In contact with customers and the company’s various partners, sales representatives are a privileged vector for feedback and the emergence of new ideas. It is also necessary to stimulate their creativity, so that it can be translated into innovative approaches. Here are 5 ideas to boost the creativity of your sales representatives.
1. The creative challenge
Used to challenges on turnover, margin or the sale of new products, has your sales force ever been encouraged to let their creativity run wild? Setting up a creative challenge based on a clear mechanism and with an endowment at stake makes it possible to encourage sales representatives to stimulate reflection around a given theme, in a supervised way and with maximum participation. The operation can be set up in a very simple way starting from a common thread, for example: your ideas to improve customer service. Everyone is invited to propose ideas, and the best track or tracks of reflection is chosen by a relevant jury (composed in particular of the department concerned by the innovation) which crowns the winner or winners, if possible during a convivial event. In the pharmaceutical field, a laboratory has created a questionnaire to be submitted to customers during commercial tours. Sales representatives were encouraged to collect information (on customer expectations) and transform it into concrete ideas, which were placed in a “virtual suggestion box” on the intranet. Lasting three to four weeks, this team game made it possible to see in real time who had posted how many ideas and when. Then at the end of the challenge, a seminar was held to identify the most promising suggestions whose authors were rewarded (notably by gift boxes). These avenues of reflection were then collectively explored.
2. The creativity meeting
Otherwise called brainstorming, the creativity meeting consists in gathering relevant profiles around a given theme, in a limited time (5 to 45 minutes) to generate ideas. This method is useful for solving a technical problem, imagining a new product or service concept, finding a name, etc. It involves people with added value: those directly involved in innovation, those who generate positive energy (better a facilitator of ideas than a person who opposes any new project), possibly a candid, etc. The facilitator of the meeting is not necessarily the manager, but rather a person experienced in “giving birth” to a group. It starts from a common thread (for example: how to relieve the hotline?), the idea being to open the valves and then to converge the reflections of each other towards concrete paths. It is necessary to specify at the beginning of the meeting what is expected of the participants and above all to note all the ideas without censorship on a support visible to all. In this way, participants will have the opportunity to bounce back on a newly registered word or concept. Everyone speaks, and the facilitator reserves the end of the session for the sorting of ideas.
3. A specific place
The layout of the workspace can influence creativity. Companies in the high-tech sector, in particular, have understood this and do not hesitate to create comfortable spaces where their employees can relax, decompress and even open up to new ideas by discussing with their colleagues. In the same spirit, it is possible to encourage creativity by creating a friendly space for reflection and informal exchanges. To stimulate the production of ideas, it is necessary to expose the “worksites” in progress in the company or department: for example, the model of a showroom project or an office extension, the prototype of a new product, etc., while leaving the possibility for the occupants of the place to take control and leave their mark. This place thus has all the necessary equipment for creative production: sheets of paper, pens, paintings, specialized magazines, while being free of elements that disturb concentration, such as telephones or computers. This very open method is reserved for creativity over the long term, for example to encourage employees to give their opinion to help a project progress. It is encouraged by the local hierarchy, which sets an example by frequenting the area.
To instill new ideas, there is nothing like organizing a “constructive” trip. For the manufacturer of a B?to?C product, this may involve going to the store to observe how the product is displayed on the shelf and appreciated by customers. In addition to its own products, the trip may also consist in observing the practices of competitors on its public land (store, stand at a trade fair, etc.). The trip can also be organised within the company and consist of a visit to the workshops, a half-day visit to the production or purchasing department, or even a delivery tour, in order to understand each other’s working methods and to learn from their thoughts. Finally, the trip may involve a place that is a priori disconnected from your activity, such as visiting an exhibition with an original scenography. This experience can help to find staging ideas for a future trade show. Or, if the idea is to think about improving customer service (at an event or in your showroom), it may be useful to visit the VIP boxes of a stadium, for example, to soak up the facilities that flatter the customer.
5. The transverse meeting
In each trade, there are similarities with other activities whose practices or interests converge. In consulting and training, for example, it is relevant to consider how to capture the attention of customers during inter-company training. To glean ideas, it is then possible to bring together professionals from related sectors such as education (for the transmission of knowledge), publishing (for the use of written materials) or digital. Each participant is invited to share his or her experience. Another case in point: a manufacturer of sports accessories wants to launch a new urban bicycle helmet. He then brings together an anthropologist, a designer, the technical manager and a sales representative from his company. This makes it possible to “change one’s perspective”, to follow original development paths that are legitimate because they come from experts.