The Challenger Selling Model. Really?

A section of Forbes.com is called the Forbes Leadership Forum and last month there was a very intriguing article called ‘The One Kind of Sales Rep Who Does Best at B2B.’  Although I have doubts about some of what’s written there were some compelling points that made me think.

The article begins by referencing a survey by the Corporate Executive Board (or CEB) of more than 6,000 sales representatives across the globe and numerous industries.  Their study identified 5 profiles that B2B sales reps fall into:

  • The Hard Worker……always willing to go the extra mile, doesn’t give up easily & self-motivated.
  • The Problem Solver……detail-oriented, deals with service issues quickly & highly values post-sales follow through.
  • The Relationship Builder……..won’t be pushy, focuses on customer needs & generous with their time.
  • The Lone Wolf………self-assured, difficult to control & and follows their instincts.
  • The Challenger…… has a different view of the world, understands the customer’s business & and loves to debate.

While there is value in all these styles, the CEB stated that The Challenger is the ‘clear winner’ in B2B complex selling solutions.  The research indicated that nearly 40% of all star-performing sales reps are Challengers.  In addition, when the CEB contrasted transactional sales with complex-solution sales they found that Challengers represented 54% of the star-performers while the Relationship Builder type fell off the map ‘almost entirely’.

I’ve been in sales for more years than I care to count and had I been asked to guess the results in B2B sales I would not have predicted that type of outcome.  But I read on – although somewhat skeptically.  The CEB stated that The Challenger salesperson is defined by “the unique ability to use constructive tension throughout the sale and provide value to customers through a three-pillar approach”.  Lots of words in that definition but who would you guess in the industrial market uses the Challenger Selling Model?

Before I tell you, here’s a quick overview of the 3-Pillar Approach

  • Teaching:  the salespersons ability to ‘teach’ the customers something new or challenge their thinking.  Insight is the single quality that customers value most highly in a supplier.
  • Tailoring: build consensus among customer stakeholders because decision-makers care that there is widespread support across their organization
  • Taking Control: not deterred by hesitation from customers and pushes the conversation back to the value being offered the customer

According to the Corporate Executive Board, “the combination of teaching, tailoring and taking control……may not get your customers to think you’re nice, but it will win you their loyalty – and win you the sale.”  Do you believe that?  Would you believe it more knowing that W.W. Grainger uses the Challenger Selling method?  Me too.

What would your customers think of the Challenger Selling Model?  Can you see your organization using this approach?  We’re curious to read your comments and those of your colleagues – please LIKE and SHARE this blog.  And as always, thanks for subscribing to EVERYTHING’S CONNECTED.

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