Customers already know that your brand and your product are great, but the problem is they feel the exact same way about your direct competitors. Yet, so many corporate salespeople continue to live and die by the same old script: simply build relationships and promote the product. Customers are better informed than ever, and they don’t buy the “Our features and benefits are better than everyone else’s” pitch anymore.
It’s safe to say this method just isn’t the best way to approach customers in this day and age, and marketing departments and sales teams need to adapt. This is where the Challenger Sale comes into play…
Why Challenger Sales are Having More Success
Put yourself in a customer’s shoes for a minute. You’re being sold a new piece of computer software and there’s a bidding war between several vendors for your business. Each rep has taken you out to eat and talked about how their product is “better” than all the others, but you really can’t see that much of difference between them. The final sales rep walks into your office and sits down at your desk, and after a brief introduction, he’s already begun talking about how this software can transform your business, enabling you to tap into new markets that you never thought about serving before.
You’re a little stunned because someone who you thought was just selling computer software has now proposed a way to tap into new markets and has even taught you something about your own company. His focus was on enabling your company to compete more effectively, not on the bells and whistles of his software. It’s probably a little uncomfortable, and his proposal to expand into additional markets isn’t even something you would seemingly consider… at least not yet.
When you leave the office that night, you’re not thinking about the different features of all the software programs, you’re thinking about the salesperson that proposed something of value to your company. That’s the difference of the Challenger Sale. The decision maker and their colleagues are pitched something different. Something that pushes them to think outside the box. It’s about how you sell it these days, not about what you sell.
Overview of the Challenger Sales Rep
Providing value. That’s what truly sets the Challenger Sale apart. When you step into an office, you’re focused on improving the customer’s business and challenging the decision maker’s current thought process to the point where they’re slightly uncomfortable. There are a few key characteristics that are crucial to Challenger reps:
- Always has a different view of the world, and applies it to how the customer’s business functions
- Deeply understands the customer’s business, and has new recommendations on how they can compete in their markets
- Loves to debate and welcomes a challenge to their own suggestions
- Pushes the customer out of their comfort zone
These sales reps are defined by the way they sell, as they teach the customer something new or valuable about their business or market each time they talk. Conversations are based around providing insightful suggestions and ideas to decision makers that are tailored to each business situation. This requires extensive research and understanding of not only the customer, but also the industry in which they operate. They also take control of discussions in which the customer’s thinking has been challenged and suggestions are being met with resistance. Many meetings aren’t thought of in terms of sales, but in terms of behavior change.
The Secret: Value-Based Insight Development
I keep stressing value because it’s a deep and thorough understanding of how the customer – and the customer’s customer – defines value that will lead to the generation of new insights. And these definitions of value typically go well beyond the features of the specific product being sold.
Go back to the software salesman. Rather than talk about gigabytes and computational speed, he talked about the new ways this speed would enable you to serve new markets. He thoroughly understood your business situation and knew that your core competencies would enable you to grow through market development. This insight enabled him to challenge your current thinking about the benefits of a new software solution. His insight forced you to rethink the way your company does business. How did he do it?
Although insights are typically unique to individual customers, the Challenger Sales Rep is heavily dependent upon the marketing department to provide direction. And that direction comes in the form of value metrics: Models of value that are market-focused, revealing those factors that are Critical-to-Quality and to value. With these models of value in hand, the Challenger Sales Rep is able to identify those issues that are most important to customers in the targeted segment. Now, the rep can provide the customer with something well beyond the standard “features and benefits” pitch, by giving valuable insights that alleviate the problem at hand.
To become a successful Challenger Sales Team, it takes the commitment and joint effort of both the sales and marketing department. Understand the customer, understand the industry, generate insights together, and deliver true value.