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The Challenger Sale Foundations

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.

In a book “Challenger sales” written by Adamson and Dixon we can meet with four types of sales reps. Although they all have different characteristics, these categories are not mutually exclusive. The authors explain that characteristics of all types can be exhibited.

The five types of sales representatives are:

  • Challenger: As a Challenger, you offer a fresh perspective to your interviewer and don't shy away from money talks. You understand what constitutes 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 the sales offer and take control of the conversation.

  • Hard worker: The hard worker tries to get better at their role, but doesn't always focus on the factors that add value to the customer.

  • The Lone Wolf: The lone wolf is a high achiever, but not necessarily a team player. Confident in his sales skills, he pushes the limits but is difficult with interpersonal relationships.

  • A relationship builder: When you think of a sales person, you think of a relationship builder. Such a sales rep gets in touch with the contact person at the target company and slowly tries to create an internal advocate.

  • Problem solver: A problem solver is a master at finding solutions to problems both within the team and the client company. He or she achieves results by willingly solving problems and keeping all stakeholders in the loop.

Now that you know the five profiles, it's time to put it all together by moving on to the book's summary.

Challenger Sales Model Summary

The Challenger Sales study found that every B2B sales rep falls into five different profiles.

These five types are: Challenger, Hard Worker, Lone Wolf, Relationship Builder and Problem Solver. These profiles determine how a salesperson interacts with potential customers and closes deals.

The Challenger Approach is most correlated with higher deal closing rates among the top performers.

... hence the book's name. In a study, Adamson and Dixon found that:

  • 40% of high performers in sales primarily used the Challenger style.

  • Top performers are more than twice as likely to use Challenger style than any other style.

  • Over 50% of all high performers fit the Challenger profile in complex sales.

  • Only 7% of top performers used a relationship-building approach - this is the worst performing profile.

Note that the Challenger approach worked better only among the top performers. Among average performers, all profiles were about equally effective.

This is a groundbreaking finding because most sales training and sales teams today are focused on creating and encouraging "relationship building", the least effective of the five profiles.

The Challenger Sales model assumes that the other four sales profiles can learn to be Challenger.

The Challenger Sales model assumes that with the right training, coaching and sales tools, all sales reps - even those in one of the other four categories - can take control of the customer conversation like a Challenger. Therefore, it is possible to create a high-performance Challenger Sales team, but it requires significant effort and coaching.

There are four basic principles for implementing the Challenger Sales model.

These are:

  • Challengers are created, not just born.

  • The combination of skills matters.

  • Challengers are about organisational capability, not just the skills of a single representative.

  • Building a Challenger Sales team is a journey, not an overnight expedition.

By adopting these principles when implementing the Challenger Sales model, you will take your sales process on a transformational journey and turn traditional solution selling upside down.

Combine the Challenger sales model with other sales approaches.

While every salesperson has a unique selling style, the Challenger Sales model can help you refine specific steps in the sales process, helping you close more deals and improve your company's bottom line.




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