One of the biggest concerns today’s hiring managers have about the new crop of college graduates entering the job market centers on their ability to think. Creative thinking and problem-solving skills are critically important whether an employee is handling a customer service problem or trying to connect with a prospect. As a sales rep, superior thinking skills can put you ahead of the competition. But, what do you do if you’re not particularly creative?

Don’t worry. Clive Miller details several thinking strategies that can help you develop a part of your brain that you may not be accustomed to using. Miller channels Dr. Edward De Bono’s lateral thinking concepts to encourage readers to develop their creativity. Instead of telling yourself that “problems are opportunities,” you can use the following tactics to stretch your thinking and conquer those stubborn prospects who keep saying no.

Reverse the Situation

If you’re having a hard time getting in front of a prospect you desperately want to sell to, it might be time to change things up. You don’t want to use a lame follow-up tactic like, “just checking in to see if I can answer any questions for you.” Instead, Miller suggests considering the situation from the prospect’s point of view. Why will she dodge your calls? What kind of excuses has she made in the past and is she likely to make this time? Make a list of these excuses and then think about the ways you can counter the objection by offering a piece of information that will intrigue her.

Visual Brainstorming

Your problem may be getting a prospect to acknowledge your existence at all. Or, maybe you’ve brought the prospect to the point of closing, and he’s suddenly not responding to emails or calls. These kinds of dilemmas require your most creative thinking strategies. Whatever the issue, it’s time to develop effective solutions. One common approach is to mull over possible strategies while on the treadmill. But, you might forget your best idea before you have a chance to write it down. Instead, dedicate a set amount of time, spent alone, to creating a list of ideas about how to get the prospect’s attention. Miller recommends writing down twenty-five ideas, no matter how silly they seem. Don’t stop until you’re done. Let the list chill out for twenty-four hours. Write another list the following day. In these lists, a solution will likely surface.

It’s not always obvious how to picture the ways that your product can be applied in a prospect’s business. Once you creatively develop your thoughts and ideas, approaching the prospect and moving him deeper into the sales cycle will be easier.