Observations and Insights on Selling

The SalesPractice blog offers weekly observations and insights for sales practitioners pursuing the highest levels of performance in personal selling.

This Week's Post:

A Tight Grab on Common Sense

Gary Boye

BECKY IS A student at a parochial elementary school in a suburban area. During the last two years she won first place in her school's annual fundraiser contest. Both times she won a brand new bicycle, one of which she gave to her best friend, Megan. The scenario for the contest was that each of approximately eighty students was asked to sell certificates good for one large pizza from a popular pizzeria in town. Most of the students lived within a two mile radius of the school. As we might guess, each youngster set out canvassing their very own neighborhoods for customers after getting orders from their own family members. However, in both campaigns, Becky did something different from the rest of her peers. Her father drove her to the neighborhood directly surrounding the pizza establishment itself. He waited and watched as she then went door to door, introducing herself, and, asking the residents if they would like to buy a large cheese and pepperoni pizza from Santora's. Here I'll let the reader consider the huge advantage the young student secured in targeting prospects who lived less than a three minute drive from the pizzeria.

One respected sales coach, who I told this to, said, "It's really a new twist on the old 'location, location, location' tenet of retail selling, isn't it? The youngster went to where she knew the action would be."

That's a very simple story, isn't it? In my view, Becky, eleven years old, practices the way of a superior salesperson. However, I have tested that story, exactly as I have written it, with several people who make their living in sales. I asked each one what conclusion could be derived from the example. What surprised me was that no two conclusions were the same. In fact, no two interpretations of that short story were exactly like the others'. Some of them speculated and looked for clues as if they were trying to solve a riddle.

Why is that? I suspect that we sometimes overthink things. When we do so, it can be easy to momentarily suspend our common sense. The example of Becky is one of creativity. It's common these days to think of creativity with the expression, "thinking outside of the box." Certainly Becky did exactly that. Her box was her own immediate neighborhood as were the boxes of the other children. She chose a neighborhood that she knew would substantially increase her sales.

Common sense and thinking outside of the box are not mutually exclusive. The truth is we need to bring creativity into our selling efforts more than ever in the past. However, we do have to keep a tight hold on our common sense as we navigate our career journey.