Challenge yourself to challenge others

22nd April 2014

One of my favourite business quotes is Henry Ford’s: “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”

It’s funny, memorable and insightful. And, when you think about it, impossible to argue with: after all, how can the beneficiaries of what you do possibly know the best way you can help them? They can’t. You know yourself better than they do.

Persuasive people do this. For example, a few years ago, I never sat on my bed thinking “I wish I had an iPad… a product I simply can’t visualise”. But fortunately, Apple created something that I didn’t yet know I wanted. That’s one of the reasons Steve Jobs didn’t rate customer research. He thought it was their job to know what customers wanted before they did.

Another example: when Walt Disney made Snow White – the world’s first full-length animated film – it was ridiculed as something that people just wouldn’t want (“Disney’s folly” as it was described at the time). It’s still one of the best-selling films of all time.

Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney… what can we learn from these groundbreakers? Well, to find how you can best help someone, guide their thinking. You achieve this by saying such things as:

  • My most successful customers/colleagues use me to help them achieve X – something we haven’t discussed yet. Would that be useful to you?
  • Some of your impressive competitors/colleagues have had notable successes doing Y. Shall we have a look at how you can copy/beat them?
  • Here’s a problem that’s impacting you and your business more than you realise
  • I’ve worked in lots of companies/sectors. And many of them are thriving because of Z – something that nobody here does. This could be a great opportunity to get ahead of the rest. Shall we explore that now?

Helping people think in this way is what the Sales Executive Council call “challenging” them. The SEC found it to be much more powerful than simply building relationships with them. This makes sense. After all, the output of a relationship is “I like you”. The output of challenging is “I know you can bring me value, because you just have done”.

So, challenge people. Show you can help them in ways they hadn’t thought of.

You’ll know you’ve achieved it. They’ll say “Well, I never thought about it like that”.

And if you like this idea, you’re probably thinking “Well, I never thought about it like that”!

Action Point

To challenge people’s thinking, you only need two things:

  • An insight they didn’t know they didn’t know; and
  • A phrase to introduce it

Why not create both now?

Think of some of the things you’ve seen over the years that people would find valuable. Produce a list of the top, say, ten or so.

And then script the sentence(s) you’ll use to introduce them. Use one of the examples above, or create your own.

The final step? Go and do it. Choose someone you want to impress, and bring them value they weren’t expecting.

Want more Tuesday Tips?

Every week, Andy releases a Tuesday Tip via email and his website, let’s take you back to the archive of tips.

Back to Tuesdays Tips