Salespeople don’t often get to brainstorm. Marketing like to think they have the monopoly on being creative, right? Whenever those in sales sit in a room for a couple of hours to come up with ideas, it is usually because they feel they are going unsupported or they want to stir up a seemingly impenetrable account. This tends to send shudders throughout management, fearing that anything from a discount frenzy to unkeepable promises will result.

Yet salespeople are involved in creative thought a lot more than they may realise. Think about the most common conversations sales team members are involved with. Yes, there’s the micro-management and status queries. But then there’s the ‘what shall we do next’ chats. Sales Managers earn their corn and reps their stripes from the cunning ways they conjure activity that tests commitment and makes progress and the clever mapping of nuanced sales process essentials.

How do you go about unearthing the necessary pearls of wisdom? According to recent McKinsey Quarterly research, best not to try brainstorming;

Traditional brainstorming is fast, furious, and ultimately shallow. By scrapping these traditional techniques for a more focused, question-based approach, senior managers can consistently coax better ideas from their teams.

The advice? Seven steps to brainsteering (registration required). I did take some excellent pointers that will distinguish future efforts in this area from the drudgery of mere brainstorming.

These include posing only specific questions, subgroup outlines, sidelining “idea crushers”, leave aside “silver bullets” and to avoid full group voting.

All worthy ‘steers’ for sure, but then what about the environment that salespeople find themselves in most often when brainstorming takes hold? I reckon that it is when you corral together a group from inside one of your customers. You could be seeking to cement your relationship and suss out how to make your provision better. You could though, more likely be trying to avoid a kicking having been summoned because what’s been sold is not working.

In this context, perhaps the biggest bonus was in how to act on the ideas generated. Giving a quick feedback and providing an action plan, as agreed in advance, and enacted practically the next day is a winner. Starting off having in mind where things go is depressingly absent from many such brainstorm sessions I’ve witnessed.

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