Step Into My Sweat Lodge: A Deviant Approach to Selling Ideas

Photo by purincess

When you sign up to be in the marketing business, you become two people: a data wonk and a creative Svengali, able to conjure genius ideas on a whim.

My problem is that my creative self is more like a character in the novel Peyton Place: “Ripe, hotly passionate, but fickle, she comes and goes as she pleases so that one is never sure whether she will come at all…”

This winter, she abandoned me entirely. And with her went my confidence in selling new ideas. It forced me to break the rules. In the process, I discovered a new way to sell which I want to share with you.

Here’s what happened.

After completing a successful campaign for George Soros’s philanthropy to help heighten public interest in privacy, I sat down to work on a smallish piece of business for a repeat client. I created a brief for what I thought was a bulletproof concept. The earth shook when I presented it to the client’s team and faced blank stares.

Demoralized, I gathered the team’s feedback and went home to retrace my steps. I wrote the client and suggested we take a fresh approach, and invited her to my studio for a working lunch.

I was breaking a taboo.

There’s an unwritten rule in the agency world that it’s a bad idea to involve the client in the creative process. Consider also that classic sales training treats selling as a predatory activity. Prospects are prey. Sales people are hunters. This attitude is not only cynical, but it gets in the way of forging authentic emotional bonds many of us need to do breakthrough work.

When my client arrived, a miracle happened. Read more.