Thursday, February 24, 2011

Creative Selling Principles

For many years, I’ve worked closely with, managed, and observed thousands of salespeople—both creative and not—while studying, practicing, and teaching system of creative selling. I discovered that selling creatively unleashes any seller’s idea power—their ability to make more sales and gain personal wealth by selling ideas for solutions, not products. That’s what the system is about.

And it is a system: the repeated application of proven techniques to accomplish a desired end. My system repeatedly applies creative selling to the goal of producing more sales. It is also a framework that enables you to be a more effective, efficient salesperson. When you work within that framework, you apply creative techniques to every step of the selling process from prospecting new accounts to servicing old ones. You use your personal creative talents (and we all have them) to solve problems and create opportunities for your customers to use your products or services—and for you to make more sales.

Now, down to business. There are three principles to creative selling that guide every strategic and tactical decision you make in the Creative Selling System.

The first principle is to focus your efforts on the largest potential prospects. Obvious, isn’t it? If you only sell the biggest accounts, you’ll sell more and work less. But many salespeople gravitate toward smaller accounts. Sometimes they think it’s easier to get a small order than a big one. Or they’re intimidated by a big account and the layers of bureaucracy that often comes along with that territory. There are other reasons for this tendency, but if you have it, lose it! It’s just as easy to ask for “one hundred thousand” as it is to say “a thousand” and the rewards are obviously much greater.

Principle two is that you must know the customer’s business before you can effectively sell them. Sure, you can stumble across some people who need your product if you make enough calls. But you’re not really selling them, are you? You’re just filling the order they were waiting to give you. To accomplish one of the goals of creative selling—changing your prospects’ perception of their needs—you have to know what’s going on in their minds to start with. You have to know enough about their business to identify needs that they didn’t even know they had until you made your presentation.

The third principle is that you must sell ideas instead of product. What do I mean by ideas? They’re solutions. They’re ways for the prospect to use your services. They’re the benefits the prospect gets from using your product instead of the features of the product. Selling ideas instead of selling product means you have to present your product in the context of the prospect’s needs, not just lay out a list of its components.

A participant in my training program once called this system “consultive selling with a bang,” which I thought was a pretty apt description. Just as in consultive selling, you start with a needs analysis (see principle two: know your customer). The difference lies in the way the needs analysis is done—my method is much more accurate—and the application of the creative process to finding solutions for the customer.

The biggest difference, though, is that creative selling enables you to find needs even when the prospect doesn’t know he has them. Then you create solutions to those needs even if your company doesn’t sell a specific product or service that directly applies. It’s close to making something out of nothing—a truly creative process.

Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, hiring, firing, and motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.

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