Lifting the Lid on Sales with Creative Risk Taking

Sales Excellence

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How creative risks transform sales results.

In the realm of sales, it’s easy to get comfortable. Too comfortable. Many sales professionals, seasoned by the routine of their craft, slip into a groove that slowly morphs into a rut. They start believing that success is a matter of routine, that they can navigate their careers using the same old techniques with minimal effort. This mindset, however, can lead to an excess of confidence or a deficiency of it. PRECISE salespeople – the real top performers – avoid this pitfall by continually honing their skills, refusing to let mediocrity cap their potential.

Self-imposed limits

A tale I often tell to illustrate this concept involves flea trainers. Yes, you heard that right – flea trainers. These experts place fleas in a box with a lid. At first, the fleas jump high and smack against the lid, but soon enough, they adjust their jumps to avoid the painful bump. Once conditioned to jump just low enough, they won’t escape the box even if the lid is removed. They’ve set their own limits based on past discomforts.

This behavior is shockingly similar to that of some sales professionals. The ‘lid’ in sales can represent various self-imposed limits: fear of rejection, comfort with existing clients, or a false sense of having reached the peak of one’s capabilities. Once we condition ourselves to jump only so high, breaking free from that limit takes effort and a shift in mindset.

At one of my PRECISE Selling Bootcamps, where we dive deep into innovative sales tactics, I underscored the necessity of breaking free from these self-imposed limits. We discussed embracing what many might consider ‘stupid’ – creative, unconventional, and seemingly absurd strategies that could lead to breakthroughs in securing clients.

During this particular seminar for an X-ray equipment sales team, I challenged each participant to concoct a “stupid” idea to engage a dream prospect. Most embraced this challenge, but when I reached a veteran salesperson, the conversation took an interesting turn.


“So, what’s your stupid idea to get through to your dream account?” I asked.

She was hesitant, visibly uncomfortable.

“I’m not doing anything stupid. This whole seminar is stupid. People buy from me because I am smart, not because I am stupid. You are asking me to be something I’m not.”

I nodded, understanding her resistance, yet pushed a bit further.

“Who’s your dream prospect?”

She sighed, resigned,

“A large diagnostic imaging center about to buy three mammography machines.”

“And how much is that worth?”

“$500,000 each,” she replied.

“So, $1.5 million on the line and your current approach is…?”

She admitted her efforts had been fruitless.

“Have you tried something out of the ordinary? Something … stupid?” I prodded.

“That’s not me,” she asserted.

“And how’s that working out for you?”

I gently asked.


She didn’t have an answer because her strategy wasn’t working. I encouraged her to step outside her comfort zone, just this once, to see what might happen.

A week later, I received an email from her company’s owner. It included a message from her: “I thought about what Brian said, despite every bone in my body fighting it, I decided to try something ‘stupid.’ I baked a cake, wrote my phone number on it with frosting, and had it delivered to the decision-maker.”

Now, when you receive a cake in your office with a phone number on it, you can either panic and call Homeland Security to blow it up in the parking lot, or you call the number. Thankfully, the decision-maker chose the latter. Impressed by the effort, he granted her a meeting. Though he warned that they were leaning towards another vendor, her ‘stupid’ cake had opened a door that was previously closed.

Several weeks later, another email arrived from the same enthusiastic company owner: “Sully, you won’t believe this.” Attached was a note from the rep, “Brian, today I placed a purchase order for $1.5 million … all thanks to a stupid cake!”

This sales rep, much like the trained fleas, had initially set her jumping height based on past experiences and perceived professional boundaries. But unlike the fleas, she decided to challenge her limits. She chose to leap higher, to remove the lid of the box herself, and what she found was greater success – beyond the confines of conventional sales strategies.

So, here’s the takeaway: Don’t let past discomforts or failures set the height of your ambitions. Remove the lid. Jump higher. Sometimes, doing something a little ‘stupid’ might just be the smartest move you can make. Because in sales, as in life, the risk-takers often reap the greatest rewards. Keep challenging your limits, and who knows? Maybe your next big win will also come from something as simple and delightful as a cake.

Decorated cake with Call Me sign on it.

Be unconventional

What others may many consider ‘stupid’ might just open a door that would otherwise have remained closed. What creative, unconventional, and seemingly absurd strategies can you think of to spark the interest of prospective clients?


Brian Sullivan headshot

Brian Sullivan

As Founder of PRECISE Selling, Brian Sullivan, CSP creates top performers in sales, customer service, negotiations, leadership, and presentation skills through seminars and internet training programs. He is also the author of the book, “20 Days to the Top – How the PRECISE Selling Formula Will Make You Your Company’s Top Sales Performer in 20 Days or Less.” To learn more, go to


Photo credit: Hulko

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