Reign of the brain

October 1, 1997

Pharmaceutical Representative

The first in a series of three articles on creativity in selling.

This is the first in a series of three articles on creativity in selling. Next month's article will cover use of technology in selling and the final article will feature examples of sales creativity in action.

What form of selling can you never master, regardless of how talented you are or how hard you strive? And what type of selling will likely revolutionize the future? It's "brain selling" - using creative ideas to solve problems and snatch the most elusive sales opportunities.

That's because there is no limit or boundary to the staggering number of small or epic-sized ideas you can hatch if you unlock your imagination's trap door and tap into the rich vein of cerebral gold inside.

Genesis Training Solutions, The Woodlands, TX, recently completed a landmark study of creativity in selling to take the mystery out of this unexplored topic. The findings, intended to help sales people advance to the next step in selling, are based upon responses to a 48-question survey of 496 salespeople and managers from 29 organizations in nine industries.

Key findings

Ninety-two percent of survey respondents were convinced that creativity will be vital to sales success in the 21st century. More than 50% strongly agreed, scoring it the highest among all survey responses.

Almost 95% of respondents said they use creativity to sell either most or some of the time. That same percentage said they wanted to be even more creative on the job. Only 5% of the survey population said they were using their full creative power at work.

When creativity was used, it was best applied, in order of priority, to: giving sales presentations, developing competitive sales strategies and closing sales. Least useful was territory management.

The most important payback from exercising one's imagination, according to 50% of respondents, was increased sales productivity and effectiveness. The next best payback, 18% said, was that being creative made their jobs more enjoyable and fun.

Salespeople don't accept being "idea-challenged." Nine of 10 respondents believe that most people will be more creative if they learn proven ways to "unlock their innate creativity."

There are five main reasons why salespeople limit their creativity in selling, the study revealed. They are: lack of spare time to brainstorm new ideas; the psychological pain of making mistakes; uncertainty of how to develop and apply creative ideas throughout the sales process; restrictions against being creative (they must adhere to a sanctioned sales model); and the perception that only management does "creative thinking."

More than 70% of respondents claimed they were moderate risk-takers, while 16% described themselves as high risk-takers who aim to achieve spectacular gains, if not dismal failures.

Creative needs

Genesis Training Solutions's research confirmed that salespeople want managers to empower them to use more of their creative ability.

Specifically, salespeople want managers to schedule more frequent brainstorming sessions for their sales groups. They'd like their organizations to be more positive toward change. Half of respondents said they want ideas implemented faster, and 70% said they desired more or better employee activities or social events to build teamwork and morale in their group.

Nine of ten respondents said that a more relaxed, "fun" atmosphere at work was necessary for a more creative and productive climate. And finally, salespeople said they wanted to understand their sales organizations' visions, missions and goals so they could better target their creativity to help reach them.

'Push and pull' effects

In the future, creativity in selling will be especially important for two reasons. The first reason is the "push" effect of a staggering onslaught of competition. Sales organizations need to transform themselves into novel - even exotic - idea-churning factories to quantum leap ahead of a hungry, racing pack.

The other reason is the "pull" effect of digital technology. Advances in color printers, scanners, image-manipulation software, multimedia, digital cameras and the Internet give sales organizations the power to customize and be creative. Traditional models of persuasion will change as striking and realistic visual images and sounds add interest, believability, and even entertainment to sales messages that hold customers spellbound.

Reign of the brain

The research findings suggest the heralding of an exciting new sales age - the "reign of the brain." While comprehensive product knowledge and sales techniques will always be vital tools, creative ideas will take on supreme importance. General Douglas MacArthur said, "There's no security on this earth, just opportunity." With the firepower of imaginative ideas, salespeople can confidently create their own impressive sales opportunities while others - whose trains of thought never leave the station - worry about their security in a kaleidoscopically changing world. PR

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