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Don’t PLEASE People; SERVE People

In his recent Harvard Business Review article, “The End of Solutions Sales,” Matt Dixon reported the results of a study of 20,000 salespeople around the world.  The study grouped salespeople into five distinct profiles:

1. Challengers: These are salespeople with a provocative point of view that they’re not afraid to share with a customer.  They push the client beyond his or her comfort zone to make sure they are getting what they need.

2. Relationship Builders: These salespeople are out to take care of whatever a client needs.  Their goal is to make the client happy, and to avoid creating stress at almost any cost.

3. Reactive Problem Solvers: These salespeople are more focused on post-deal execution than they are on getting the next deal signed.  As a result, clients love them.

4. Lone Wolves: These are the prima donnas of sales.  If it weren’t for the fact that they meet and exceed their sales goals, they would have been fired long ago.

5. Hard Workers: These salespeople show up early and stay late.  To them, sales is a numbers game, and you need to work long and hard in order to build the numbers.

The researchers found that while all of these profile types are capable of being top performers, the profile with the most top performers was actually the first group, the Challengers.

Interestingly enough, the Relationship Builders came in last.  They constituted the smallest percentage of top performers in the study.  Those who did especially poorly were trying—but failing—to sell those same “disruptive” (uncomfortable) solutions toward which the Challengers pushed their clients successfully.

“But,” I hear someone saying, “YOU preach relationship building!”

So, here’s the distinction: Building relationships IS important.  But “Relationship Builders”, as Dixon identifies them, go beyond rapport.  Their drive to build the relationship includes a drive to PLEASE a client, even if doing so doesn’t SERVE the client.  When it’s time to recommend action, for instance, they say: “Whatever you want…”  They go so far out of their way to avoid confrontation and stress that they avoid telling the client what he or she ought to hear.  When truly serving someone means urging him or her to do something that will be uncomfortable, clients tend to prefer the attitude of a Challenger.

Based on the results of Dixon’s study, more people want to work with a professional who says, “Here’s what we need to do,” than with one who says “Which one of these options are you most comfortable with?”  Since people want to deal with an expert, think of the attitude you’d prefer your doctor to have in a time of crisis.  ‘Bedside manner’ is important, but if she believes that surgery is your best option, you won’t want her to try and reduce your stress by telling you about all the other ways you can handle the problem.  You’ll want her to firmly help you make the most appropriate choice.

Build great relationships with clients, but serve them by being truthful about what the right solution is—even if hearing your recommendation might be stressful.  Being firm about the solutions you recommend will increase your business.  When it comes to your advice, don’t be a people-pleaser—it will come across as weak, and—the study shows—it will ultimately cost you clients.

Talk to me about helping you be a Challenger who also builds great relationships by contacting me today.  Better still, if you’re a financial or insurance professional, join my 100 Days to $100K program on October 20th.  Stop pleasing, start serving, and keep REACHING…

16 Disciplines

I suppose it would have been more fun if I called them 16 “hot tubs” for advisors, or less intimidating if I called them “practices,” but after 17 years of working with and observing how the most successful advisors, it's clear that there are branches of knowledge involved. 


Practice these simple 16 disciplines daily and watch how quickly and easily your practice grows.

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