Your clients crave to be challenged!

By Anders Björklund

Your clients crave to be challenged!

I propose a daring yet practical strategy: challenging prospective and existing customers. After all, the age-old business adage "the customer is always right" begs the question – is it advisable to challenge the very individuals with whom you're seeking to conduct business?

The answer is a nuanced one. Indeed, there are instances when it's beneficial to do so. However, the approach matters significantly, as incorrect execution can tarnish your reputation and your company's credibility. Please avoid becoming a sycophant, simply agreeing with your clients without adding value, but make sure you don't appear disrespectful.

You should strive to be perceived as an informed partner by challenging your clients. This role, however, becomes unattainable if you validate their every statement and fail to question their presumptions, thus hindering their growth. It's crucial to strike the right balance.

Guidance for credible client challenges

Here are three tips to help you maintain credibility when challenging your prospective and existing customers:

Comprehend the industry and market landscape

You can begin here much like you would doubt financial guidance from a financial novice, so understanding the industry, market, and the company you're selling to is essential when challenging your customers.

In practical terms, this implies extensive reading, trend awareness, and learning from successful customers. It's improbable to master a new industry or market instantly; thus, challenging new clients may prove difficult initially. However, as your knowledge grows, so does your ability to challenge your clients effectively.

Grasp the current circumstances and desired future state

Regardless of your skill in the industry and market, a thorough understanding of your potential customer and company is essential. A robust discovery process is required, where you understand your prospective customer's present state, priorities, and goals.

I think challenging customers without a deep understanding of their circumstances won't be well received, regardless of the validity of your argument. So, please ensure you comprehensively understand their unique situation before offering suggestions.

Challenges must drive improved outcomes

Knowledge of the industry, market and client contact is needed. I think the intent behind your challenge carries weight. Mere criticism to boost your stature or inflate your ego will not bode well.

Rather, your challenge should stem from a place of goodwill and steer towards improved outcomes. Remember that a better result does not necessarily entail purchasing your product, solution, or service.

Earn the right to challenge

Some individuals aspire to become decision-makers yet must equip themselves with the skills necessary for this role. When eventually promoted, they need to prepare better.

In the same way, the right to challenge your prospective customers must be earned. This begins with extensive research about the industry and market you're selling into while simultaneously understanding your customers' needs, difficulties and objectives.

However, your critique should be tactful and constructive if it happens to be questionable. This approach positions you to serve your client, not your ego.

Challenges can benefit all parties involved, provided they are based on knowledge, mutual respect, and a trustworthy relationship. Don't hesitate to ask thought-provoking questions that challenge your client's assumptions or introduce a novel insight that may contradict their current perspective.

In conclusion, effective challenging can enhance your commercial acumen by fostering trust with your clients. The secret lies in challenging with credibility and knowing how to navigate the responses and reactions to your challenges.

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Anders Björklund
Founder, CEO & Strategist since 2001. Anders provides thoughts and reflections about how to think about onlinification and digitalisation in B2B.
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