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When to Be Creative in Sales and When Not to Be

Anthony Iannarino
Post by Anthony Iannarino
November 22, 2010

Sometimes you want to be creative in sales, and you are right to be. But other times, you aren’t applying your creativity to the right problems. Instead you are using it as an excuse to avoid what is difficult.

You need to know when and where to be creative, and when not to be.

No Creativity: Iron Laws of Sales

You are not an astronaut. You cannot violate the universe’s natural laws and defy gravity for long periods of time without paying the price.

Sales has iron laws that are every bit as impossible to violate as is gravity. It’s true you might be able to break free for a short period of time, but then gravity slams your atrophied body right back down into it’s harsh reality.

While there is much creativity that you can bring to the process of prospecting, it isn’t being creative to avoid the tried and true prospecting methods that are still supremely effective. Your sales 2.0 campaign may be very creative, but not applying the old-fashioned sales 1.0 effort required to succeed in prospecting isn’t being creative; it’s being lazy by trying to beat the iron laws.

Another iron law is that you must nurture the relationships that you need before you need them—if you are to win your dream client opportunities.

There is no creative shortcut to relationships. Period.

Reserve your creativity for how you go about prospecting and nurturing the relationships that you need. Don’t waste your efforts and energy searching for shortcuts that you believe will allow you to do less prospecting or nurturing.

Your creativity is wasted on trying to avoid the iron laws.

No Creativity: The Natural Sales Process

Sales has a built in natural process. All effective sales processes include this natural process, because not to include it would be to violate more natural laws.

You target your dream clients because to do less would be to waste your time and energy pursuing prospects that are wrong for you and your company.

You qualify because not doing so would mean pursuing prospects that don’t need your services, which you can’t help, and who, for one of many reasons, can’t buy.

You diagnose before you present, because to do otherwise would be to guess at what needs to be improved, to miss understanding how it might improved, to lack and understanding of the constraints, and to completely miss your dream client’s vision of the right solution.

You might think that it’s a good idea to be creative and to do your needs analysis at the beginning of your presentation because, after all, the client did ask you for a presentation.

Like the iron laws of sales, applying your creativity to take shortcuts around the natural sales process is pointless. You end wasting time, and you end up losing deals that you might otherwise have won.

I hear you. You want to know, “Where, then, can I use my resourcefulness and my creativity?” I’ll tell you.

Be Creative: Gaps in the Sales Process

Deals stall. Even under the best of circumstances, and even with an excellent sales process, sometimes getting what you need to win and to succeed for your for your dream client is just damned difficult to obtain. Sometimes, the advance that you need to move your opportunity is out of your reach using traditional methods.

And sometimes, the process provides no guidance. Here is where you get to use your creativity.

Maybe to gain a fuller understanding of the ground truth, you need access to the stakeholders two or three levels deep into the organizational chart. Maybe they can’t stop what they are doing to meet with you to answer your questions. So instead, you and your team go to them, spending a day living with them on their job so that you can better understand how to make your solution work. We are still diagnosing before we prescribe, right?

Sometimes circumstances call for something different, something exceptional, and something creative. Just ask yourself this first: “Is this violating some natural law of sales?”

Be Creative: Creating Value

The greatest use of your creativity and your resourcefulness is in the application of your business acumen to your dream client’s problems, challenges, and opportunities.

Your dream clients have challenges that they need your help to overcome. Your solution might work, but for it to work, some things are going to have to change. This means you are going to have to generate new ideas as to how your product or service can be used to help them produce a better result. How can you solve their problem? What could be changed? Who could help you make the modifications to whatever it is you sell and that they need? How would they make it work?

Once you have generated the ideas, you then have to sell those ideas within your dream client’s organization and within your own. The greatest use of your creativity and your resourcefulness is in leveraging all of your resources to move the obstacles and roadblocks to generating results for your dream clients and your company.

Creativity isn’t an excuse for trying to avoid or violate the natural laws of sales. Creativity is what is used in conjunction with a solid commitment to following the natural laws of sales to do something valuable for your dream client, your company, and yourself.


    1. You may find all kinds of ways to creatively avoid the hard work of selling, but is avoiding the challenging tasks of sales really exercising your creativity and resourcefulness? Does your creativity manifest itself in your attempts to avoid the iron laws of sales?

    1. Is your avoidance of the sales process, especially the natural sales process, really based on your thoughtful, well-founded, and well-researched principles of sales and sales effectiveness? Is your creative approach to the sales process really going to revolutionize the profession by eliminating the need to prospect, to target the right clients, to qualify, to do a real discovery, to present well, to solve your clients problems, or to be a value creator?
      Is it more likely that the process is effective because it is difficult and because it adheres to the natural laws of the sales process?

    1. Your creativity is needed to move stalled deals through the gaps that exist in the sales process when coming in contact with real dream clients causes friction. How much time do you spend generating creative ways to ask for and to obtain the advances that move your opportunities forward when they hit a roadblock and when the sales process provides no guidance?

    1. How do you leverage your creativity and resourcefulness to create value for your dream clients? What do you to find a way when it looks like none exists? How do you gather the ideas and sell the solutions within your dream client’s organization and within your own?

For more on increasing your sales effectiveness, subscribe to the RSS Feed for The Sales Blog and my Email Newsletter. Follow me on Twitter, connect to me on LinkedIn, or friend me on Facebook. If I can help you or your sales organization, check out my coaching and consulting firm, B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, email me, or call me at (614) 212-4729.

Read my interview with Tom Peters (Part One and Part Two).

Read my Blogs.com featured guest post on the Top Ten Sales blogs.

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Sales 2010
Post by Anthony Iannarino on November 22, 2010

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. He is the author of four books on the modern sales approach, one book on sales leadership, and his latest book called The Negativity Fast releases on 10.31.23. Anthony posts daily content here at TheSalesBlog.com.
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