Your sales team is vital to the success of your business. Business owners look for sales reps that excel at relationship building, because everyone knows that’s the most important skill for a sales rep to possess. Or, is it? In their book, “The Challenger Sale,” authors Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, along with their team, investigate and present an argument for the Challenger Sales model. This associate looks at the world differently, isn’t afraid to argue their point of view and will take control of the sales process pushing prospects to the close. Dixon and Adamson assert that the Challenger Sales methodology is the most successful approach to sales.
It’s All About Style
Let’s start by exploring the five types of sales identified in the book. Some sales associates are a cross section of these qualities, but generally speaking most associates will fall somewhere in these five profiles.
The Hard Worker:
• Always willing to go the extra mile
• Doesn’t give up easily
• Interest in feedback and development
• Always has a different view of the world
• Understands the customer’s business
• Loves to debate
• Pushes the customer
The Relationship Builder:
• Builds strong advocates in customer organization
• Generous in giving time to help others
• Gets along with everyone
The Lone Wolf:
• Follows their own instincts
• Difficult to control
The Reactive Problem Solver:
• Reliably responds to internal and external stakeholders
• Ensures that all problems are solved
In the past, it has been desirable to have sales associates that follow the Relationship Builder sales strategy. These are associates that are known for customer service and making a strong connection with their clients. The idea of wanting reps that are relationship builders is based on the notion that if customers like and trust the associate, the more likely it is that they will purchase from this person. While this is true to some extent, being liked and trusted by the customer can only help a business; times – and the needs of customers – have changed. There are incredible amounts of information available at consumers’ fingertips. They don’t need to trust that your rep is giving them the best price; they can complete a price comparison online themselves. They don’t need to trust that the product will perform or has the features they are seeking; they can look up reviews and specs online.
In fact, according to the research presented in the book, after a sampling of approximately 6,000 sales associates (which is a huge sample size); the Relationship Builder sales strategy proved to be the least successful of all the sales models.
Why would this be the case? Well, as stated above, a lot of information is already available to customers online. There is little patience for a sales rep that is “salesy” in today’s fast-paced environment. Customers are well-informed and don’t necessarily need to feel a special connection with your rep in order to buy in. Or at least, that isn’t the most important thing in their decision-making process anymore. Customers expect added value in their sales experience and they are looking to your associates to provide it.
Why the Challenger Sales Methodology Works
Enter the Challenger Sales person. These associates think outside of the box. They do research to understand the customer’s business, which allows them to make a customized presentation for each individual prospect. They look at problems differently and come up with solutions to address those concerns. This is an associate that will educate the customer during the sales process, and show them why the product is the best fit for their needs. They might even argue (respectfully) with the client, to push the client into seeing their point of view. Dixon and Adamson include some eye-opening statistics throughout the book, but here are a couple that might be surprising:
High performers are two times more likely to use the Challenger Sales model.
A minuscule seven percent of top performers used the Relationship Builder model.
An associate using the Challenger Sales model will keep their eye on the prize and will be able to persuade and sell with three tools suited to their sales style and traits – teach, tailor and take control.
As detailed in the book:
• With their unique perspective on the customer’s business and their ability to engage in robust two-way dialogue, Challengers are able to teach for differentiation during the sales interaction.
• Because Challengers possess a superior sense of a customer’s economic and value drivers, they are able to tailor for resonance, delivering the right message to the right person within the customer organization.
• Finally, Challengers are comfortable discussing money and can, when needed, press the customer a bit. In this way, the Challenger takes control of the sale.
Go in for the Close
Using the tools that come naturally to them, Challenger Sales reps lead the way in today’s sales environment. With the ability to provide innovation and a unique perspective, understand the customer’s business and push the customer to make a commitment, the Challenger Sales associate is well poised to be a top performer. That isn’t to say that associates with any of the other sales styles can’t be successful or even incorporate traits from the Challenger Sales methodology. It is possible for skilled sales managers to teach their associates how to embrace Challenger Sales model steps and to incorporate these tools into their own sales presentations. The research, however, distinctly points to a clear top performing sales style -- and the Challenger Sales model is the leader of the pack.
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