The Challenger Sales Model

The Challenger Sales Model has become the de-facto resource for sales professional.  It’s a methodology based on of one of the largest studies ever done in sales; a landmark showing that   

“The way you sell has become more important than what you sell.”

And giving actionable insights on what sales style is most effective.

Here at VizQuest, we are huge fans of the book that was developed from the study, “The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation” by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson

As we wrote about previously, the day of the effusive salesman are over.  The customers already know about your solution and your competitors.   At the end of the day, customers want to talk about their business, not your solution. 

So where is sales now and how do we overcome this gap? 

Enter the Challenger

As per the 2011 CEB survey that was the basis of the challenger sales model, the challenger is one of five approaches to selling, listed below for your convenience:

Relationship Builders – Focus on developing strong personal and professional relationships and work hard to resolve tensions in the commercial relationship.

Hard Workers – Do more input – calls per hour, visits per week – than anyone else on the team.

Lone Wolves – Very self-confident. They break the rules, doing what they want, when they want.  Their way or the highway.

Reactive Problem Solvers – Focus on follow-up, ensuring that service issues, especially implementation and execution-related issues, are addressed quickly and thoroughly.

Challengers – Push their customers’ thinking and take control of the conversation using their understanding of their customers’ business.  They are not afraid of being assertive and sharing controversial views with their customers or their bosses.

According to the study, challengers are the only ones that consistently outperforms the other profiles. (link

How does the Challenger Salesperson do it?

“Challengers win not by understanding their customers’ world as well as the customers know it themselves, but by actually knowing their customers’ world better than their customers know it themselves, teaching them what they don’t know but should.”

Challengers set themselves apart by doing three powerful things:

  1. Teach – They provide insight about the industry, the best practices, and their clients’ business with a depth and clarity that astounds their client.
  2. Tailor – Challengers specifically tailor their entire focus to their client. This means concentrating insights on the customer’s specific priorities.
  3. Take Control – Taking control of the sale means standing your ground when challenging a client, and proactively bringing the client to a desired behavior. Note that it does not mean that you should be needlessly aggressive.

Challengers use their deep knowledge of their business and their client’s business and use that knowledge to teach their client very specific insights that apply directly to their client’s business.

Next Steps

Models and theory are well and good, but how is this put into action?  After all, the Challenger Sales Model is not a series of steps, but rather, an attitude.  It can’t only be studied, but must also be practiced.  A combination of training, roleplaying, and experience are the ways in which to most effectively become a challenger.

For ideas on how to develop a Challenger Sales mindset, you can contact us here for advice.

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