The challenger sales model is something countless B2B sales professionals are likely to be familiar with. Since Mathew Dixon and Brent Adamson introduced the book “The Challenger Sale” to the world in 2011, they’ve pushed every sales rep to reconsider the sales process.
While many people still argue that building relationships with prospects is still crucial to the sales process, Dixon and Adamson suggest relationships aren’t as important in B2B sales.
Instead, they believe that sales reps who take control of a sale, and teach their prospects how to become their own “problem solver” close more deals.
So, what is the Challenger Sales Method, and how does it work? Let’s find out.
The concept of the Challenger Sales model comes from a popular B2B sales training book published more than a decade ago. The book quickly became a hot topic of discussion across the industry, due to its unique take on relationship building, and solution selling.
In the book, Mathew Dixon and Brent Adamson describe the attitudes and behaviors of different kinds of sales reps with 5 key profiles:
Although the sales team in a standard business may be made up of multiple different personalities, the Challenger Sales method suggests the “challenger” is the most effective type of salesperson.
A challenger sales rep is committed to creating constructive tension, disrupting their customer’s way of thinking, and pushing them to consider new perspectives. Using the challenger sales methodology, professionals deliver insights into problems and opportunities in a customer’s business.
They then introduce their product or solution, in their sales pitch, as a way to solve those issues, or unlock those opportunities.
The Challenger sales methodology does have some complexities. It doesn’t work well in simple sales cycles, and tends to offer the best results to reps with advanced skills. However, used correctly, this methodology can be an excellent way to close deals.
The Challenger Sales Method focuses on taking control of the customer’s sales experience, tailoring the solution to their needs, and teaching them how to solve problems. It involves sharing insights during customer conversations, and challenging a prospect’s assumptions and beliefs.
Studies have shown evidence that the Challenger Sales approach can be effective. For instance, Gartner found B2B buyers only spend around 17% of their time in meetings with sales reps. They spend the rest of their time independently researching online.
This suggests prospects in the B2B world are already coming into the sales process with pre-set ideas. Challengers work well in this landscape, pushing customers to rethink how they look at problems and solutions in a complex sales environment.
Other reports have shown that 40% of the top sales professionals use a Challenger selling style, and only 7% of high sales performers focused on the relationship building approach.
Adopting the Challenger Sales model requires companies to take a different approach to sales management. Instead of focusing on building relationships, reps need to be equipped to take control of the sales process, and push customers towards the right purchasing decisions.
Here are some of the key steps in adopting the methodology:
The first step in Challenger Sales is building credibility through communication. Sales reps need to show prospects that they understand their challenges and pain points. During discovery processes, Challenger reps ask their prospects about their needs, and prove they’re an expert.
They showcase their experience, and question their prospect’s issues, goals and concerns, to pique curiosity. Many Challenger sales professionals also use visuals and interactive content, to get the prospect engaged and involved in the discussion.
During the initial sales conversation, the prospect may reveal some preconceptions about their biggest problem. Reframing the conversation involves questioning why customers believe the root of their issues stem for a specific space.
By diving a little deeper into the problem and its causes, the Challenger sales professional can begin to break down misconceptions. They can encourage customers to start looking at things from a new perspective, and challenge customers to seek out a different solution.
This process requires the sales rep to share useful insights and push the prospect to start thinking about things in new ways. You’ll need to show knowledge, expertise, and evidence that you know what you’re talking about, to earn customer trust.
Emotion still plays an important role in sales, even in the B2B landscape. No matter how good a product or service is, a customer’s purchasing decision will usually be triggered by emotion. Around 95% of our decisions are influenced by how we feel.
To create an emotional impact, sales reps need to demonstrate the personal benefits a prospect will experience from purchasing a product or service. Showing the prospect of how other customers benefited from a new solution, and positioning them as the main character in the narrative can help.
Professional Challenger sales reps use a combination of customer stories, emotional anecdotes, and research to demonstrate just how beneficial a solution or service can be.
For the first few stages of the Challenger Sales method, there’s very little reference to the product or service a company sells. It’s not until you’ve made an emotional connection with your prospect, do you present your unique value proposition.
To present the value proposition correctly, sales professionals need to paint a picture for their customers, of the future or results they can achieve with the “right strategy”. Focus on drawing attention to specific problems and their solutions.
The ultimate goal is to educate the prospect about what the ideal solution to their potential problems may actually look like, without directly referencing your product or service straight away. Done correctly, this will help your prospect to instantly recognize the value of your solution.
Finally, it’s time to actually introduce the product or service. At this point, sales reps should have discovered the prospect’s problem, and reframed it. They should have gained the trust of their potential customers, and helped them to discover the potential solutions to their issues.
The only thing left to do is to show the prospect that you have the solution they’re looking for. This means introducing your product or service, and highlighting all the problems it can solve.
If you’ve followed the previous steps in the Challenger Sales method correctly, this stage should be relatively straightforward. You’ve already convinced the customer that they need whatever you’re selling before you ever introduced the product or service itself.
In today’s world, sales processes are growing increasingly more complex, particularly in the B2B landscape. We’re living in a digital world where prospects conduct a lot of research on their own, before ever talking to a sales professional.
The challenger sales methodology can help companies to thrive in this landscape. With the strategy above, sales professionals can completely reframe the buying journey, and increase their chances of closing deals without being overly pushy or aggressive.
If you want to learn more about how you can use the right sales methods to accelerate your revenue and business results, join our amazing community. Hypcccycl is the ultimate gamified landscape, where you can learn from other professionals in the sales industry.