Recently whilst visiting a top 100 global branded company that I work with I heard that the new sales methodology is to, “Challenge your prospect”! It wasn’t just the sales managers who said this but the sales director as well so therefore it must be true! It’s amazing how many people out there like to talk about the latest thing in sales technology or communication that we, as a sales consultancy should be doing.
What do you think about this new methodology? I can understand it. Prospects don’t want sales people that just say yes as not only can it be condescending and disingenuous, but sometimes might not even be the truth. Of course we need to challenge the client’s thinking. If we don’t we won’t move them from their current thinking. This I agree with. However, (and this is a very large HOWEVER!), we have to have achieved a number of other things long before we can get to the challenging part!
In my experience there are so many people not carrying out the proper role of a good consultative sales person in the initial stages of a sale. So, can you picture the sales person armed with this new ‘challenging’ skill, walking into a new business meeting? The pleasantries pass, the questions come, the prospect takes the time to answer them, and then the sales person bluntly concludes, ‘You’ve got it wrong!’ Nobody likes to be told they are wrong, especially by someone they don’t know who is trying to sell them something!
In my mind IT is wrong on so many levels:
1. You create friction, they dislike you and are much less likely to buy from you even if your judgement is completely correct.
2. It is interpreted as an obvious ‘sales trick’ that can be seen through very easily. The prospect thinks, “Oh let me guess, I’m wrong but you happen to have the answer”.
3. It then creates a selling atmosphere instead of a buying one.
4. Who are you to tell the prospect that they are right or wrong?
I like the concept of ‘the challenge’ being part of the process. But it is by no means THE process.
Like so many “new” ideas in sales thinking, challenging only captures one part of the process. What is sales all about? Let’s go back to basics and remember the words of J.G. Holland, American Novelist and Poet which are as applicable to sales as to every day life:
“The secret of man’s success resides in his insight into the mood’s of people and his tact in dealing with them”
J. G. Holland, American Novelist and Poet
It’s about the relationship – you challenge the prospect/client once they can trust you. Why do they trust you?
1. They know you and/or
2. They like you
You gain trust through knowledge, confidence, reputation and possibly your previous experience with them. Either way the basics are as true today as they ever were. So, yes, ‘Challenging’ is great to use but only as long as it’s used with all your other essential sales tools.
Go forth & continue to multiply your sales and remember J.G. Holland’s words!