Three Characteristics of “Challenger” Salespeople

June 27, 2014 | Roger and Susie Engelau

Wouldn’t it be great if you could bottle what the best sales reps do and feed it to your salesperson?

I’ve seen more than a few changes in the sales world in 30 years of sales. But it’s tougher than ever now because the customers we’re seeing today are at once risk-averse and reluctant and looking to providers to help them identify ways to

1)     Cut costs

2)     Increase revenue

3)     Penetrate new markets and

4)     Mitigate risk

in ways they themselves haven’t yet recognized.

It’s a lot to expect from your sales department but that’s where we are.

If you’re ready to take a deeper dive into being a Challenger sale company—a company who’s moved away from more product-centric and relationship-based models of selling, and is willing and able to step into the more dynamic role of thought leader/consultant—then you need to know the characteristics necessary to develop and hone your craft… and close more business.

To learn what top-performing salespeople are doing today, Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, authors of The Challenger Sale, conducted an extensive study of thousands of salespeople and discovered that there are 3 things Challenger salespeople do differently to become top performers in disproportionately large numbers as compared to other salespeople. They teach, tailor, and take control:

  1. Teach.  Challengers are, first and foremost, teachers.   They have a passion for gaining knowledge, explaining it, and helping their prospects (or pupils!) to embrace and apply new insights.  As a Challenger, it’s incumbent upon you to know more about your prospects’ business than they do, so that you can teach them what they need to know to be a step above the competition.
  2. Tailor.  Challengers are excellent at customizing the information they have to share to the precise needs of their customers.  They don’t give the same “pitch” to everyone.  They treat each sales interaction as its own conversation, and are carefully tuned into the prospect’s unique needs, problems, and objectives.  Challengers can then apply the knowledge they have about the prospect’s business and industry to the conversation at hand.  This is no generic sales presentation, but a deeply engaging, one-on-one exchange of ideas and insights that moves the prospect to buy.
  3. Take Control.  Perhaps the most “challenging” aspect (sorry, I couldn’t resist!) of being a Challenger is developing a willingness to push back.  Many salespeople cling to the relationship building model, and back down from a position when a customer makes an assertion, even if the customer’s assertion is false and not necessarily in their own best interest.  A Challenger is willing to stand their ground in these types of conversations, to deal diplomatically, expertly and with empathy to the objections thrown their way, and to give the customer plenty of food for thought.

There are all kinds of implications here about whether you have a salesperson who can do these things or how to find a salesperson who can meet this challenge. The good news is that Challenger Sale characteristics can be taught.  I’ve seen success in several clients already as we’ve coach their sales staff on them.

Developing or hiring these characteristics will catapult your company to the top of its sales game, create better outcomes for your customers, and more revenue for your company.

Sound off in the comments below:  you’ve already experienced some of the Challenger Sale characteristics. How have these characteristics helped you in sales situations?