The Challenger Sale
The Challenger Sale by CEB is based upon research that shows buying has fundamentally changed since 2008, and that Solution Selling is no longer effective in a complex buying world. Executive buyers and users look for different things in the buying cycle, and just diagnosing needs and pitching does not lead to purchases. Also, having great relationships without insight and customer value is not effective. Executives are most interested in buying from an organization, so they want multiple people on the supplier side to be responsive to a project. Most importantly, they want collaborative buy-in from their own people before taking the risk on large projects, both to ensure the right decision and to get commitment from the beginning. However, users also want an individual relationship with someone from the supplier side—someone who is responsive and provides ideas and insight to help them and their companies succeed and perform.
The CEB’s research shows that there are 5 profiles of sales reps executing in complex sales. Two are high performing: The Challengers and The Lone Wolves. Lone Wolves cannot be replicated across an organization, and they often create conflict in a team-based sale. Thus, the characteristics of this type of rep cannot and should not be replicated.
Challengers, on the other hand, do three things differently than the other profiles. These three characteristics allow them to deliver insight and high performance. First, Challengers teach with unique insight into a business. Secondly, they tailor their messages to individuals based upon these insights, and, thirdly, they take control of the sale by focusing on next steps, money conversations, and how to complete the purchase and move to implementation. However, to make this Selling Framework a competitive advantage, it entails broad scale change and organizational adoption by all reps with aid from marketing/sales operations and good coaching sales managers.
The CEB has developed training programs and tools to both initially train and continue to build on these organizational capabilities of Challengers. One item mentioned frequently throughout their book is the use of STORY as a tool to influence buyers—having conversations with buyers by both telling and getting stories. The CEB also maintains that natural Challengers must challenge the prospect to give them new ideas and insights particularly when they disagree. However, they do not teach or train how to do this, and it is perhaps the most critical skill in interacting with prospects. Challenging someone creates conflict, and this is a difficult task and skill to execute effectively—Nice to mention, very hard to do well.
At CI² we absolutely believe that the world is getting more complex and the risk of large purchases is huge. Some sellers have adapted to this and some have not. We believe that the ability/skill of telling compelling stories and gathering insightful stories from your customers is fundamental to detailed execution whenever you are leading, persuading, or trying to influence others. Current brain science based upon tests done with FMRI technology demonstrates why this is so critical for people making decisions or moving to adopt changes. The training we implement at CI² is practical, skill-based learning that will compliment the Challenger Sale principles, as well as most other in-vogue frameworks. Story Gathering is one of the critical skills needed to interact with the new Buyer 2.0, helping him/her and you to get results. Business outcomes our prospects want are: increased revenues, increased sales productivity, increased profitability, increased customer satisfaction, and increased employee satisfaction; all leading to greater shareholder value. Learning gather impactful stories will give you the advantage you need to tell, inspire and motivate others to Action. This critical skill will turbocharge your sales results and lead to higher performance.
John Geraci, CI Squared Co-Founder and President