5 Lessons Learned From "The Challenger Sale"

Mathew Dixon and Brent Adamson researched over 60,000 salespeople and 90+ companies across different industries to create this methodology for a more effective sales process.

The Challenger model is a new approach to successful selling, defined as “A sale in which the rep teaches the prospect something about their business, tailors their pitch to resonate with customer concerns, and takes control of the sales process.”

1) Understanding the customer’s world

The most important lesson I learned from this book is the process of understanding the customer’s world better than they know it themselves.  Explaining to customers how they can cut costs and increase revenue in ways that they themselves have yet to recognize should be a priority in any sales process.

It is important to not only know who you are selling to before you give your pitch, but to actually understand and demonstrate why your product or service will benefit your buyer and to what extent it will do so.

2) Commercial teaching

Once they fully understand their customer’s world, commercial teaching occurs when a rep helps the customer navigate alternatives and provide education and consultation toward their company problems. The rep must gain these relationship builder skills in order to know the individual customer’s value drivers. Only once this is done, it is then time to discuss money and pressure the customer.

More often than not, sales reps are disorganized in the sales process, and often try to sell to prospects without even identifying their persona. According to the book, a rep will go nowhere without the teaching process – they must convey something new and valuable, explaining why it would benefit that individual and company.

3) Tailoring

According to Dixon and Adamson, not only is it important to specifically tailor your pitch based on whom you’re dealing with, but a challenger rep also needs to hold firm value and not overly compete in order to keep momentum going across the sales process.

Many companies and sales reps struggle with the issue of organization and finding the right presentations and tools to tailor a pitch a specific customer. This process often requires the right technology that can reduce the time spent looking for this information, and increase the amount of time spent focusing on the sale.

4) Taking control

During this step, the rep not only keeps momentum but also remains innovative by figuring out ways to help move deals forward.  This is the process in which the authors explain how innovative sales managers must identify the obstacles in the way of a new sale, strategize around ways to position an offer, and share best practices.

5) Connection, Conversation, Community

In any sale, connection to your own internal processes and systems and to your customer’s business environment should always go hand in hand.  Along with this, making sure that you have the right business acumen to engage in meaningful conversation and generate relevant dialog with your customers is essential. Finally, it is important to develop an ongoing, community environment where people can share their experiences and learn from each other.

While implementing the challenger process can maximize the performance of your sales force, Dixon and Adamson found that there were still high performing sales reps that were not challengers. This being said, the challenger model offers a unique substitute to solution selling in which sales reps can deliver more value.