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Hold On There Challenger

You’ve got the business acumen and situational knowledge to know how to make a difference for your clients. In today’s vernacular, you have insights. Maybe you want to be what Matt and Brent call a Challenger (and no doubt, your executive vice president of sales is desperate for you to go and challenge your prospects and knock them out of their complacency).

But before you go hog wild challenging folks, there are a few things you need to consider:

Rapport and Trust Matter: It’s easier to share your business acumen, your situational knowledge, and your insight when you already have rapport and trust. Some people are gifted when it comes to rapport building. Some people have an easy time generating trust. Others aren’t so lucky. Some of this is behavioral, and some of it is just personalities.

Know this: the more challenging your insight, the more disruptive it is, the more rapport and trust you need.

Caveat: Sometimes just sharing a painful truth is what gains their trust. The question of outcome often depends on the delivery.

Some People Will Hate You: There are some people who aren’t interested in your insight; they already know everything there is to know about their business (in their minds, anyway). Challenging them only causes them to resist. The more you challenge, the more they resist. You need to match your style to the audience.

Know this: In these cases, indirection is better. You start by telling your client how little you know about their business, that they know more than you could ever hope to, that you do this one cool thing for someone else but you’re not sure it would even work for them, and then you let them lead with their brand new idea.

You May Not Win (at first): The fact that your challenge doesn’t gain you any traction right away doesn’t mean that your ideas aren’t valuable or that they’re not right for your client. You are making a number of sales, the first of which is a conceptual sale, a mindset shift. Imagine showing up and asking your prospect to change their religion or their politics (that actually might be easier than changing some long held beliefs and business practices).

Know this: Your clients know what they know, and they believe what they believe. It takes time to build traction for your idea. Keep trying.

Some Are Waiting for You (and begging for it): Some of the contacts within your client accounts are change agents. They live to upset the status quo. They’ve been waiting for someone to come along and help them go from quarter to quarter turning everything upside down. They don’t understand why that can’t find a partner with some chops, someone with some game to play along.

Know this: Your new BFF change agent is going to blow everything up if you don’t help her build consensus within her four walls. Don’t let them run wild and run over everyone.


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