The Challenger Sale
I usually don’t do book reports as part my blog. That said, if you are selling complex, enterprise-class solutions in a B2B environment, you need to check out “The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation” . Developed based on research CEB , the Challenger Sale model seeks to quantifiably defines the success factors of the best sales reps and create a methodology to clone this success.
Their research is robust, involving over 6000 sales reps across many industries and locations. It compares two categories of sales reps: your average journeyman salesperson that can be counted upon to achieve the results every year and the top performers that represent the truly outstanding salespeople that consistently exceed their quota. Through surveys, they categorized sales reps in the five categories
- The Challenger (27% of the total sample)
- the Lone Wolf (18%
- The Hard Worker (21%)
- The Reactive Problem Solver (14%)
- The Relationship Builder (21%)
Based on these five categories, they then correlated sales performance history of these reps. This is when the book gets very interesting in that the results were unexpected. While many sales organizations have long believe the key to their success was to hire reps that
- built deep relationships with clients,
- understood their clients business intimately
- match their products to their customer needs based on this knowledge and relationship,
The data found the opposite in terms of success. The Relationship Builder actually represented the lowest category of top-performing reps.
Instead the best performer reps with the Challenger rep; those who
- push customers thinking,
- introduce new solutions that often change the competitive process,
- challenge customers to deal with problems that customer may overlook
- take control of the sales process to drive to a result.
In fact, the two highest categories were the Challenger (39%) and the Lone Wolf (25%), in total representing 54% of the top performing sale reps. Of the five groups, anyone who has ever managed a sales organization understand the challenges in managing Lone Wolf reps. While they do produce top results, they can also be a disruptive force within the organization and thus reduce their overall value.
In contrast, the remaining three categories; the Hard Worker (17%), the Reaction Problem Solver (12%) and the Relationship Builder (7%) combined to represent 46% of the top performing reps.
The book and then continues on to discuss the training opportunities a company has to create Challenger reps.
I think one of the reasons that I was so attracted to this book is that it is based on actual sales rep performance data and it aligns to my experience in observing the attributes of many sales reps. I would highly recommend this book to anyone leading a start-up or a sales team.