Are your sales reps pushy enough?

This is the third HBR Blog article on the Challenger series.  The first two articles (Post 1 & Post 2)  defined the most successful salespeople as being Challengers – assertive, offering relevant insights and guiding the client through the purchasing process.  During their research, the authors found that sales managers were concerned that if they coached their team to be Challengers they would be too aggressive. (Similar to the photo representation above). Yet, their research found some interesting findings:

“Most reps are far more likely to be passive than aggressive…guided by years of training and a deeply seated but mistaken belief that they should always do what the customer wants, reps seek to resolve tension quickly, rather than prolong it. But maintaining a certain amount of constructive tension is exactly what Challengers do.”

“Why do most reps fear tension? First, they feel they have no choice — it’s either acquiesce or lose the deal. Yet, in a recent survey of sales reps and procurement officers…75 percent of reps believe that procurement has the upper hand in the rep-customer relationship, 75 percent of procurement officers believe that reps have more power. What does that tell us? At the very least, if reps give in simply because of a perceived power imbalance, they’re conceding way too easily.”

“Most reps adopt a passive posture because senior management has told them…to “put the customer first,” or “place the customer at the center of everything we do.” Without clear guidance, most reps simply slip into “order taker” mode, closing small, disaggregated, price-driven deals at a discount all in the name of “giving customers what they want.”

Sources: HBR Blog: Why Your Salespeople Are Pushovers.  Photo:


  1. Hi David Kanigan,

    Great post, it gives me good info. Thanks for sharing.


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