idea selling

Granny Shots and Selling Great Ideas

I am a sucker for minority reports. I love anything that questions the conventional wisdom. As soon as everybody starts to think the same way or have the same perspective, I begin to wonder if we’ve got it all wrong.

rickbarryIt’s for this reason that when I heard that one of my favorite authors, Malcolm Gladwell, was going to be doing a podcast called Revisionist History in which he was going to reinterpret something from the past, I knew I would be in. It’s a 10 part podcast, and my favorite episode has been #3 – The Big Man Can’t Shoot.

The Big Man Can’t Shoot is about taking granny shots – underhanded free throws. They look silly but they are far more effective than overhand shooting from the line. With two notable exceptions – Rick Barry and Wilt Chamberlain (especially in his 100 point game) – nobody shoots this way. Even though it’s better.

In the podcast, Gladwell talks to a sociologist named Mark Granovetter about the Threshold Model of Collective Behavior. The basic idea is that we are all influenced by the behavior of others, but we have different thresholds at which we’re willing to change our behavior. Some people won’t try something new until everyone else is doing it. Other people are early adopters who’s threshold for change is very low. Most of us probably fall somewhere in the middle.


It’s high thresholds that keep good ideas from catching on. 


In sales, we’re trying to get people to change their behavior, to try something new, to adopt a new idea. It might be a new brand or a new strategy or a new system. For us to be effective, we need to figure out the threshold for change that our buyers have.

Some buyers have a low threshold. They want to be innovative. Appeal to how you can put them on the cutting edge, far outpacing their competitors.

Some buyers have a high threshold. They’re going to need to see case studies, proven results, and examples. For these risk averse buyers, you’re going to need to mitigate the fear of change.


To determine a buyer’s threshold, you’ll need to be direct. Here are some questions you can ask to help determine your buyer’s threshold for trying a new idea:

Tell me about a time that you tried something new. How did it go?

Generally speaking, do you (or the company) tend to be open to trying new things?

What holds you back from making a big change in your strategy?


Your idea, your product, your solution is a great one. It’s what everybody should be doing. It works. Just like a granny shot. But it’s not going to catch on until you figure out the thresholds of your buyers and customize your approach to meet them where they are.


bowtie profile.001

Join the Bow Tie Sales Guy community on Facebook. Like our page here and submit questions.


Hooking a Prospect with a Great Idea: Idea Selling Strategies

Hooks in the water.

That’s a phrase I use a lot to describe sales. It’s important to put as many hooks in the water as possible so that you have as many opportunities to make a sales as you can get.

hooksLet me push the analogy one more step. I like to have a hook for prospects and clients.

Many times I’ve walked into someone’s office or business and said something like, “Hi, I’m Robb, and I’d love to chat with the person who handles your advertising and marketing.” And many times, I’ve been met with blank stares and uninterested people. Most business owners feel like marketing is an often-unnecessary evil, and they have very little desire to chat about it with a total stranger. This approach, though common, fails a lot of the time because it does nothing to hook the prospect.

I’m positive that the same can be said for just about any other salesperson, regardless of industry, service, or product.

But there have been a few times that I’ve had a great idea. And I’ve prospected for that idea. And I believed in it. And I wanted the prospect to believe in it too. And I couldn’t wait to talk to them about it. “Hi, I’m Robb. And I’m working on this great idea that I think would be perfect for you. I came in today because I’m so excited to share it with you.” Most people can’t help but be interested in learning more. They’re hooked.

Idea selling is simply a way to bait your hook.

Idea selling is using a creative concept as the lead by which you get a prospect interested in talking to you more. Idea selling shows that you’ve already taken an interest in your prospect’s business, that you’re smart enough to be thinking about their needs (and solutions to those needs) before you ever walk in the door. Idea selling is a way to open the door and start a conversation.

But here’s what idea selling is not – it’s not selling a cookie-cutter package. When I come up with an idea that I want to sell, I make sure to not figure out every single aspect of it. I come up with a concept, a sketch of an idea, and then I work with the client to fill in all the details in a way that meets their specific needs. Idea selling is not a take-it-or-leave-it proposition; it’s an invitation to a conversation in which we’re going to customize something perfect for the client.

Maybe you’re thinking, “But I’m not a very creative person. I can’t come up with great ideas.” That may or may not be the case. Either way, here are some prompts I use to come up with ideas:



Some of the best ideas are seasonally appropriate ideas. What’s something that makes sense for summer? How can you creatively customize the solution you’re selling for fall? What holidays are coming up that would be a natural hook for you to utilize with prospects?

In advertising sales, I also think about specialty designations for each month. February is Children’s Dental Health Month. May is National Bike Month. August is Back-to-School. November is Adoption Month. I’ve come up with great sell-able ideas based on each of these. Every month has several designations. Just google it.

But … keep this in mind. When it comes to idea selling for time sensitive ideas, you’ve got to be thinking in advance. Give yourself a lot of lead time. Don’t start prospecting for a Valentine’s Day idea on February 1. You probably won’t have enough time to it sold. You’re likely going to hear, “We like the idea, but our budget is already set.” I once sold a Thanksgiving-themed idea in July. It was perfect timing.


Causes That You Care About

The world is not the way it is supposed to be. So many people are doing such good things to make things a little better. What are the things you care about? Is it poverty? Awareness of a disease? Environmental issues? Veterans’ care? If you can come up with some ideas that address causes you care about, you’ll have the motivation and passion to sell those ideas.

Here are a couple of tips: once you have an idea for a particular cause, look up every organization that is currently working to address that issue, both locally and nationally. See if they have a sponsors page that lists companies that support them. Prospect off those sponsorship pages. Go to places where you know they already care about the issue.

Also, if you can, develop a partnership with a local non-profit. If you can say that you’re already working with a local non-profit, your idea has instant credibility. And, that non-profit might also be able to provide you with some great leads to prospect.


Clever Creative

In advertising sales, it makes a difference if you can can come up with a commercial idea for a business category ahead of time. Describe the idea to a prospect so that they can picture it. Maybe even storyboard it for them. If they can see it, they may be more likely to buy it.

This works with other industries as well. Let me give you an example. I’ve had many, many pest control salespeople come to the door of my home. They have a line they all use about working at another house in our neighborhood and ask if I’d be interested in their service. Boring. I always say no. But what if that door-to-door salesperson had an iPad with them with pictures of bed bugs or termites or all the horrifying bugs I can’t see in my house. What if she said something creative about how I’m living with these bugs and showed me their pictures? It hasn’t happened yet, but I bet I’d be much more inclined to listen to her!


I try to spend one afternoon a month just thinking about creative ideas to sell. I normally get a cup of coffee and hole myself up in a place where I can think and brainstorm without distractions. Try it and see if might work for you.


bowtie profile.001Join the Bow Tie Sales Guy community on Facebook. Like our page here and submit questions which will be answered in an upcoming podcast.

Come back tomorrow for an article about the importance of using stories when you sell.


 Scroll to top