The Challenger Sales: A Fresh Approach to Sales

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Sales models and approaches come and go. What may have been the hottest and most widely used sales approach a few years ago is now considered and old fashioned sales model. This "short life span" is caused by industry trends, external influences, and the general economy.

In the book The Challenger Sale, authors Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson present a sales model that stands to send most other models into antiquity.

The Challenger Sale

For years, sales professionals believed that the key to success in sales was building relationships with their clients and prospects. The theory was solid and based on an old belief that if customers like a rep, they will find a reason and a way to buy from that rep. And if they didn't like a rep, they would find a reason and a way not to buy from that rep.

For the most part, this logic holds true. People do like to buy from people that they like. But the problem is, customers are too busy, already too well informed and have too many options to either invest the time needed to build a relationship or can no longer base a buying decision solely on how well they like (or dislike) the sales professional.

The Challenger Sale suggests that why relationships are important, a better approach to sales diminished the importance of first establishing a relationship and instead suggests that reps follow a three-part sales model.

Teach

The Challenger Sales Model begins with the importance of a sales rep bringing new information or a different way of doing things to their customers and prospects. The buying public has ample resources from which to garner information and often times know much more about your product than you might believe.

They also know, in many cases, the same about your competitor's offerings.

They also know a lot about their business and the challenges they are seeking to overcome when considering making a purchase. If a sales professional focuses on why his product is better than the competition's or assumes that the client is most likely unaware of problems or challenges that his product solves; the rep is wasting the client's precious time and is bringing nothing new to the bargaining table.

But if the rep chose to take another approach and decided to inform the customer of how any common industry challenges have been solved by using a different approach and then teaches the customer about unique features that his product or company offers, then the customer will see the time invested as valuable. The more valuable a rep is, the more likely it is that a sale will be made.

Tailor

The next part of the Challenger Sales Model is for the sales professional to tailor a solution to meet the specific needs of a customer. This demands a blend of creativity and flexibility in the product or service offered.

The creative part comes from the sales rep and the flexibility is something that a product/service either has or doesn't have.

However, a product/service that at first does not appear to have any flexibility may indeed have the ability to be tailored to a customer.

The flexibility could come in the form of customized financing, for example, or could require a customization of the entire manufacturing process. The key to tailoring a solution begins with the rep having a thorough understanding of the customer's needs.

(Author's note: I will add that once a sales company becomes inflexible or inhibits creativity, they have begun the slide to going out of business.)

Take Control

The final part of the Challenger Sale is for the sales professional to take control of the sales cycle. It is more common than unusual for a sales professional to encounter objections and resistance from a customer. While traditional sales models suggest that each customer objection is treated and viewed as a legitimate concern of the customer, the Challenger Sales model teaches that unreasonable or unrealistic customer questions/demands/objections are best handled by the sales professional being firm, authentic and by challenging the customer to "keep it real."

Taking control takes courage, confidence, and plenty of skill. A trifecta of traits that are the envy of most every sales manager in the world.

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