By Ruba Qaqish
Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson wanted to find out what top-performing business-to-business (B2B) sales reps are doing that their average-performing colleagues are not. Based on surveys of 6,000 sales reps, here are their findings.
Sales personality types
Salespeople fall into five profiles:
• Hard Workers
• Relationship Builders
• Lone Wolves
• Reactive Problem-solvers
Contrary to common wisdom, classic Relationship Builders are the least effective, especially in complex sales. Challengers are the top performers even in difficult economic situations.
Challenger sales model
Challengers use “constructive tension” to lead the client through the sale. They push clients out of their comfort zone and into realizing their problems.
Challengers teach, tailor their insights, and take control.
Rather than simply telling customers their company is great, Challenger sales reps teach the customer by providing valuable insights about the marketplace – Challengers understand the industry, the obstacles the customer faces, and the roots of their problems.
Challengers reveal problems the customer didn’t know they had and options they’ve never thought of exploring. Challengers offer insight that improves the customer’s business, focusing on the money the customer wastes by not taking action, building a sense of urgency.
Challengers can tailor their insights to resonate with varied clients in different contexts because they understand what matters to each customer.
Customers do not buy complex B2B products or services unless their internal consensus backs the decision. Sales reps must secure the support of the primary decision-maker and other stakeholders in the company who must approve the sale. To gain this support, Challengers deliver the insights each stakeholder needs to hear.
To Challenger sales reps, assuming control is not an end-of-sale negotiation tactic. They do it at every stage of the process. Challengers assume their customers lack the expertise to conclude a complex B2B sale and take control of the process. They are not afraid to challenge their customers. They don’t mind pressing customers to close the sale. Challengers do not strive for a fast close; instead, they ensure every step of the sale delivers value and leads to the next stage.
Tailoring the offer and teaching alone won’t close a B2B sale. Taking control without teaching or tailoring only annoys customers. Challengers perform all three functions by using constructive tension, which calls for “challenging the way a customer sees their world and pushing back constructively in tough negotiations.”
Transitioning to the Challenger sales model
A Challenger sales force does not develop overnight. You can improve B2B sales by hiring Challengers, training staff to be Challengers, and enabling sales managers to coach salespeople on Challenger behaviours.
But the Challenger model stems from the organization, not the reps. Without strong organizational support (for example, developing insightful content for the teaching portion of the sale), B2B sales reps face an uphill battle.
The Challenger Sale: How to Take Control of the Customer Conversation by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson.
First published in the March 2019 edition of The Business Advisor.