The Challenger Sale Explained

If you’re in sales or are interested in the field, chances are you’ve heard the term Challenger sales. But what does it really mean? You know it’s comes from Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson’s book, The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation, but maybe you don’t have time to read the whole book, or maybe you just want a quick refresher. Either way, we’ve got you covered.

In 2012, Dixon and Adamson conducted a survey of over 6,000 B2B salespeople and published their results in The Challenger Sale. They used their results to create 5 sales personas that all B2B salespeople fall into: The Hard Worker, the Lone Wolf, the Relationship Builder, the Challenger, and the Problem Solver. Their findings contradicted much of the conventional wisdom in the sales world. The Relationship Builder was the persona that aligned most closely with the training most salespeople receive, however it performed the worst – employed by a mere 7% of top performing salespeople. The Challenger proved to be the most effective, used by 40% of top performers overall and 50% of top performers dealing with complex sales.

What Does the Challenger Look Like?

Hubspot defines the Challenger sales approach as one “in which the seller actively teaches their prospect, tailors their sales process, and takes control of the customer conversation.” The Challenger always has a different world view to offer the client, along with a deep understanding of the client’s industry and markets. The Challenger is assertive and creates a productive tension by pointing out inefficiencies to the customer, allowing them to demonstrate how the product will have a truly positive impact. In the current data rich world, it isn’t enough to have a deep knowledge of your products — the customer has access to this online. Sales reps need to have new insights and innovative solutions to customer’s business problems to differentiate themselves from the competition. The Challenger uses their deep understanding of each client to tailor their message and take control of the sale from beginning to end. In doing so, they create a positive buying experience, a key differentiator which drives 53% of customer loyalty.

How to Transform Your Sales Team Into Challengers

So, you’re convinced of the benefits of the Challenger model of sales, but wondering how to transform your sales team into Challengers? Start at the beginning, with hiring and onboarding. When new positions open up, look to fill them with assertive, hardworking salespeople likely to thrive as Challengers. Give all your new hires a copy of The Challenger Sale and have them read it. Retrain your existing team in the Challenger sales model and sit in on calls and meetings to help them make their transformation. Finally, give your salespeople the resources needed for the in-depth research the Challenger model requires. This could include teaming up with marketing to create an easy-to-use company database. These steps should put you on the right track to creating a team of Challengers. No matter what person a salesperson starts as, with the right tools and training, anyone can become a Challenger.

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