Thinking outside the box



If you could guarantee that when you flipped a coin it would always land on heads, you would certainly have an edge in a coin toss. That’s the strategy Steve used to tilt a major buying decision in his direction.

“Out of the box” thinking turned out to be the deciding factor in winning a major contract. Steve is a professional sales exec with more than 25 years of experience who I interviewed for my book back in 2011. His story was one of several that I used in the chapter titled “Thinking Outside the Box.” It confirms the fact that not all decisions are based completely on sound business principles.

Here is his story:

Back in 1990, Steve represented a dealer cooperative that was a leader in the office products business. He had been working on a very large opportunity at a major health care consortium. In fact, the sales campaign had been going on for almost a year. The winning vendor would be awarded a contract to supply more than 1,000 facilities with office supplies over the next three to five years for more than $25 million. Needless to say, this was one of the biggest deals Steve had ever worked on. Office-supply companies typically deal in significantly smaller transactions.
There were several companies vying for the bid. Over nearly 12 months, the consortium had whittled the number of vendors down to two companies: Steve’s company and his largest competitor. Steve had worked long and hard to get to this point, and was extremely excited about the possibility of being awarded the contract.

The decision-maker called Steve into his office to discuss his proposal. Steve thought the reason for the meeting was to tell him whether he won or lost the deal. Instead, the decision-maker told him that he was completely on the fence regarding who should get the contract. He went on to say that he was very comfortable with both companies, and that this was in fact the most difficult decision he had ever had to make. Steve sensed his dilemma and offered a method to break the tie. He told the decision-maker to look for a FedEx envelope first thing in the morning. Steve said that the package would offer a solution to this difficult decision.
When Steve got back to his office, he acquired two brand-new Susan B. Anthony silver dollars. He then glued them together with heads facing out on both sides and placed them in the FedEx package with a note. The note read, “Flip this coin in order to determine the winner of the bid. If it comes up heads, then my company wins.”

Shortly after the package arrived, Steve received a call from the buyer. He told Steve that the package was the deciding factor. He was in awe of Steve’s creativity and felt compelled to award his company the business.

You may not be able to use this silver dollar technique to tilt the deal in your favor, but the point is, there may be a creative, nontraditional way to convince your prospect to do business with you.

Always remember that we are dealing with individuals who have emotions, and hopefully a sense of humor as well. Not all deals are closed using traditional sales principles based on logic. Creative, “out of the box” thinking just might be the difference between winning and losing the business. It certainly worked for Steve!




Surround yourself with successful people of integrity.

Proverbs 28:26
If you think you know it all, you’re a fool for sure;
real survivors learn wisdom from others.