Tapping employees’ sales ideas can provide a company with a wealth of concepts and strategies that management may not have considered or may have overlooked. It also creates an environment where employees feel engaged and valued. Here are some ways to help extract great sales ideas from employees.
1. Edify employees
Before asking employees to suggest sales strategies, spend time explaining the sales process, including ideas that have already been considered and rejected. This is needed as a precursor to keep from shooting down suggestions that don’t take into account all variables. Nothing is more discouraging to employees than to be asked to come up with sales strategies only to be told ‘that won’t work.’ By providing some background information, employees can give better, more nuanced suggestions.
2. Pose a problem
To get even better sales ideas, pick a challenging sales problem for which the company does not have all the answers. The best challenge problem is results-oriented, defining a specific outcome that is desired without limiting the nature of the solution. Providing employees with background information on the problem, its history, and any past attempts to solve it help to keep ideas focused and relevant. Invest time to thoroughly understand the ideas suggested, ask clarifying questions, cluster similar ideas into groups, and decide which will shape next steps. Some may be disappointed if their idea is not chosen, but as long as all ideas are genuinely considered, most will be willing to participate in offering sales ideas again.
3. Encourage New Sales Ideas
Share stories of new sales strategies put forth by other employees that have worked. Let all employees know that some of the best sales techniques can come from anywhere and are not just the domain of people whose title is Sales Rep. Remind them that employees are also consumers and that makes them exceptionally qualified to come up with sales strategies that might appeal to a particular group.
4. Provide Motivation
Motivate employees into contributing good sales ideas. While money is motivating, pride in company, pride in personal accomplishment, and being able to meaningfully contribute are also powerful motivators. Money can even undermine innovation. New ideas often surface through a circuitous route. Incentivizing with money may sacrifice creativity for sales speed. Also, quality may undermine creativity and innovation. New ideas and innovation are often sloppy and imprecise. To generate new sales ideas, allow employees to embrace uncertainty and try things that haven’t been done before.
5. Encourage Interaction
The old suggestion box is passé. Often, the best ideas come from the interplay and free exchange between employees. Provide opportunities for employees to get together and brainstorm. Make it clear that all ideas are welcome. A lot more ideas will be generated if employees know that if they offer an idea the company doesn’t like, there is no consequence. Some of the best ideas almost never sound “normal.” Imagine how it might have sounded to the company if an employee at Cinnabon had said “And we can do a skit and dance to attract customers…”
6. Embrace New Sales Ideas Anytime
Great ideas don’t surface on schedule. It is important for managers and leadership to keep an open-door policy with staff. When an employee asks “Do you have a minute?”, the answer should always be yes. And then once the idea is proposed, the idea – if good — should be pursued. A lot of good ideas die on the vine because other ideas, activities, and tasks take focus away. If an employee suggests a good sales strategy and no one does anything with it, there is always a possibility that that good idea might surface at another company if that employee changes jobs.
Sales Ideas from Super Staff
It is important for a company to recognize employees with super sales ideas. What qualities do people who come up with super sales ideas usually possess? These people will:
- Go above and beyond the call of duty every day.
- Show up ready to do their best, regardless of what’s going on in their personal lives.
- Treat every person as a potential customer.
- Think about ways to enhance the customer’s experience.
- Find news ways to solve problems.
- Find new ways to overcome objections.
- Genuinely care about pleasing others.
- Look at situations from a different perspective.
Some of the best ideas for how to sell a company’s products or services will inevitably come from those who are most involved with the products or services. Instead of hiring consultants and gurus to provide fresh sales strategies, it may pay for companies to go fishing in their own pond.
Quote of the Week
“Be creative. Use unconventional thinking. And have the guts to carry it out.” Lee Iaccoca
© 2013, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.