I recently read The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun. What struck me after reading this book is that the same myths that apply to innovation also apply to sales. So what’s the sales lesson here? Don’t get caught up in the myths of sales because they can fool you into being less successful.
Eureka doesn’t work for innovation and it doesn’t work for sales.
The innovation myth is that great ideas come in a flash in an epiphany. You may remember the myth about Archimedes who ran from his bathtub yelling, “Eureka!” through the streets after realizing that he could use water displacement to distinguish between the density of gold and false gold. Except that myth is not true.
Innovation progress doesn’t occur in a straight timeline and it involves a long sequence of experimentation and discovery that can take years to reach fruition. Archimedes worked on his problem long before that productive bath.
What’s that mean for your sales success? Too many salespeople think that it will take only one sales call and their customers will miraculously understand why they should buy. Eureka moments, however, don’t often happen in sales. Customers realize they should buy after you work your sales process which includes building rapport, doing skillful questioning, and demonstrating proof of performance.
The lone inventor is a myth.
When you think of air flight innovation, you think of the Wright brothers. Thomas Edison comes to mind when you think of electric lighting. Henry Ford is the inventor of the automobile, right? Wrong. And that’s the myth that there is a lone inventor.
Back in the 15th century, Leonardo da Vinci was creating designs and models for transport vehicles. Karl Benz from Germany then created the first true automobile in 1885. Ford therefore built on previous knowledge; he’s just easier to remember.
What you have are multiple people innovating. It starts with the person who came up with the initial idea for an item. Then there’s the first person to build a working model. Last, it’s the first person to successfully commercialize the invention.
Sound like sales? It’s a myth when salespeople believe that the sales process revolves around them. It’s at your peril when you forget about the other people who work to make your selling successful.
How could you sell without people in credit, operations, delivery, tech service, manufacturing, and customer service? That’s a scary thought. Your sales success depends on your working with so many other people doing their jobs well so you can deliver your sales promises. You may be the one with the sales quota, but you don’t sell by yourself.
Looking for a path to innovation is a mistake.
All too often, there are those who think there’s a clear map that will guide someone to produce innovation—there isn’t. Instead, one’s attitude is important to foster innovation because so many innovators’ ideas are initially rejected because they make people feel uncomfortable and force them to deal with change.
What kind of attitude helps? It’s the ability to deal with failure and be persuasive.
Galileo’s sun-centered solar system was opposed by the Catholic Church. Did you know that Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone was rejected by Western Union? Even Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were turned down by AltaVista and Yahoo, the dominant search companies of the day. How did they prevail? They had the right attitude. They were persistent in the face of failure and they were persuasive.
Salespeople without that attitude are destined to be much less successful in sales. They have to find other ways to make the sale when their customers say no. Most successful salespeople believe that a “no” is simply a no for now. Being persuasive is not about strong-arm tactics either; it’s ethical persuasion where a great idea is communicated effectively so that the other person wants the solution.
Scott Berkun says that innovation is complex, has many meanings and factors, and can’t be captured in the pithy quotes that make for good myths. Sales is also complex and depends on many factors. That’s why the same myths apply to both.