A job where you have to make your calls, crunch the numbers, talk to customers, work through the sales process and try to make quota each quarter. But the truth is, sales within a business can and should be much more “creative” and more of an art form than most people give it credit for. If you want to get ahead as a sales leader or business executive, it’s important to be willing to get creative and embrace outside the box thinking to finding prospects.
Here are a few ideas for how your sales team can get inspired to be more creative in your sales process:
Go directly to the decision makers.
I used to work for a large financial services consulting firm, and the goal for our business development people was always to reach the decision makers at the companies where we wanted to find new clients. Finding the right decision maker at a big company can often be a time-consuming and frustrating process. There are lots of layers of bureaucracy and gatekeepers trying to keep your sales call from getting through to the very busy executives that you want to meet. So what’s a creative way around this problem? Go directly to where the decision makers are in real life.
People from our consulting firm would literally join golf clubs, get invited to social gatherings, attend fundraising galas and go to other places where their key decision makers were likely to be to meet the people they needed to meet. Even with all of our modern technologies for customer relationship management and communicating online and via smartphones, there’s still a lot to be said for building relationships face-to-face. There’s a reason why so much business gets done on golf courses and at networking events and formal receptions -- it’s often the best place for business people to relax a bit and get to know each other outside of the office.
Work around the middleman.
Another example from my own life: my wife and I have recently been looking to buy a house, but we live in a fast-growing area where the housing market is tight. It's a seller’s market and it’s hard to find the right house without getting into a costly bidding war. But I was lucky enough to find a great house -- and I did it without relying on real estate agents. Instead, I found my own lead on the house that we’re about to close on.
I literally went street by street in the areas we were interested in (even though no houses were on the market), and put flyers in people’s mailboxes asking if they would consider selling their house. Eventually, I heard back from a homeowner who was thinking of selling, and that was how I found our new house! Had I not done that, we probably would have gotten into a bidding war and might not have gotten the home that we wanted.
My experience with buying a house goes to show that sometimes you need to be aggressive and use some unconventional tactics to uncover the right opportunities.
Stand out from the crowd.
Have you ever been driving down the street during tax season and see people that dress up like the Statue of Liberty or Uncle Sam, holding signs to advertise tax preparation services? It gets your attention, doesn’t it? Or have you ever been driving home from work when you drive past a pizza place with an employee standing outside with a sign advertising $5 pizzas, hot and ready to go? It sounds tempting, doesn’t it? Who wouldn’t want to come home with a hot pizza after a long day at work?
These types of street advertising are one of the oldest and simplest methods of selling, because they really work! It helps your customers if you can remind them of the value proposition of what you sell, in a way that is relevant to their concerns (“tax help” or “hot pizza!” are particularly compelling, in the moment).
Don’t be afraid to stand out from the competition. And being creative and having a bold appearance can help in the B2B sales space too, not just in selling pizza to consumers. For example this article about San Francisco entrepreneur Joe Garvey said that he gets 20 percent of his business revenue from meeting people on the street and networking while wearing crazy-looking, colorful, memorable pants!
One of the biggest challenges for companies doing lead generation is coming up with a compelling reason for why people should do business with you instead of a competitor. Don’t be afraid to find memorable ways of making an impression and sticking in the minds of your customers. The work of a sales person doesn’t have to be stodgy and bland -- be bold, colorful and creative!