Does Creativity Belong in Sales?

I love to draw.

When I was a kid I drew all the time and I drew everything I saw. I took all the art classes I could, starting with Saturday morning instruction from a television cartoonist and later progressing to regular classes at a local art museum, sitting among students who were two to three times my age. So, I grew up, graduated from the University of the Arts, and entered a professional world of New York design at a top branding agency.

During my work, I crossed over the creative line and learned about how design integrates with marketing and sales to help companies grow. Fascinated with the intersection of business and design, and inspired by my Wall Street stockbroker roommates who had decided to enroll in business school after a few years in the work world, I wanted to learn more. Instead of furthering my design education through an MFA, I too went to business school to get an MBA. My artsy friends thought I was nuts. My Wall Street friends agreed. At the time, the business schools accepted a few of what they called “dance students” into their rigorous programs, but luckily I was accepted.

After earning my MBA, I played down my design background. But over the years, working with leading sales organizations around the world, I noticed an interesting pattern: sales demands creativity and innovation. I realized – even in the analytical world of sales forecasts and quotas – I relied on the lessons I had learned in art school to push my thinking and come up with better answers. 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.

Do you believe creativity has a place in sales? I’d love to hear your comments.


Mark Donnolo is the managing partner of SalesGlobe and author of The Innovative Sale, available in bookstores in January. To learn more, visit SalesGlobe.