Steven Levitt, the co-author of Freakonomics, SuperFreakonomics, Think like a Freak and When to Rob a Bank, defines thinking like a freak as “…putting away your moral compass and not worrying about what the answer ‘should’ be, but focusing on what the answer really is. It means thinking hard about causality. It means going beyond the obvious to consider all the possibilities — but still being willing to accept the obvious”.
When businesses and, especially, sales teams and salespeople come across challenges, they usually try to solve them by using the same parameters and approaches they had used in past. But markets change, and challenges and clients differ from each other, so using what has worked in the past may not necessarily be the best approach for the present day or the future.
Choosing to take the time to really think about a problem and dig into it is what thinking like a freak is all about. This is easier said than done, especially given we are all pressed for time.
So here are some suggested steps to help you think like a freak courtesy of Levitt and co-author Stephen Dubner:
“First, put away your moral compass—because it’s hard to see a problem clearly if you’ve already decided what to do about it. Learn to say “I don’t know”—for until you can admit what you don’t yet know, it’s virtually impossible to learn what you need to. Think like a child—because you’ll come up with better ideas and ask better questions. Find the root cause of a problem—because attacking the symptoms, as often happens, rarely fixes the underlying issue. Take a master class in incentives—because for better or worse, incentives rule our world. Learn to persuade people who don’t want to be persuaded—because being right is rarely enough to carry the day. Learn to appreciate the upside of quitting—because you can’t solve tomorrow’s problem if you aren’t willing to abandon today’s dud.”
What we find most interesting is a few of the steps are similar and relate to the skills and mindset needed to be a good salesperson:
- Going to client meetings and being open to learn about their challenges, instead of being full of our products and solutions
- Knowing we don’t need to have an answer there and then when we are talking to our clients and prospects. We can always come back to them with an informed and educated answer or solution later
- Be curious, ask questions
- Understand our client’s business, how their issues/pains relate to the bigger picture and how our solutions can work in context
- Understand how persuasion is important in ethical selling
It seems being a highly effective salesperson and thinking like a freak have a lot in common.
Remember everybody lives by selling something.