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Use Your Head

It's not enough just to sell anymore. Now every potential client is looking for a few creative ideas to go with your sales pitch.

Most of us don't associate the word "creative" with "selling." For some, "creative" conjures up images of starving artists dressed in black, "trying to make a statement" with paint and old auto parts. "Creative" people wear berets and read The Village Voice. Salespeople wear ties and read The Wall Street Journal.

At least those are the popular stereotypes. But don't salespeople create things, too-like opportunity? Don't salespeople create demand for products and services? Customer satisfaction? Wealth?

The nature of the sales process is, in fact, creative. A good salesperson creates demand where it doesn't exist. He or she creates a message (the sales pitch) using various media (face calls, telephone calls, written presentations, slide shows) that influence an audience (the prospect). A salesperson explores new territories (cold calls), introduces new ways of thinking (persuades prospects) and makes the world a better place (provides customer satisfaction).

OK, maybe I'm overstating the case a bit. Lots of perfectly productive salespeople are nothing more than harvesters of existing business-they take orders, fill out paperwork, collect their commissions and go home. And they never break rules.

Those salespeople still play a role in our economy, although they're on their way to being replaced by order-processing technology. But I'm here to talk about creative selling, the favorite activity of wild, vibrant, risk-taking sales fanatics-the Michelangelos of sales. These people use the power of ideas to create customer satisfaction and wealth for themselves and their companies.

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This article was originally published in the September 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Use Your Head.

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