The first section of my book is titled “Think Different” (from the Apple motto & commercial), and the techniques in this section are designed to challenge and change the status quo. It’s the concept of “thinking outside of the box” on steroids, and directs salespeople to approach every day with a spirit of questioning and innovation.
“Shred the Box” references two examples that to me embody innovation: the square watermelon that Japanese growers were able to produce to satisfy the needs of both grocers and consumers, and physicist Richard Feynman, who was able to make the most of his abilities and solve problems by reframing the questions they asked. It can be tough to identify examples of innovation in Sales, and although this is not surprising, it’s a reality that needs to change.
Sales offers more opportunities to “think different” than you may think: the lead-gen process, prospecting, messaging and communications, developing and delivering the pitch, proposals, negotiation, and the closing process all come to mind. Sales has an opportunity to be at the forefront of novel thinking in every organization rather than trailing R&D, marketing, and other traditional bastions of creativity. Here are five techniques that I recommend for salespeople who want to break the mold and lead the innovation charge:
Failing Forward – Thomas Edison said about his inability to create a working light bulb, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Failure is a natural process that occurs whether you’re following the rules or trying something new. Knowing this, your goal should be to experiment, learn from your experience and make adjustments. Every failure brings you one step closer to success, so don’t be afraid to fail.
Collaboration – My sales team employed a tactic called “Speed Dating” in our quarterly meetings in which each salesperson prepared a poster detailing one of their challenging deals. The attendees would move from one display to the next and have 5 minutes to brainstorm novel ideas and approaches to help the salesperson. At the end of this exercise, the salesperson might have 4 o 5 terrific ideas to bring back to the client. Don’t take the entire burden on yourself, but actively seek out and solicit ideas from your peers to enrich this potential.
Ask Better Questions – One of my CEOs was fond of saying that finding answers was really not that hard; the real challenge was asking the right questions. Discovery should not be a one-time event, but a journey, and the more you know about a client’s business, the more creative you can be when proposing solutions. Shifting from a transactional mindset to that of a thought leader is one of the most profound changes that can occur in your sales career, and top performers always challenge themselves and their customers to think bigger. When you know your client, their market, and the unique challenges facing their business, you can be more strategic in your approach and hit the types of home runs that make your year.
Experimentation – Study after study of entrepreneurs have determined that these people aren’t wild risk-takers who throw caution to the wind, but deliberate innovators who assemble data and make calculated decisions. Fail fast, fail smart is a corporate mantra that captures this sentiment, and you should always be experimenting with every aspect of your sales process. If it works, keep doing it. If it fails, learn from it and move on, but don’t every lose that forward motion because this is how greatness is achieved.
The Power of Observation – Salespeople are on the front line of business every day, and have a front-row seat to the challenges and machinations of companies in our respective industries. This gives us unique perspective on what it takes to succeed, assuming that we are actually paying attention and taking the time to observe. Notice clues, develop hunches, test and experiment, and draw conclusions that you can act on. This constant cycle will reveal new ideas and concepts that keep us at the forefront of our business and one step ahead of the competition. Good luck and good selling!
Shred the Box is Technique #2 in my book “The 40 Best Sales Techniques Ever: Conquer the Leaderboard, Crash President’s Club, and Make More Money.” Perks members receive a 10% discount.