The goal of art, by definition, is to create some kind of change. Art is meant to make someone feel, react, or consider a different point of view.
How do you know you’ve been in the presence of great art? Because you walk away a changed person.
The same is true for Business Artists. They create change. When they work with customers or clients, they feel deeply for them. When there’s a problem, they want to get to the root cause of the issue.
They don’t do this just because it will lead to a potentially bigger deal or some other benefit. They do it because they care.
Sometimes they will not only challenge the status quo of their own organization, but also do the same in their customers’ organizations.
They constantly ask questions like “What if?” or “Why not?” They question what everyone else takes at face value.
Why do we pitch this way? Why are we using this template? Why are we using this story?
The goal of the Business Artist is to redefine what is possible, no matter what the context.
Fighting the Forces of Inertia
The idea of challenging the status quo, and going up against pre-conceived notions, may sound sexy and fun. But you have to be ready to back it up with a new approach and defend it against forces of historical inertia all while making compromises where necessary to reach your eventual goals.
This often means being able to highlight dissatisfaction as a first step to gaining buy-in on anything new.
If someone doesn’t see a problem or experience it the same way you do, it is pretty difficult to get them to see a reason to change.
I’ll give an example. In my former role with BTS, we had a new offering: a sales assessment for selection, which is essentially a hiring tool to evaluate candidates in the sales hiring process.
This new offering created a powerful cloud-based simulation that would give candidates a realistic “day in the life” scenario to assess them and give them a flavor of the job they were applying for. It was better than anything in the market at the time.
I was trying to position this to talent and recruitment buyers, who were some of my largest tech clients. They said, “Adam, this is cool. It’s better than what we are doing today. The only thing is that the way we are doing it today seems to be working well enough for us right now. Unless that changes or becomes a problem, we don’t see the need for us to look into anything new where we’d have to bring in a new platform and change our processes.”
This taught me an important lesson: It’s great to challenge the status quo, but you have to be able to fully understand what would cause a business leader to be interested in what you’re selling.
A Few Important Questions
Here are a few helpful questions to ask yourself when challenging the status quo:
Is there enough dissatisfaction already that you can help them see in a current process? Does your concept take into consideration the historical inertia, the existing investments and processes that would need to be removed for anything new to gain interest?
If you don’t understand where other people are coming from, how can you put yourself in their shoes and see the problem as they see it? Or even if it is a problem?
That’s a core component not only in sales, but in human relationships as well.
What about those who are on the other side of challenging the status quo? For example, you might be a leader or employer who is dealing with people who like to challenge every idea. How can you harness that energy for positive results?
In Search of Sellers Who Think
There’s the old adage, “You don’t want an employee that thinks. You want one that does.” That might have been true in the pre-internet, pre-dataism world.
But today, you want sellers and employees to think—and most importantly, to listen—when a new customer need arises. You want them to challenge the status quo and address it in the most creative way possible.
Leaders should look for ways to harness the energy of Business Artists rather than shutting it down. One of the best ways to do this is by being an inclusive leader. This means inviting people to challenge and debate ideas, and to recognize their importance in the process of growing and improving your company.
If you don’t have people who challenge the norms, you stop being relevant over time. Resistance to change is an invitation to death.