Stumped your client - the challenger sale methodology

The Challenger Sales model is a sales methodology that encourages reps to emulate certain successful salespeople - or "challengers" - when executing their sales processes. This means teaching prospects about their situation, tailoring communications to the needs of specific prospects and taking control of the sale.


How specifically does this work?


In the practice, this means approaching sales in a different way than you have in the past. Instead of apologising for trying to sell something to a client, you will take control of the conversation. As a Challenger, you'll have a deep understanding of your potential customer's business and you'll push at the right time to get them to make a decision.


As a Challenger, you offer your clients a fresh perspective and don't shy away from conversations about money. You understand what represents value to them and use that information to make an irresistible offer - and to tactfully put pressure on them. Remember the three T's: You teach them something of value, tailor a sales offer and take control of the conversation.


How to Become a Challenger Salesperson?


Phase one: uncover your opportunity

The Challenger approach requires the discovery of a surprising insight that will help a potential customer improve their business - and ultimately point them towards your product.


Let’s use an exemplary story:

Triny could have given Martin advice on improving the customer experience. However, if she hadn't linked it to increased profits or reduced costs, he probably wouldn't have felt a greater need to buy the paper. The teaching moment should ultimately make the buyer think: "I really need [your product]". If you're not sure this is the case, ask yourself, "What is the business value of following my advice? Have I explained these benefits to my potential customer?".


To find your ability to advise potential clients, review the last 10 or more deals you've worked on. How do potential clients routinely mismanage their important business processes? What opportunities are they missing out on?


Here are some possibilities to provoke you thinking:


  • Inefficient process

  • Misallocated funds/budget

  • Lack of investment in one area

  • Product/price errors

  • Risky initiative

  • Wrong priorities

  • Wrong personnel choices

  • Inadequate team structure


Amazed? Try brainstorming with other representatives of your team. Spotting common themes is easier when there are several people in the room.


You can also ask your manager for insights. Because she has access to the pipelines of several or all salespeople, she is well-versed in recurring prospect challenges.


Note whether prospects are usually aware of the problem. If they have identified it but not found a good solution - or underestimated the importance of the problem - they have probably already done some research. To help them, you will need to fill in their knowledge gaps and change their existing perspective.


But if most of your potential customers have never considered this particular challenge or opportunity before, bring it to their attention.


Phase two: identify the most powerful solutions

Pointing out a problem or opportunity will not move the transaction forward unless you help the buyer solve it. The next step is to prepare some strategies or recommendations.


Ask yourself how previous customers have responded to the challenge. What worked well? And what didn't?


If you find it difficult to come up with ideas, look for them online. Imagine that you want to help potential customers increase their level of customer engagement. You can search for the keywords: "strategy for increasing customer engagement", "customer engagement case study", "techniques for increasing customer engagement", etc. You may also find it helpful to review your CRM and look at closed, winning deals. Note the typical challenges and ways in which potential customers respond. Have any of these strategies proven effective for multiple buyers? If so, it's probably a technique worth recommending - plus you have evidence of its effectiveness to share with the buyer.


Finally, you can reach out to existing customers. Call five prospects you've worked with within the past year and ask, "When we talked in [month], you focused on [problem-solving]. What techniques did you try?".


Follow up with: "Which strategy was most effective? Which was least effective?".


Although it takes time to gather these answers, citing real-life examples will give you instant credibility with future prospects.


Phase three: Integrate the "lesson" into your message


Now is the time to update your news.


At this point you should have:


  • A surprising, valuable insight for your potential customers.

  • Two or three ways they can use this insight.


Mentioning this insight in your prospect emails is a great way to grab your prospects' attention and lay the groundwork for a productive conversation. However, make sure you don't reveal everything in the first message: You want to give the potential customer an incentive to talk to you. Try to describe the impact of your suggestion rather than the suggestion itself.


Once you've spoken to the buyer, use the template below to make your points:


Rep: "I've seen that [challenge] come up repeatedly with my clients. Is this something you struggle with as well?".


Prospect: "Yes."


Rep: "Have you thought about [strategy X]?"


Alternatively, you can:


  • Offer an unexpected fact: "Did you know about [surprising thing]?"

  • Point to an issue they don't raise: "I'm curious, is there any reason why you didn't [solve problem X]?".

  • Identify an untapped opportunity: "Given [benefits A, B and C], have you considered [investing in the initiative]?".


These statements will help you challenge the prospect's perspective without suggesting that they are unintelligent or inexperienced. After you've piqued the caller's interest and made them want to hear more, offer your guidance.


For example, you might say, "My team has found that doing X leads to [results] and doing Y leads to [results]. We believe that approach Z is the most effective. Customers who try Z will see [results]."


Once you've added significant value to a buyer's life and helped them see their world in a new light, you've earned their trust and loyalty. Many potential customers struggle to differentiate between products - using the Challenger approach can be your competitive advantage.