Master the Art of selling creative (Part 1)

Master the Art of selling creative (Part 1)

How many times after a pitch have you heard yourself, or your creative team, rant about how the client “just doesn’t get it”, followed by “if only they were more creative decision makers” or “if only they had given us more time and more budget”?

It can be easy to play the victim and hide behind excuses, but the truth is, ideas don’t sell themselves. Your concept may have been original, remarkable even, and spot on brief, but even the best ideas can fall flat if not presented well. Coming up with good creative ideas is often the easy part. In fact, in many agencies, the most creative person may be the least creative presenter. What they lack are decent selling skills.

“It’s useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create. Management cannot be expected to recognize a good idea unless it’s presented to them by a good sales person.” David Ogilvy

You’ve all seen outstanding showmen / women present mediocre ideas that get accepted over remarkable ideas simply because their presentation was better. In short, they’re better sales people.

But the word “sell” has so many dirty connotations. Greasy, inauthentic salesmen spring to mind, with their underhand and dishonest selling techniques. So how can you sell your creative work without the cheesy sales approach? How can you ensure you present your creative ideas in ways that connect with decision makers, capture their hearts and minds and ultimately get them to buy your ideas and sign on the dotted line?

At Master the Art we believe it’s about three things:

1.    Thorough preparation

2.    Genuine passion

3.    Outstanding performance

Focusing on each of these three areas should help you “sell” your creative work in a different way; in a genuine way, without the cheesy salesman vibe.

In the first of this 3-part blog post series, we’ll be focusing on point 1 – what you can do to prepare thoroughly for creative presentations:

1.   Master the detail

First off, it’s about mastering every tiny detail of your idea. It’s important that you come across as an expert, that the decision-makers see you as competent and trustworthy. Have answers ready for any queries that may arise. Research your thinking properly and you’ll be perceived as an expert and generate confidence and credibility.

In his book, ‘Idea Selling’, Sam Harrison references this story to demonstrate how mastering the tiniest details of your idea can boost your credibility as an expert and generate confidence:

Nike once asked Tiger Woods to test its prototypes of a new driver. He hit with three of the sample clubs and said he liked the lighter one. The clubs all weigh exactly the same, Nike’s designer told Woods. No, this one is lighter, he replied. They placed the drivers on a scale and discovered that Woods was right. The club he preferred weighed two grams less than the others. Two grams – the weight of a couple of paper clips.

Knowing this tiny detail about the club demonstrated the extent of Woods’ expertise is in his field.

2.   Ask the right questions

“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.” Thomas Berger

Questions are secret weapons to selling. First off, be curious. Curiosity inspires creativity by taking you into the minds of your audiences. It helps you see through different eyes.

Ask as many questions as you can ahead of the presentation. They can help you gain insights, discover needs, analyse objectives, dig into objections, overcome obstacles, understand the decision maker’s thoughts, feelings and attitudes. Once you have their answers you can weave their words into your presentation, helping them become more receptive to your ideas.

Balance open-ended questions with close-ended ones. Open-ended questions generate more thoughtful, detailed replies rather than one word answers. So you’ll gather more insights. Be aware, however, that there’s a danger of appearing overbearing if you keep firing open-ended questions over. Try not to rush – ensure you really listen to the answers. The last thing you want to do is rush through each question and not concentrate on the answers.

It can help to finish with one final question: “What other questions should I be asking you?” Your questions will never uncover everything. Give the decision maker a chance to help.

3.   Prepare for objections

Objections and rejections can be hard to take, especially when they seem to come out of nowhere and you’ve poured your heart and soul into your creative idea.

Prepare for objections in order to handle them well during a creative presentation. Really think through what objections may arise and prepare solid responses to objections in advance. Bear in mind that the bigger the idea is, the bigger the objections will be. Have answers ready.

Be aware of how you react to objections. It’s all too easy to be defensive and feel as if you personally are being attacked. Give yourself a moment after the objection has been raised. Pause. Then agree and acknowledge the decision maker’s concern: “I understand why you might feel that way…”

Sam Harrison recommends that you then clarify the decision maker’s objection by stating it as a question, such as: “When you say you don’t like the design, can you tell me more about the problems you see?” By doing this, it should help you relax and not become defensive. It should also help position you as a trusted advisor.

So, prepare for objections, from the obvious to the ludicrous. This way, you’ll deliver a stronger, more confident creative presentation.

4.   Take the breath test

Simple. If you can’t describe your concept without having to take a breath, you probably haven’t nailed it yet. Here’s an example from the world of film:

Scientists clone dinosaurs to populate a theme park, which suffers a security breakdown and releases the dinosaurs.

Name that film.

5.   Structure your presentation to ensure a strong start

Work to capture hearts first, then minds. Connect emotionally with your audience from the offset, then use facts and figures to justify your concept. Don’t put your audience to sleep with long-winded details about how you developed your idea before you even get to the idea. Start with content that will connect with your audience and capture their attention. Remember – hearts first, then minds.

“When you advertise fire extinguishers, open with the fire.” David Ogilvy

6.   Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse

Make sure you rehearse your presentation, but in the right way. Try to work on cultivating a natural, authentic presentation style, not a delivery that is overly scripted and lacking in genuine passion. (We’ll be covering more on this later in the blog post series). Build in time for at least two rehearsals – one stumble through out loud and one more polished. Ask a trusted colleague to sit in and give you honest feedback.

So, master the smallest details, ask the right questions, prepare for objections, take the breath test, structure your presentation to ensure a strong start and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Focus on each of these points to ensure you enter your creative presentation feeling fully prepared and full of confidence.

Look out for part 2 of this blog post series where we’ll be running through the importance of demonstrating genuine passion when selling creative ideas.

If you're eager to elevate your pitching, captivate your audiences, and learn new communication skills to grow and succeed, let's talk.