Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Brainstorm Sales Ideas To Energize Your Performance

To come up with new ideas, try continual brainstorming. You’ve probably been in brainstorming meetings with your management and other salespeople. The creative selling brainstorming techniques are the same ones you’d use in a group meeting but you use them on an individual level. It’s great to participate in group sessions, but you can’t rely on them alone to generate the large number of ideas you’ll need as a creative seller.

The first step is to choose a prospect need from your research into them. Write it down and, on the page below it, make a list of possible ways your company’s products or services could help the prospect reach that goal. And follow these ground rules of successful brainstorming as you’re writing down those ideas.

1. There’s no such thing as a bad idea. Write it down even if it’s impossible. Especially write it down if anyone in the room says “We’ve never done that before.” Reserve judgment until later.

2. See how outrageous you can be. Free-associate and put it down on paper. The wilder the idea, the better. Crazy ideas spark more ideas—mundane ones are dead ends.

3. Fill the page—then start another one. Quantity is your goal because the more ideas you list, the better the odds of finding a good one.

4. Don’t stop when you come to the “right” idea. There could well be a better one waiting to come out.

You don’t have to have a group of people to brainstorm, either. You can do it by yourself if you just open your mind and let it create.

Step two is to review the ideas and combine or extend them, creating new ideas through the interplay of the elements of other ideas. Again, don’t be judgmental. It’s not yet time to throw out bad ideas. This combining and extending process should add ideas to your list of possibilities, not remove them. As you’re doing it, you’ll probably come up with some entirely new ideas, too.

There are several ways to stimulate your brainstorm production. Look internally to see if there are any company-generated solutions that could possibly apply. Many companies package their products or create bundles of services that are designed to meet the needs of certain categories of customers. You certainly don’t want to ignore those. The only caution is to be sure the pre-packaged offering exactly fits your prospect’s particular goal. You may need to “tweak” the package to make it work.

Another source is free association with non-related concepts. This is a fancy term for stealing the germ of an idea from someplace else. One of my associates who is in the marketing business will often monitor television commercials or thumb through magazine ads to see if there’s a slogan or concept he can “borrow” to serve as the springboard for his own idea. He’ll take a character like Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger, for example, and see if he can create a version of it for his client. Maybe an animated cat named Karla the Kitten who purrs “You’rrre grrrand” when it’s owner feeds it Brand X. Or he’ll lay out a slogan like “You’re in good hands with Allstate” and plug in his client’s name and products to see if they fit. He may come up with, “You’re in good form with Diet Rite.” He’s not exactly stealing the other person’s idea, just using it to spark his own.

Another place to start this process is to examine past sales to like customers. Don’t look at the dollars and cents or the unit volume. Look deeper and see if you can determine or surmise why the customer made that purchase. Talk to the salespeople who made the sale and pick their brains about the circumstances and events that led to it. The veterans in the sales department (and the managers, too) are usually full of stories about their many battles and victories. Next time you’re subjected to a war story, see if you can detect the idea that sparked the battle instead of politely nodding through it. Sometimes a polite “Why?” will prompt the story teller to reveal it you.

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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