"Value through innovation is your key to sales success" - interview by John Smibert.
To succeed in sales we need to ensure that the customer is convinced and trusts that we can deliver value for them and their business. And to do that we need to be creative and innovative in the way we 'engineer the value'.
It is tough for sales teams to do this, because we operate in a volatile, uncertain and complex (VUCA) business world. We've got all the pressures of doing business, managing sales process and achieving KPI's. How do we get innovative? How do we break free to get creative, so that we can create value for the customer, and be a challenger?
I asked Ian J Lowe this question. He agreed that it was tough.
He explained that we humans can only get truly creative when we're relaxed - when we're calm - when we're at ease. "It's why when we're in the shower, we get great ideas". He explained that "when we're stressed and under pressure or fearful, the parts of the brain that deal with creativity and innovation close down. In these circumstance the parts of the brain that switch on is our primitive brain, and that part of the brain deals with fight, flight or freeze, so we're unable to be creative". And that is the state we are in when conducting day to day business.
In this discussion Ian goes on to talk about what enterprises and individuals can do to overcome this issue - to ensure we become more creative in the way we sell and the way we create value for our customers. He has some great strategies to become more innovative. signals a big change in cultures, in how we lead, how we develop, how we hire, and how we coach salespeople so that they can perform at their best.
As Ian says these strategies "signal a big change in cultures, in how we lead, how we develop, how we hire, and how we coach salespeople so that they can perform at their best".
To learn about these strategies read or watch the full interview below. If you are in a position of leadership this interview may provide good insight into how we might want to drive more innovation and creativity in our workplace. I recommend it for CEO's, COO's HR, Sales leaders, as well as professional salespeople.
Ian is the CEO of Eccoh.co (formally Go-Givers Australia). He is an expert in sales transformation and a specialist in why people sell.
John: I'm with Ian Lowe again - good to have you back, Ian!
Ian: Great to be here, John!
John: We've talked a lot about a lot of things in the past, and a lot of it comes down to us, as salespeople, having to be very innovative, having to create value for the customer. And to be creative and innovative - which we have to be, from what you've told me - is pretty tough, because we've got all the pressures of getting orders, following sales process, and the world is trying to control us. How do we get innovative? How do we get creative, so that we can create value for the customer, and be a challenger?
Ian: Yes. It's a major issue. Again, John, you've hit on a really, really key issue. From a neuroscience point of view, the parts of the brain that allow us to be creative and innovative and solution thinking and all that sort of great stuff, those parts of the brain operate when there's this sort of confluence of alpha waves and gamma waves, but they only turn on when we're relaxed, when we're calm, when we're at ease. It's why when you're in the shower, you get these great ideas - you're like washing your hair... Well, maybe you're not washing your hair... [laughs] You get these great ideas.
John: It happens all the time to me, that's when my ideas come. Or when I'm asleep, I wake up and I've got this brilliant idea. But we're not in that environment most of the time; where there, working with the customer, working internally in our own organisation - we're under pressure.
Ian: Yes. When we're stressed and under pressure and fearful, the parts of the brain that deal with creativity and innovation close down. The parts of the brain that switch on is our primitive brain, and that part of the brain deals with fight, flight or freeze, so we're unable to be creative.
Ian: Parts of the brain close down. Not only are the salespeople are unable to be creative, also our clients, because they're dealing with this VUCA environment again - there's fear and stress and pressure all around the place. You know, just when we both need to be creative and innovative, and find ways around these issues we're facing, we're unable to do so, because we're under stress.
John: So, what do we do about that?
Ian: It's a big challenge, it's a huge challenge. It comes back to what we've talked about before. We've really got to internally, within our organisations, create environments that encourage creativity and innovation, that take the pressure and the stress and the fear away from people's lives, so they can truly work with the client genuinely in that way.
John: It reminds me of a discussion I had with Susan Donovan (Work less and sell more), where she focused on the fact that we need to have breaks all the time, to get the brain to relax and become creative.
Ian: That's right - yes, that's right.
John: Regular breaks during the day.
Ian: Yes, that's right. People work these long hours, and they're under pressure and work hours on end... all that's doing is making your performance go down. You're less able to achieve the results. So, we've really got to examine the science, the neuroscience that drives performance, like they do in sports. And the corporate athlete has some big responsibilities.
John: And they become experts before they compete, closing right down and relaxing, don't they?
Ian: That's right, that's right.
John: That's so important.
Ian: Yes. Like when Johnny Wilkinson scored that... Maybe I shouldn't go into that. [laughter]
John: I understand where you're at though.
Ian: It was a long time ago. [laughs]
John: But yes, you're absolutely right. When I relax and I'm relaxed with a customer, suddenly I'm far more creative, and the interchange becomes much more valuable for the both of us.
Ian: Dead right. It signals a big change in cultures, in how we lead, how we develop, how we hire, and how we coach salespeople so that they can perform at their best.
John: And we should no longer, as a sales manager, be "pressure, pressure, pressure" and pushing them, rather than getting them to relax and think about how they create value for their customer.
Ian: Absolutely, yes.
John: Okay. Not easy, but I understand the importance of it.
Ian: Yes, it's a big challenge. I think neuroscience is really helping us, showing us a lot of things that we can do inside organisations to make the changes we need to make, not only to be more successful as individuals and as teams in organisations but also to be happier
Ian: To have happy brains, and to have happy clients.
John: Very, very good point. Ian, thank you very much for your thoughts and your time. These discussions are so valuable to me, and hopefully very valuable for the audience.
Ian: Thank you, John - it's always a pleasure, and I look forward to the next time!
John: It'll be soon.
More short interviews with Ian Lowe:
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