Is Challenge A Better Way To Sell?
Early on in my career, I made a location change from London to Sydney. With only a small relocation buffer, I needed money quickly to float me for a month or two whilst I applied for the ‘big opportunity’ job. Roles were scarce in most fields, except sales. Everywhere I looked there were sales roles up for grabs. Fast forward three weeks and I’m sat in a small, cold, call centre, telephoning people explaining to them why they need life insurance. It was a bleak introduction to the world of direct sales — I lasted two weeks and walked away hard-wired never to ‘sell’ again.
Whilst I’m evidently not designed for working in the sales profession, I am aware of how the skills used in sales roles lend themselves to all professions. Whether we’re looking to sell ourselves in an interview, our service in a pitch or even our company to new hires, the end goal is much the same — to convince the target that you have something desirable to offer.
I now work in the advertising industry in which success relies on our ability to persuade. We’re often told that to do this with clients its critical to meet their demands and build relationships through this. A recent study by the IPA however, suggests that we may have been getting this wrong. The study suggests that in fact challenge is a far more effective means of converting or changing opinion. ‘People pleasers’ were considerably less successful. ‘Challengers’ outperform other approaches by a long way, showing in order to be the best, you need to push back. You can’t agree your way into influence.
In explaining the results the IPA spoke to the reality that the best performers actually do most of their work before the event of the pitch. They research the reality of their target’s position, before attempting to alter their opinion.
Challenge provides an opportunity for achievers to show how well they understand the brand. Ideally better than the client; its hard to argue with someone who knows more than you.
So, next time you’re trying hard to please, take a step back and question whether the object of your attention, needs to be challenged instead.
Lexy is a writer, DJ and marketing professional living in London. She is a gemini and a feminist who loves coffee and leather trousers.