Creativity is one of the great strengths of the prototypical sales professional. In fact the only other groups I know that are more adamant about their own amazing creativity are sales managers and sales executives.
In fact, there is little doubt that a surplus of creativity truly is one of the two or three most vital ingredients for success in a sales career. There’s a nasty dark side though…
Ideas are a dime a dozen.
I see it all the time in my role as a sales management consultant. For example, I regularly conduct one-on-one interviews of selected members of a sales team as part of a effort to identify overall sales strengths and weaknesses. One of the questions is always focused on naming 2 or 3 things that “could be done” to significantly increase sales effectiveness. It used to surprise me that I could only nail down three, maybe four ideas for every ten sales pros/managers/execs that I interviewed.
Why such a paltry number of insights from so many creative geniuses? Well, it’s not that I didn’t get several (strongly held) opinions from each individual. It’s that I got basically the same several opinions from darn near everybody!
The first obvious conclusion drawn from these facts is that significant agreement exists across the sales team and top to bottom in the hierarchy. Great! But that begs the real question. Why? Why, if there is general agreement on what should be done, are those things not already done?
The answer is embarrassingly simple. We – loquacious devils that we all are – get stuck in the “Talking About It” phase. We just don’t seem to get to the “Doing It” phase. Reps expect the sales managers to do it. Managers expect the reps and the regional sales directors to do it. Directors expect the managers and VP Sales to do it. The VP Sales expects the regional directors to work with the directors, managers and reps to make it happen. Lovely…
The CEO of one of my clients actually figured out how to solve this problem. The second time he hears an idea from someone – anyone, he asks the following question: “When will you get this implemented?” The third time he hears the same idea from the same person, he does his angry stare. Nobody seems to know what he does the forth time…
Here’s my simpler, kinder, gentler tip: Constantly ask the question, “Are you in the talking about it phase or the doing it phase?”
Get past the talking about it phase and into the doing it phase!