Recently, I’ve been reading the book The Challenger Sale by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson. I find it fascinating how much sales has changed over the years.

My personal style of selling has always been to create a relationship of trust—by listening to a client’s needs, then providing ideas and solutions to help them exceed their goals. This is very similar to Dixon and Adamson’s model.

A person who uses the key attributes of the challenger sale will:
1. Offer the customer unique perspectives.
2. Use strong 2-way communication skills.
3. Know the individual customer’s value drivers.
4. Identify the economic drivers of the customer’s business.
5. Be comfortable discussing money.
6. Take control of the situation.

These attributes are also very relevant to the agency-client relationship. Honestly, isn’t this what every agency should be doing for their client?
Recently I had lunch with a friend, the Director of Marketing for a local financial institution. She had just completed an agency review the previous year.

“How is the new agency going?” I asked.

“Somewhat disappointing,” she said, adding that the new agency, known to be one of the most creative in the region, wasn’t much better than the agency they had used for the 3 previous years. Unfortunately, they had selected this agency specifically for their creative talent.

I was shocked. I’m very familiar with both agencies. The old agency is strong in research, data, media, and customer service—and has what I would call “good” creative. But the new agency is incredibly creative, and one of the hottest in the region.

I asked my friend what she thought the problem was. She answered, “The agency seemed to have great creative initially, but the execution was weak.”
So I asked her the tough question: Is it the agency…or is it you? This company hired an agency because of great creative—but in the end, they lacked the 2-way communication with the agency. In turn, the agency lacked the guts to stand up and take charge of what was best for the client. They ended up with weak execution of a great idea.

Ideally, a Challenger Agency should push and make the client a little uncomfortable. They are not hired to tell the client what they want to hear. A Challenger Agency must do a deep dive into the industry, company, and competition to uncover what the client may be afraid to hear—and then provide ideas and unique solutions to help them to succeed.
If you’re the agency…do you do what the client tells you, because you’re afraid to stand against them, even if it’s the right thing to do for the brand? Or do you take control and challenge the client, because it’s exactly what they need?

If you’re the client…do you have the guts to succeed? That means—succeeding by doing something a little different, and maybe giving up some control to your agency partner, which may make you feel uncomfortable?Do you listen to—and respect—the agency that you hired, rather than fighting against them, to exceed the goals of the brand and company?

Any agency can be a “full-service” agency. Research shows that there are approximately 560,000 others like you in the U.S. Or you can use your God-given talent to be a Challenger Agency, and push your client and their brand to be the best it can be.

If you are looking for a Challenger Agency, check out Fervor, VI Marketing and Proof. These are all highly talented professional firms, focused on results with great brand-building, research, and creative.
ROCK Creative Network represents Challenger agencies, and connects marketing executives and agency leaders with talented, passionate, creative and digital resources to help grow and get results. If you want to win more—and grow your business—call George Weyrauch II at (816) 305-4728 or