If Peter Drucker is the father of modern business then Dale Carnegie is its savvy uncle. The one who seems to have loads of insight and income, though you’re not exactly sure where either came from. His book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” has taught generations of salespeople how to be more likable, persuasive, and effective. At the very core of Uncle Dale’s method is relationship-building—in order to be successful, you need to be honest, engaged, and generally enjoyable to be around.
Dale Carnegie laid the foundation for better interpersonal relationships with a few key points. First, people love themselves, so listen to them: “We are interested in others when they are interested in us.” Next, be friendly. “A drop of honey can catch more flies than a gallon of gall.” Last, be honest and sincere. These words occur five times in his principles alone. Using these methods develops trust in a relationship—and we know people buy from those they trust. These principles are tried and true—“How to Win Friends and Influence People” is basically required reading for anyone in business.
The authors of the Challenger Selling approach either never read Dale’s book or, perhaps worse, minimize his wisdom. We have already outlined our issues with the Challenger approach in this white paper. The model minimizes relationships, even saying they are not fundamental to sales success. There is nothing in the book about listening, trust, or integrity. Instead of “Let the other person do a great deal of the talking” as Uncle Dale suggests, the Challenger approach encourages the salesperson to “lead with hypotheses of customers’ needs”. Instead of listening, talk at them about what you think is going on in their business. The Challenger Sale then wants you to drown your customer…rationally, of course (can you feel rational while drowning?). People who are drowning cannot listen, they just want to breathe.
The book, of course, has its merits. At JMReid Group we say “people pay for insights” which is consistent with what the Challenger Sale’s research uncovered. We (in our finite wisdom) have also written about the value of provocative insights in sales and training. In our VUCA environment, clients are looking for sales professionals who can confront their thinking, generate insight, and add value, just as the Challenger model says. Their intentions are sound, but their execution is flawed. They are missing key lessons that Uncle Dale was teaching way back in the 1930s. They are ignoring the importance of trust. This has caused many to reject the model because they know relationships matter.
Reconciling “The Challenger Sale” with Dale Carnegie begins with understanding trust at a deeper level. At JMReid Group, we see trust as the foundation of all relationships. Our model holds that trust is a three-legged stool: you must be caring, capable and credible. A successful relationship is built on all three of these elements. People following the Relationship sales model typically underestimate being capable, while Challenger selling completely disregards being credible and caring (ahem, “rational drowning”). This is damaging to your business. You must have all three elements to build trust before challenging a client’s point of view.
Understanding trust at a deeper level allows your company to unlock the potential of client relationships and capitalize on your sales team’s insights.