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Ideas Are A Dime A Dozen

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Everybody’s got one. In fact, ideas are not only cheap and plentiful, but their overuse often obscures the work we should really be doing—gaining an understanding of what the prospect is trying to get accomplished. I see so many salespeople (and sales managers) default to premature ideas that end up nowhere.

The temptation is to vomit an idea the minute we see or hear a possible need in the customer’s business. Bad practice. Ask a few more questions and dig a little deeper about what business results the prospect is looking for, what problems exist for them in the marketplace, what opportunities are out there for their category of business they have yet to realize, or what conditions are specific to their category of business. 

Keep in mind that all your competitors are talking about ideas as well. The prospect has heard it all before. What makes an idea valuable is that it addresses a very specific need in that prospect’s business.

Let me give you an example. A few years ago I was working with a media sales client in Columbus, Ohio and they did a brainstorming session with largest Ford dealer in the state. The owner of the business remarked that because of his location on the SE side of the metropolitan area, he felt he was missing out on premium car sales for the suburbs on the NW side. Someone said, “How about if we give consumers a free gallon of gas for every mile they drive to the dealership if they take a test drive?” The owner loved the idea and it resulted in a $300,000 order, a major victory since they had no business from him to date. News of this breakthrough soon spread throughout the company and scores of sales reps in other cities ran out to their car dealers and pitched that idea. You how many bought it? Yes, you are correct. NO other car dealer bought it because the need was unique to the Columbus dealer, and thus the idea was BIG to him, but small to the others who did not see the same problem. 

Now, I know companies invest a lot of time and money in developing ideas and plans their salespeople can sell, and that can be useful. Just be careful not to fall in love with your pre-packaged ideas at the expense of determining what the prospect’s real needs are. Ideas are everywhere, but a salesperson who understands the needs of the organization and tailors an idea to address them sell powerful ideas. Everyone else? Not so much.

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Topics: Needs Analysis, Sales