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.”
Innovation has to be a priority for the organization, says Tolbert, and not just the initiative-of-the-day. “You have to be relentless. You can’t just write about it in some newsletter one month saying, ‘Okay, well, make sure everybody’s got it.’ They have to get sick of hearing it from you, because then it becomes part of what they’re naturally thinking. You have to push, push, push and constantly expose your organization to creativity and the demand for innovation, or they just won’t pay attention.”
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.
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