In a recent HBR Blog post, Selling Is Not About Relationships, they talk about the how Every sales professional falls into one of five distinct profiles. I just don't see it that way. In fact, for the "Challenger" profile, I don't think taking control and pushing the customer is the right description for the profile they say is the best performing of sales people. I think that makes the relationship with the customer too adversarial. Ultimately this leads to buyers remorse and resentment, a real relationship killer. I think that the best sales people are a combination of relationship builder and the challenger role.
One of my favorite salesmen ever was in a twilight zone episode "What You Need". In it, a peddler has the curious ability to give people exactly what they need before they need it. While some of his ability was let's say - magic, more of his ability was about listening, hearing and offering a solution. While, we can't see the future, I believe the best sales people develop an understanding of the needs of their customers (aka not just listening, but hearing) and 'right fit' a solution into those needs. Sometimes this is accomplished by redefining (aka challenging) the understanding the customer has of the problem they need to solve, sometimes the challenge is not necessary. Regardless, without building trust through this process, it's very likely a once and done sale - not my model of successful selling. It's far easier to sell into an existing customer then to go out time and again to build new relationships with new customers. Both are critical to sales success, but happy customers breed more and more happy customers new and existing.