Coaching is a critical role for sales managers. Despite its importance, however, it is under-practiced in many organizations. In this 100-page report we explore some of the challenges and solutions for effective sales coaching. Speakers include Matthew Doherty, head basketball coach at SMU, former head coach of The University of North Carolina, and a player on the UNC 1982 championship team with Michael Jordan; Stephen Young, former senior vice president of corporate and government markets for Verizon Business; and Renee Robertson, director of talent development for Verizon Business.
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Does Creativity Belong in Sales?
During a brief trip to London several years ago, I had a flash of insight. I was invited to a meeting on sales innovation, and was struck by what I saw in the conference room. It was mostly stuff – bean bag chairs and puzzles and toys – meant to inspire creative thinking.
It wasn’t working.
Instead of the laughter of jubilant executives, people gathered in small groups by the coffee, trying to make room for laptops. They were thoroughly uninspired by the décor, and in fact, it was dragging their productivity down.
So what does creativity in sales look like, if not bean bags and fun puzzles?
The London sales organization had run into a common problem -- the sales innovation dilemma. They knew they needed creative thinking to improve their unique value proposition and to offer customers better solutions. Their markets had become increasingly competitive, their products more commoditized; their buyers understood more about what they were buying than ever before. But they didn’t know how to get creative.
For Tracy Tolbert, executive vice president of global sales at Xerox Services, creativity is an essential part of the business and an essential characteristic of successful reps. “In almost every case, our most successful sellers are the most creative. We occasionally get a salesperson who’s in the right place at the right time, and it’s the perfect storm and they get a big deal, and that’s great. But those who deliver it quarter after quarter, year after year, are the creative thinkers, who put themselves in the client situation and figure out how to make the environment better. And by the way, that’s true for salespeople who are hunters, who are out there trying to find new clients, and it’s also true for our account executives who are managing existing customers. It’s the same kind of thinkers that are successful year after year.”
The consistent delivery of innovative ideas has paid off for Tolbert’s sales organization. For example, the CEO of a current customer came to one of Tolbert’s senior sales executives and told him about a financial problem they had. He essentially asked that executive to create solutions for his company’s budget crisis. “This sales executive just got directions from the CEO to take tens of millions of dollars of cost out of the organization,” says Tolbert. “He came to us and asked, ‘Hey how can you help me do this? Not in reducing the price on the service you already deliver for me, but here’s the rest of my organization. How can you help me take the cost out?’ It’s because we have a great relationship with the CEO and have delivered creative solutions in the past. We wouldn’t even be talking to these guys if we were not delivering service to them perfectly on the other side of the business.
“In response to this challenge, we have to be creative. We have to say, ‘Yes, we can think of new ways to deliver for you.’ I think our customers see us as really, really good creative thinkers around complex solutions. And they believe it because we’ve demonstrated it to them, rather than just talked about innovation.”
For Xerox, number 127 on last year’s Fortune 500 list, creativity belongs in sales.
Watching the group in London, I realized creative thinking for sales organizations isn’t that mysterious. It includes listening, understanding the customer, gaining new insight, getting beyond our standard offer, creating divergent ideas, pushing the customer’s thinking, and coming up with an answer that leads the customer ahead rather than simply meeting a requirement. Without creative thinking, sales is reduced to the role of order takers and replicators of the competition.
Sales creativity is not an elusive quality. It’s not for the few with natural talent – we all have it. It’s not only for sales people working in companies labeled by the business press as innovative. It’s not about eureka moments. Sales creativity follows a clear approach to get results.
Want to read more about Innovation in Sales? Check out our blog here: http://salesglobeforum.wordpress.com/
Mark Donnolo is author of “The Innovative Sale” and “What Your CEO Needs to Know About Sales Compensation”; he is managing partner of SalesGlobe. You can reach him at email@example.com.
Major sales transformation is not an infrequent event among leading businesses, but it’s not easy or a guaranteed success. This 72-page report features two keynote speakers and a panel of experts. Boland T. Jones, founder, chairman and CEO of PGi, describes transformation to stay ahead of both competitors and emerging trends that may yield new threats. Mark Schortman, vice president and general manager of Coca-Cola Enterprises and chairman of the board of Coca-Cola Bottlers’ Sales and Services Company, discusses his approach to continuous transformation and evolving the organization on a frequent basis.