Can You Challenge without Creating Conflict?

My boi and fellow blogger Anthony Iannarino wrote this killer post the other day called; Stop Being Defensive. Anthony writes a great blog and this was another example of his good stuff.

Here is the money quote from his post:

When you’re defensive, you cause your prospective client to entrench in their own defense when you really want to open them up to possibilities and new ideas.

What Anthony is touching on and that I want go further with is the line between conflict and challenging.

It’s our job to challenge our customers. I’ve written about this before and the three area’s we can challenge them.

Challenging our customers however, doesn’t mean creating conflict. Conflict doesn’t help the sale, and as Anthony states, it can entrench them in defending themselves. The last thing you want is a defensive, entrenched prospect or client.

When conflict is created, we put the other person in a position where they are “against us” not necessarily for themselves. When customers are more consumed with being “against us” rather than with their needs, you are in deep shit. It becomes a them vs us situation. You are no longer seen as an advocate for your customers needs but rather as a solicitor of you’re own agenda. When this happens, put a fork in it, it’s done.

The difficulty for most sales people is they don’t know how to push or challenge the customer without creating conflict. This is where the “art” of the sale comes in.

Avoiding conflict when challenging your customers starts with, as Anthony suggests, NOT being defensive. Defending ourselves, or our companies doesn’t do any good for anyone. But, not defending ourselves isn’t enough, we still have to go further and challenge the prospect.

Using one of the examples in Anthony’s post, let’s take it a step further?

Your client might say something like, “We’re not sure if you’re big enough to handle our business.” You’re gut reaction might be rattle off the number of locations your company has, the size of the organization, and all the capabilities you have to serve that client. But another approach, a different approach, may be to ask a question. You might ask, “What would you need to see to be hundred percent confident in choosing a company our size?” You’re not defensive about your the size of your company, you’re not desperate, and your dream client is forced to consider the question.

This is a great question and for sure isn’t defensive, but what if you change the question up just a little bit by starting with, “What concerns you about our companies size when it comes to handling your business?” And then you added, “What would you need to see to be 100% confident in choosing a company our size?”

By getting to the why your company’s size even concerns them in the first place, puts you in the decision zone. The decision zone is the where the reasons, the motives behind a buyers concerns or objections exist. When selling, we can either change their outlook on the situation OR change the decision criteria. In other words, when we ask what the client would need to see to choose a company “our size,” we are conceding the validity of the selection criteria. But, what happens if that’s a poor assumption, what if that selection criteria shouldn’t be weighted that big? The only way to be able to respond to their concerns AND challenge them without creating conflict is to get to “why” company size matters, not just figure out how we can meet the decision criteria. We need to get to the decision zone.

Our customers make assumptions just like we do. They prioritize things as important that once more information is available, may not be so important. As sales people, it’s our job to help our prospects and clients navigate through those complexities without pissing them off.

Customers and prospects aren’t perfect. They don’t know everything. They are going to make poor decisions. They will make inaccurate assumptions and the best sales people can challenge their prospects and clients position without being defensive OR creating conflict.

Do you challenge or create conflict?