Did you know that among high performing sales reps, the Relationship-Builder is the least effective?
According to one major study, this is the case. Seems crazy, right?
In 2011, two corporate performance experts published a book (now vital sales reading) called The Challenger Sale. One of the co-authors, Brent Adamson, is speaking at The Art of Sales Conference and will explain his research surrounding relationship development and illustrate how to turn your team into high-performing sales drivers.
To prepare for the presentations, we’ve compiled five indispensable highlights from The Challenger Sale into a guide that you can start applying immediately:
1. Challenging customers can result in more sales.
The best salespeople don’t just build relationships with customers; they challenge them. If Solution Selling was the method of the 20th century, Challenge Selling belongs to the 21st.
In The Challenger Sale, the authors analyzed the characteristics of over 5,000 B2B salespeople in 90 countries to see what was working and what was not. One of the most important conclusions they discovered was that those who took control of customer conversations outperformed even the best relationship-builders.
Subjects fall into five categories:
- The Hard Worker goes above and beyond, makes more calls, and stays later.
- The Lone Wolf works in his or her own way, and may be hard to manage.
- The Relationship-Builder makes an extra effort to get to know the customer and meet every need.
- The Challenger takes control of the conversation and pushes back on objections with new insights.
- The Problem Solver is often reactive, and may spend more time solving problems than making sales.
You already know which one of these is the winner. Only the Challenger is a top performer (but keep in mind that not every top performer is a Challenger).
Of high-performing B2B sales reps, Challengers are the most successful because they take control of the conversation, pushing back against the customer’s objections when necessary. They provide a sales message that specifically addresses the customer’s needs.
How can you recreate this tactic if you fall into one of the other categories? Keep these points in mind:
- Get used to discussing money
- Come prepared with responses to potential objections
- Have confidence that pushing back just enough won’t deter the customer (nor should it deter you)
It may be difficult to step outside of your comfort zone, but Adamson and his co-author are confident that salespeople in other categories can adopt and implement the practices that make Challengers so successful.
2. The best salespeople are world class teachers—not salespeople.
“Challengers aren’t so much world-class investigators as they are world-class teachers. They win not by understanding their customers’ world as well as the customers know it themselves, but by actually knowing their customers’ world better than their customers know it themselves, teaching them what they don’t know but should.”
If you want to increase your risk of closing the sale, teach the customer something they didn’t know already—especially if it’s about their company or their industry. Without making their own expertise seem insignificant, you can show how familiar you are with their business and offer new insights.
Challengers can teach customers something new and valuable about how to compete in their market. If you build credibility and reframe the problem, create an emotional connection and offer a solution, you’ll create loyal clients.
Offer a unique perspective. If the customer says “I’ve never thought of it that way,” you’re on the right track!
3. Focus on customer value, not customer convenience.
Modern sales creed says that building relationships is crucial to making sales. However, the results of the study analyzed in The Challenger Sale suggest that Relationship-Builders are more focused on customer convenience than customer value. And showing value is necessary for closing sales.
There’s nothing wrong with trying to build a strong relationship and getting to know your leads, as long as you’re focusing on the value.
What will they get out of your product or service? Why is it worth the price? Why would saying ‘no’ be a mistake?
4. Take control of the conversation.
If you don’t have confidence in the benefits of what you’re selling, you’re going to have trouble landing customers. The biggest opportunity is that you already know why your solution perfectly meets the customer’s problem.
Hold firm on value, and don’t compete on price. If you take control of the conversation early, it won’t seem forced or inauthentic.
“What if customers’ greatest need is to figure out exactly what they need?”
Show that you know what they need, and that there’s no better option available. If they say they want to discuss the opportunity with other key individuals, find out why. If they insist, schedule a follow-up so they know when to expect another call from you.
And if it’s clear after some pushback that the individual won’t be moving forward or consulting with other stakeholders, end the conversation.
5. Create a custom message, and tailor it to the individual.
Tailor your sales pitch to resonate with the decisionmaker’s issues. You’ll need to take a different approach on value propositions with directors than with the C-suite.
Who are you targeting? What are their concerns and objections? How much power do they have to say ‘yes’?
53% of customer loyalty is driven by the sales experience. According to The Challenger Sale, it’s not what you sell. It’s how you sell.
Try to take control of the conversation and challenge the customer—with assertiveness, confidence, and kindness, of course—and see where it goes.
Our sales team at 6S Marketing really enjoys The Challenger Sale, and can’t wait to see Brent Adamson. He’ll talk about why being a Challenger isn’t enough, and how your success or failure depends on who you challenge. Will we see you there?