Professionals and experts have created unique methods to make their work more efficient and drive better results. Some leading examples include SPIN Selling, SNAP Selling, and Target Account Selling. Another such revolutionary method was introduced by two sales leaders, Matthew Dixon, and Brent Adamson, in their book titled ‘The Challenger Sale’.
They proposed that this model is more effective than the traditional approach of building relationships with customers. According to Dixon and Adamson, the old way may not work well for large and complex B2B solutions. Instead, the Challenger Sale empowers sales reps, giving them control over the sales process and the freedom to influence their prospects and customers’ decisions.
We’re here to help you understand the nuances of this approach and what sets it apart from other sales methodologies, and eventually decide whether it is a good fit for your team!
1. Understanding the Challenger Sales Model
The foundation of this model is a study on attitudes and behaviors of salespersons, that led to the identification of five primary types of sales reps. Knowing these profiles in the Challenger Sales approach can assist businesses in assigning suitable roles to their sales representatives and providing them with the right training and resources. Hence, let us now explore these categories:
The Challenger Sales model is a method that guides sales reps to teach, customize, and take charge of their customer’s buying experience. Instead of just selling products or services, this approach trains reps to understand their prospects’ pain points, interests, and goals. They use this information to educate prospects about their challenges, tailor their communications, and lead the sales process.
It instructs sales reps to imitate the strategies and tactics used by high-performing sales reps, the ‘challengers’, to secure successful sales deals.
In simpler terms, the method helps reps identify their prospect’s business issues or opportunities. They approach prospects by highlighting these problems, educating them, and sparking interest in finding solutions. By demonstrating how these issues impact their business and showing how their product or service can solve them, reps increase their chances of success.
Research supports this approach, indicating that challenging customers’ beliefs, disrupting their thinking, and offering new insights can effectively boost sales results.
1.1. Why the Challenger Sales Model Works?
This model is about getting all your sales reps to act like your best ones. Sales leaders would love to have more reps who perform as well as their top ones, and the Challenger Sales methodology is a step in that direction.
It works successfully because it is well-aligned with today’s tough market, where it’s hard to stand out. The best salespeople excel in this challenging environment because they know how to navigate it. One of the most challenging aspects they must face is the highly informed and aware buyers who have every bit of information at their fingertips.
Salespeople today don’t only handle straightforward inquiries from customers. Instead, they interact with customers who are well-informed about their preferences and needs. In fact, buyers are 57% into the purchase decision before even talking to a seller. Hence they think they know everything about the product. But the salesperson’s job here is to shake things up and show them they’re not quite as well informed.
Your top reps are great at doing so. While average reps focus on standard topics like problems and features, high-performing salesmen take a different approach. If buyers are on a certain path, they show them they’re actually in a maze without a map.
By introducing new insights, they position themselves as experts, making buyers more open to learning about problems and solutions. This helps showcase the product as a good resolution for the roadblocks faced by the prospect, which makes the challenger sales approach effective.
1.2. What are the Pros and Cons of the Sales Challenger Model?
Just like any other sales methodology, the Challenger Sales process has its pros and cons. It’s crucial to grasp these aspects to make the most of the method and address any challenges that might come up.
1.1.1. The Pros
👉It empowers sales reps to surpass the usual sales methods and enhance their value by educating customers with new insights about their business. This not only strengthens credibility but also establishes the sales rep as a trusted advisor.
👉It advocates for a consultative sales approach, emphasizing the importance of grasping the customer’s business, recognizing their challenges, and presenting customized solutions. This results in more meaningful and productive sales discussions.
👉It works especially well in intricate sales scenarios, where the salesperson must question the customer’s assumptions and provide a distinctive viewpoint. This enables the salesman to guide the sales discussion and direct it toward showcasing the value of the product or service.
1.1.1. The Cons
👉While the challenger sales model is suitable for intricate sales, it may not be suitable for all sales situations. For example, the challenger sales model might not be the best choice in scenarios that demand a gentler, more relationship-focused approach.
👉Salespersons need thorough training and development to successfully adopt this method. This learning process is time-consuming and demands dedication from both the sales representatives and the organization.
👉It demands a change in perspective, moving away from conventional selling to a more consultative approach. This can pose a challenge for sales reps accustomed to a more transactional sales style.
👉Salespersons find it difficult to strike the right balance between challenging and offending customers. They might misinterpret the importance of being assertive with customers. The idea is not to be outright disrespectful to the prospect. Instead, you must aim to make your content or insights thought-provoking.
2. What are the Phases of the Challenger Sales Model?
The challenger sales model goes beyond being a sales strategy; it represents a shift in perspective that can transform your sales process. To fully unlock its potential, it’s crucial to adopt a systematic and phased approach.
