There are two kinds of salespeople, order processors and idea sellers. The first one serves a certain function in any business, but it’s the second one that will make the business boom.
Who are idea sellers? Salespeople who size up a prospect’s business and take them a proposal for a product or service to meet their needs. They plant the idea for the solution to a need in the prospect’s mind even though the prospect may never have acknowledged that need to start with. By doing so, the idea seller creates demand for his or her products.
Here’s an example: Let’s say the prospect is an insurance agency and you, the idea seller, have a small business making gift baskets—those elaborate assortments of gourmet foods, trinkets, and colorful goodies that solve a lot of gift-giving problems. As a real idea seller, you will take a look at the insurance agency and think up ways they could use gift baskets to sell more insurance. They could buy a basket every week to award the agency’s top producer, for example, or send a basket to every new client as a way to say thanks. Maybe they could reward clients who go three years without a claim or send a gift basket to prospective customers as a door opener. In other words, there are lots and lots of ways the insurance agency could use gift baskets.
But if no one suggests it, the insurance agency probably would never think of it themselves. That’s where the idea seller steps in. You pitch one of these ways the agency could use the product and gives them a specific proposal (how many—of what—at what cost) on which to act. That’s idea selling in a nutshell. It’s very creative.
Gift basket makers are generally very creative people, so they should be very good at this. The key is to put some of the same wonderful creativity that goes into designing baskets into ways that your prospective customers can use them. I’m sure you noticed that the “ideas” mentioned for the insurance agency aren’t different types of gift baskets—they’re different applications for the gift basket product. It’s conceivable, in fact, that the same gift basket design could be used in all four—or more—ways mentioned above. The creative part of the sales process is in finding new uses for the product.
Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.