Use Your Head

The Merits Of Brainstorming

To come up with ideas to sell, you need to continually practice brainstorming. The techniques I'm talking about are the same ones you use in a group meeting, only I explore their use on an individual level.

Here are the steps: Start by writing down your prospect's goal. On the page below the goal, make a list of ways your company's products or services can help the prospect reach that goal. Follow the ground rules of successful brainstorming while you're writing.

Next, review the ideas and combine or extend them, creating new ideas. Again, don't be judgmental. It's not time to throw out bad ideas. This combining and extending process should add ideas to your list, not remove them.

There are several ways to stimulate your brainstorm production. Look inside the company for internal solutions. Many companies package their products or create bundles of services designed to meet the needs of certain categories of customers.

Another good source of ideas that come out of brainstorming is free association with nonrelated concepts. This is a fancy term for taking an idea from someplace else. One of my associates monitors TV commercials and magazine ads to see if there's a slogan or concept he can use as an idea springboard. For example, he'll take a slogan like "You're in good hands with Allstate" and come up with "You're in good form with Diet Rite." He's not stealing ideas, just using them to spark his own.

Another way to start the process is by examining past sales to similar customers. See if you can determine why customers made those purchases. Talk to the salespeople. Pick their brains about the circumstances that led to those sales.

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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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