2.1. The Warmer
The primary phase involves demonstrating to the prospect that you understand their challenges and pain points. Other sales approaches typically start with building rapport and relationships, but the Challenger sales model has a salesman delving into the prospect’s needs and issues right from the start.
This establishes credibility because the prospect realizes you’re genuinely interested in them and their challenges, rather than just trying to sell a product. During this stage, one shouldn’t bring up the product at all; the emphasis should solely be on researching and comprehending the prospect’s needs.
2.2. The Reframe
After discovering a pain point during the warm-up phase, a challenger salesman should explore why this problem exists and turn it into a chance for growth. As you look deeper into the prospect’s issue, you can gently challenge the prospect’s current ideas for solving the problem and guide them to consider fresh perspectives they hadn’t thought of before.
By the end of this phase, the prospect realizes their current way of solving the problem won’t work. You can then shift the conversation toward new and improved solutions. This step requires you to display confidence and come across as being sure of yourself. Also, it’s essential to remember that, once again, your product or service isn’t talked about during this phase. Instead, the focus is on introducing the prospect to new ways of solving their problem.
2.3. Rational Drowning
This phase builds on the conversation reframing that you’ve done earlier. By now, the prospect should be open to new ideas, and you should know the details of the prospect’s problems and needs. Next, you show the prospect data with numbers that explain the cost of not fixing their problem.
These numbers should make them feel a bit uneasy, and you create a strong business case for choosing a solution instead of keeping things the same. While other methods have reps talk about the good things your product does, the Challenger sales strategy says that just knowing the benefits isn’t enough to change a business’s usual way of doing things. Showing the real facts about making a change is more impactful.
2.4. Emotional Impact
The next phase involves creating an emotional connection with the prospect. Even though today’s B2B sales rely a lot on data, emotions still play a big role in how buyers make decisions. So, it’s crucial not to forget that. In this step, a salesperson should tell stories about other customers who had similar problems solved by this new solution. This helps the prospect connect with these success stories and imagine themselves in the same situation, feeling positive about the new solution.
This reinforces the changes in thinking and the numbers discussed earlier. Now, the prospect knows there are other ways to tackle their original plan, and they understand there’s a strong business case – supported by data – for choosing this new approach suggested by the challenger rep. When you add relatable stories from case studies, it becomes hard for the prospect to see any benefit in sticking to their old ways, thereby motivating them to close the deal.
2.5. The New Way
Now, with the prospect ready to accept the new approach that you’ve been suggesting, it’s time to move the deal forward. This step entails teaching the prospect about this fresh solution and how it works in real life—still without talking about your product or service directly. The goal is to show the prospect that there’s a simple solution to the problem they mentioned earlier.
Here, you can use your product’s value proposition to highlight the positive future the prospect can have by solving their problem. You should also talk about what the prospect needs to change in their processes and behaviors to actually solve their pain point.
2.6. The Solution
By this point, the prospect should be sure they want a solution to their problem, and they want it to work like the product you’ve described for them. Now, all that’s left is to showcase your product as the ideal fit for their requirements and nudge them towards a closure.
The next step should almost happen on its own because the prospect will naturally be interested in a demo or getting more information. A successful challenger process should end here, with an informed rep presenting their solution to a prospect whose mind is open to exploring new ways to solve a big problem in their organization.
3. How to Train Every Salesperson to be a Challenger?
We’ve seen that the Challenger sales method works well. However, “challenger” reps are just one type out of five. Challengers are often the best performers, so copying their methods and adopting their mindset can be tough.
Sales leaders trying to implement this model might find it hard for the other types of salespersons to switch their style and take up the challenger approach. Here are some tricks that can be used for every distinct type of salesman:
🌟The Hard Workers are happy to receive feedback, so with regular coaching, they are likely to learn the approach. Don’t leave them to figure it out for themselves because they appreciate hearing from you about their progress.
🌟For Relationship Builders, emphasize that not focusing on building relationships doesn’t mean rushing a deal or being blunt. Instead, it’s a way to guide the customer conversation and direct the deal. Also, ensure they are at ease discussing budgets and data, not just the emotional side.
🌟Lone Wolves are usually top performers, so you don’t have to be too pushy introducing them to the method. Provide a one-page summary and let them learn on their own. Encourage, but don’t force, communication with their peers for knowledge-sharing.
🌟Problem Solvers already possess some challenging behavior to an extent. Guide them to finding unique solutions instead of the obvious, and they’ll make good progress. Enhance their problem-solving skills by adding an excellent, specific pitch to their skills.
4. Ending note
In a nutshell, the Challenger Sales method is a game-changer, urging sales reps to educate, disrupt, and lead conversations. It’s about more than products; it’s a shift in approach. By challenging assumptions and providing valuable insights, reps build trust and create lasting connections.
In this method, every interaction is an opportunity to redefine the sales landscape. So, equip your team with the Challenger mindset, redefine your approach, and boost your revenue and profitability.