The world is full of books about sales and with alternate fortune many titles popped up in my reading list before I encountered The Challenger Sale.
Thanks my friend and colleague Peter Hansen, I came to discover that CEB, a global best practice insights company now part of Gartner, made a study following thousands of sales organization all over the globe, in a wide range of industries.
Ten years ago, just after another big economic crisis hit the world, the findings couldn’t sound more puzzling and partly counterintuitive.
Challenger Sales is ultimately the story of how building relationship and customer-centricity seem to be no more the pillar of sales in our times.
1. Sales Roles and Performances
After having analyzed several datasets over a large number of salesmen (following an inductive approach) all of them appear to fit in one within five roles:
- The Hard Worker
- The Challenger
- Relationship Builder
- Lone Wolf
- Problem Solver
Gartner presents wider role descriptions here: what is surprisingly different from what one would have expected is that Relationship builder – namely the ones aiming to create a relationship with customers, being fully oriented towards their needs and so far the most valued sales professionals within an organization – are rare within high performance salesmen.
2. Teach, Tailor, Take Control: A New Model for Sales Journey
The best performing Salesmen are largely Challengers, whose profile and a skill set get dissected and analyzed over the course of this book.
Challengers teach customers. They know their need upfront and lead them through a journey where previously unknown problems are presented through new unexpected ways to look at their own business.
Challengers, Teaching: the terminology could be distracting, so let’s focus on the three moments of the Challenger Sale model and translate the wording in actionable insights.
Teach means bringing to your customers new and unexpected insights so that they can look at their business model differently, in a new framework.
Tailor means that since many stakeholders are involved in decision making, one has to navigate the whole customer organization with tailored messages.
Take Control means taking control: a series of techniques is presented in order to avoid decision-making pitfalls as Challengers do.
Particular attention is dedicated to the first part of this journey, where the Perfect Sales Pitch rules get rewritten to fit a new empowering model called Commercial Teaching.
3. The winner (doesn’t) take it all
The 39% of high performers salesmen are Challengers. Why not turning the whole organization into Challengers, then?
Surprisingly enough, applying the model to everybody in the sales organization is proved to be detrimental.
Nonetheless the impact of this model on Core Performers is astounding.
Here lies the beauty of applying science and data to the art of sales: it cannot be fully captured by the this model either.
I would personally recommend this book to any professional looking for new ideas on how to escape the commoditization trap, or simply searching for ways to hack the sales pipeline and see things differently.