The Challenger Sale: Selling With Insights


If you work in sales, your boss likely recommended you read the Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation by Brent Adamson and Matthew Dixon. It’s not just any old book — it’s a relatively recent classic that challenges the emphasis on relationship building in sales, and brings to light, through research, a proven way to be more effective at closing deals.

As a summary and refresher, the Challenger Model of Sales says that it’s not what you sell, it’s how you sell. It’s also not the quality of your product, but the value of your insight that you deliver as part of the sales interaction itself. It’s not about building the relationship with the customer…It’s about challenging the customer.

The truth is: customers don’t need sales reps in the ways they used to. Research from CEB found that B2B customers don’t contact sales until they are 57% through the purchase process. Customers today are reluctant, risk-averse, and empowered — they do independent research and have their own informed criteria for purchasing. So how does a company get ahead of this challenge? They take control of the sale at the beginning of the sales process, identify a need for each specific buyer, and then offer only the most appropriate solution to their problem.

Sales reps come in many shapes and sizes. They can be categorized into one of five rep profiles: the hard worker, the challenger, the relationship builder, the lone wolf, and the problem solver. Research shows that sales reps who are challengers perform better than their peers in B2B buying environments and solutions-oriented sales. High performers were more than 2x likely to use a challenger approach than any other type.

What makes a sales rep a challenger? Challengers lead with insights and have the ability to disrupt customers’ assumptions, pushing them in an intellectual way. They teach, tailor and take control, allowing them to excel at building constructive tension. They have a different view of the world. They know their customers’ worlds better than their customers know them.

In turn, they can teach them something new about how they can compete more effectively, and offer fresh perspectives about their specific business needs. Challengers can effectively tailor the message in a way that is both compelling and assertive — that drives action. This can be done by providing education through free advice, consultations and marketing tools — allowing for an easy buying experience for customers. They can adjust and adapt their sales strategy, at the industry, market and company levels. They have a strong understanding of their customers’ businesses, and can offer unique perspective that challenges their customers’ ways of thinking and forces them to think differently.

Transitioning from a relationship seller to a challenger doesn’t happen overnight. It requires the development of customer empathy, a better understanding of their business, the distillation of relevant insights, and the ability to engage with them on an intellectual level. These skills are cultivated over time, not delivered out of a box. That said, at BuzzBoard, we equip sales and marketing teams with the insights they need to be challengers, allowing them to sell more effectively. We analyze billions of disparate data points to help you drive real, meaningful sales conversations and understand your customers. This is done by compiling, integrating and transforming that data into actionable insights, improving both targeting and engagement. Our customers can understand their prospects’ businesses better and use that information to tell them about their industry, what their competitors are doing and how they stack up, what resources they’re missing to be successful, what specific solutions would solve their business challenges, as well as provide the tools and talking points to drive the conversation forward.

Find out how you can become a challenger with BuzzBoard today.

– Rachel Rocero, Marketing & Communications Manager, BuzzBoard
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