Challenging a prospect's thinking can sometimes involve asking him or her to think about something they would prefer to ignore.
Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, who co-wrote the book "The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation," explain in an article for CNBC that focusing too narrowly on building a relationship with your clients can actually get in the way of completing a sales agreement and establishing a client partnership as people become more averse to risk.
The better strategy, they argue, is to offer insights and suggestions on how customers can readjust their thinking. A challenger salesman is able to establish trust with a client by pushing the person to think differently and continually offer new solutions to their problems. These kinds of sales reps also tailor their message to address each client or prospect's value drivers and objectives, the authors note, and strike a balance between assertiveness and aggression.
I gave an example of how you can challenge a prospect carefully and tactfully in my book "The 8 Best Practices of High-Performing Salespeople." One of my clients, Alvin, was trying to sell life insurance to Gary Inwood, an ideal prospect who could take Alvin's business to the next level. However, in a follow-up meeting, Gary was against "the idea of insurance" and didn't "like thinking about death," making it difficult for Alvin to move on to the close.
So how was Alvin able to turn Gary's negative thinking around? He started by re-establishing a rapport and reviewing the problem that the client faced. Alvin then turned the challenge into an opportunity by shifting Gary's focus from the spectre of death to the idea of retirement.
Before proceeding, Alvin reminded Gary of his credentials, prepared Gary to buy by offering a preview for action and framed the presentation to help Gary see the potential consequences of not taking action (i.e. buying insurance).
From there, Alvin gave an example of how he had helped a similar client in the past, making the issue tangible for Gary. He told Gary how he had created an insurance plan for two previous business partners that allowed one of them to "close down the business with dignity" when the other passed away. Over the course of his entire conversation with Gary, Alvin used "we" instead of "I" to show that they were working together toward a shared goal.
Developing an effective Client Attraction Conversation and taking control of the conversation to challenge your prospects to think outside their comfort zone can be a successful strategy in acquiring more clients and building your business. However, throughout the discussion, it's necessary to show respect and earn the right to proceed to the next stage.