This month, I’d like to synthesize for you the book, The Challenger Sale by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson. Many people think that the best sales person is the one who builds the strongest relationships. However, according to the authors, that’s not exactly true. Their book describes 5 types of sales professionals: The Hard Worker, The Challenger, The Relationship Builder, The Lone Wolf and The Reactive Problem Solver. All 5 have their unique strengths. Yet, when it comes to complex solutions – whether the economy is up or down – it’s The Challenger that is most successful. When you overlay these 5 types with The Four Personality Styles we’ve discussed in the past, you’ll get a variety of possibilities.
You’d probably like to know more about The Challenger as they are the most effective: they are the debater on your sales team. They have vast industry knowledge and a good understanding of customer businesses and issues. They’re not shy about sharing their thoughts and opinions with the customer. Even though the issues they bring up can be controversial, The Challengers’ approach to communication is an assertive one, even with their managers. They are good at pushing the issues and forcing both customers and management to look at these issues from a different perspective. Does this sound like you or your sales team?
To see superior sales results, study and embrace these 6 attributes that best describe The Challenger:
– Offers the customer a unique perspective- their approach is not the norm and everyone wants out of the box thinking, so their customers pay attention.
– Has strong two-way communications skills and can balance a conversation by asking pertinent questions and excellent listening skills.
– Knows the individual customer’s value drivers- the focus is on adding value and not discounting the price. They understand what is important.
– Can identify economic drivers of the customer’s business- they have an excellent grasp of business operations, goals and objectives and the problems that need to be solved.
– Is comfortable discussing money- they know that money is the outcome for delivering solid solutions
– Is willing to have difficult conversations that can sometimes stress a customer-but are necessary in order to construct the right solution.
If you were to categorize these six attributes into categories you would see that The Challenger has the ability to do three things that set them apart from the other sales types. These are: teach, tailor and take control.
Since Challengers have the ability to engage the customer in a two way dialogue, they are able to teach for differentiation during the sales process.
Since Challengers possess a superior sense of the customer’s economic and value drivers, they have the ability to tailor for resonance, delivering the right message to the right person in the customer’s organization knowing the different issues with each department in the company.
Finally, Challengers are comfortable talking about money and when it’s needed they can push the customer- something many sales people think is contradictory to the way customers should be treated(the customer’s always right is not the case with Challengers). Challengers take control of the sale.
Now let me challenge ‘The Challenger’ with my Orange personality. When you take into account personality styles you need to realize that The Challenger approach might work well with a Gold or Orange personality who prefer to “tell” and want to “control”. These 2 personalities would like and succeed with The Challenger’s approach. But – Greens and Blues tend to “ask” and might not appreciate someone taking control and being controversial. That’s why understanding personality styles is such an important dimension in selling.
Teaching, tailoring and taking control are the key attributes of The Challenger. Do you see these talents in your sales people? If not, read The Challenger Sale to identify how to help your Gold and Oranges achieve superior results with this approach.