The Problem With Challenging Customers

Much is made of the challenger sales person, and it would perhaps be easy to think that this supposed Jedi-like individual has a set of special powers that allows them to take on the customer and exit the selling conversation having overcome conflict and confrontation, covered in glory.

Meanwhile of course, those sales people who focus on building relationships, the hard workers, lone wolves and problem solvers are left paralysed by an inability to be controversial and assertive and assigned to the scrap heap of professional selling.

A sales manager from a multi-national company stood up recently at seminar and said, ‘we’ve profiled all of our sales people, and if they don’t fit that of a challenger, we’re getting rid of them.’

Part of the problem with sticking a label on people, whether that be to define their political views, their origin or even their commercial approach is that it becomes divisive and unrepresentative of what is beyond the label. It’s impossible to describe someone is a single word without leaving the definition open to unlimited interpretation.

And herein lies the problem with the word, ‘challenge’.

Too many people hear the term and consider that to mean conflict, confrontation or combative. But challenging customers – challenging people – is no such thing. And the notion that you might get into a conflict or confrontation with someone, that you could appear combative and still leave with the business is absurd.

So let’s re-define what challenge actually means. And to do so, let’s consider what it means in professional coaching terms.

To challenge is to raise awareness – to raise awareness to different options, alternative views and greater possibilities. To challenge is to provide unique insights, to skillfully question, and to share experiences. To challenge is to share knowledge, provoke thought and connect.

Challenging others has long since been a key component of professional coaching and is now a pre-requisite for the successful sales person.


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