October, 2013

"Outside the box" stories and a sales meeting tip

The story has it that when Albert Einstein was just 12, he was so advanced at math that his teachers would give him tedious exercises to occupy him so they could teach the rest of the class.

"Albert, add up the numbers from one to one hundred, and the rest of you open your books to..." said the teacher. Albert shot up his hand.  Thinking he had a question about the task, the teacher called on him.

"5,050," said Einstein.  Astonished, the teacher asked how he did it so fast. Einstein replied, "I started at both ends.  100 plus 0 equals 100, 99 plus 1 equals 100, and so on until I got to 51 and 49, so 50 times 100 is 5,000, then I had 50 left over."

Would you have thought of this? I didn't think so, but it's a good example (though the story may be apocryphal) of what we commonly call "thinking outside the box."

Then there was the 1930's New Jersey housewife Josephine Dickson, who was always cutting, burning or scraping herself. Her husband Earle hit upon the idea of sticking small squares of sterile gauze onto adhesive tape, then covering it with a layer of crinoline and rolling it up so his wife could cut off and apply a ready-made bandage herself.

Earle worked for Johnson & Johnson, and you guessed it, he had invented the Band-Aid, which now has sales of hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

Which brings us to Steve Jobs, who didn't bother with market research.  When the iPad was introduced nobody could figure out what to do with it.  Smaller than a laptop and bigger than a smart phone, it got responses like, "What do I need this for?" Now the product is flying off the shelves. Said Jobs later on, "People don't know what they want until you show it to them."

Can your sales team think outside the box? Salespeople often struggle to offer an imaginative benefit for why prospects should see or buy from them, so I do an exercise to come up with something dazzling.  But too often I hear the banal, "Big bank products with community bank service."  Not exactly out of the box thinking. (Hint: don't let them say this!)

At your next sales meeting, ask your team to come up with a strong personal, resonating benefit for why a prospect should do business with them, with the focus on their experience, skill or expertise. No clich�s! Coach, correct and have them redo it until they have one that stands out.

I'll discuss more ideas on this topic in my blog post on Friday. See the link on this page.


Think Like Your Customer!




Gregory LaMothe

Gregory LaMothe

ActionSystems, Principal