Summary: The Challenger Sale by Brent Adamson and Matthew Dixon
Summary: The Challenger Sale by Brent Adamson and Matthew Dixon

Summary: The Challenger Sale by Brent Adamson and Matthew Dixon

As sales become more complex the gap between sales performers widen dramatically. This further underlines the importance of Challenger sales reps, high-performing individuals who respectfully challenge  their customers’ perspectives rather than simply agreeing and responding to the perceived needs of those customers.


Traditional vs Emerging sales approach

In the traditional approach, reps pull information from customer stakeholders to present the decision-maker with a more finely tuned pitch. The link between stakeholders and decision makers is relatively weak. In the emerging approach however begins with the rep approaching the stakeholders so he can indirectly approach the decision-maker. The link between stakeholders and decision maker is significantly stronger, and the rep’s ability to influence the sale in C-Suite is not as strong as stakeholders’ ability to do so.

However just as important as the direction of the information flow is the nature of the information. In traditional model, it’s customer-generated intelligence that is valuable to the supplier. In the emerging Challenger model however, it’s supplier-generated insight that is valuable to the customer. And this emerging model is something your best sales reps, your Challengers, do as a matter of course.


6 Characteristics of a Challenger Sales Rep

  1. The rep offers customer unique perspective
  2. The rep has excellent two-way communication skills
  3. The rep knows customer value drivers
  4. The rep understands economic drivers of the customer’s business
  5. The rep is comfortable discussing money
  6. The rep can pressure the customer


3Ts to becoming a Challenger sales rep

  1. Teach
  2. Tailor
  3. Take control


Challenger sales rep take the customer out of their comfort zone.

And they do so with control, diplomacy and empathy. Asserting control can take many forms. In essence it means the salesperson lead the customer conversation with a specific end in mind.

One study shows over half of the customer loyalty is attributable to your ability to differentiate in sales experience itself. This means ‘how’ you sell can be more important than ‘what’ you sell.


6 Steps to World-Class Teaching Pitch

  1. Warm up (build credibility, center around customer without mentioning your business)
  2. Set a frame (show a different way to think about your customer’s business)
  3. Drown in rationality (show why this different way matters and why it’s worth a shot)
  4. Persuade with a story (let the customers see themselves in the story)
  5. Show a new way (show the solution, don’t rush this, before they buy your solution, they first have to buy the solution)
  6. Show your way (show your solution, remember you have to lead to this stage rather than leading with this stage)

“There has to be a flow to the conversation, a purposeful choreography where your solution is the natural outgrowth of your teaching, rather than the subject of your teaching”.


Define the customer needs, instead of responding them.

Responding to customer’s self-defined needs is actually bad for two reasons. First, you fail to provide a unique value because you can’t provide your unique insight. Second, if your customers have already begun to consider possible solutions, you’ve lost a significant opportunity to skew their thinking toward your solution. And that’s a recipe for increased commoditization.

Instead of asking who needs to be involved, challenger reps coach the customer on who needs to be involved. Challenger reps get away from ‘what keeps you up at night’ question and instead bring unique insight to the customer about ‘what should be keeping them at night’.


The real cost of unplanned purchases comes from poor planning.

Planned purchases are products or parts that you buy on a regular cycle and budgeted in advance. Unplanned purchases are those that you by at the last minute, usually in response to some unforeseen needs. And more often than not, the very act of buying unplanned items are more expensive than the planned items itself. So, make sure you do your homework.


4 Steps to Handling Objections

  1. Acknowledge and Defer
  2. Deepen and Broaden
  3. Explore and Compare
  4. Concede According to Plan

Acknowledge and Defer – How do you defer a customer demand for a concession – say a price discount – without threatening the deal? Say “I understand that price is something we need to address, but before we do, I’d like to take a moment to make sure I completely understand your needs – so we can make sure we’re doing everything we can to make this deal as valuable as possible for you. Is that all right?”

Deep and Broaden – uncover customer’s underlying needs and identify additional needs

Explore and Compare – shrink it back down, come back to price but in a very specific manner, don’t run directly to “I can give you 10%, not 20%”, instead start with “What are you looking to achieve with a 20% price reduction?.” The idea is to uncover the rationale for the request, as the appropriate response will depend on the rationale.

Concede according to plan – determining what you’re willing to concede is important but what’s often overlooked is how and when in the negotiation those concessions should be given.


Hypothesis-based Sales Team Coaching: PAUSE

  1. Preparing for the Coaching Conversation
  2. Affirm the Relationship
  3. Understand Expected and Observed Behavior
  4. Specify Behavior Change
  5. Embed New Behaviors


Sales Managers should Innovate, not Allocate.

Resource allocation (territory management, deal qualification and sales process compliance) is all about efficiency. Sales innovation, on the other hand, is very much about effectiveness.

Driving efficiency isn’t wrong for a sales organization. But it’s all about doing what you already know how to do better and better. And that kind of single-track focus only works if every deal is the same. That’s not the world we live in today and so driving efficiency around the known must give way (in part at least) to innovating around the unknown.

“Sales success today is much less about getting better at what you already know and much more about creating an ability to tackle what you don’t know.”


6 Cognitive Biases that Inhibit Open Thinking

  1. Practicality bias (thinking that ideas seem unrealistic should be discarded)
  2. Confirmation bias (favoring information that confirms your existing beliefs)
  3. Exportability bias (thinking if it didn’t work here, it won’t work anywhere)
  4. Legacy bias (thinking the way you’ve always done is the best way)
  5. First conclusion bias (thinking first explanation comes to mind is the best or only one)
  6. Personal bias (thinking if you wouldn’t buy it, no one would buy it)


Creative Thinking Technique: SCAMMPERR

  1. Substitute (what could you potentially use in its place?)
  2. Combine (how can you mix or combine with other offerings?)
  3. Adapt (what other ideas could be adapted to your situation?)
  4. Magnify (how can you add to or increase emphasis on a valuable feature?)
  5. Modify (how can you change attributes of the offer to make it more relevant?)
  6. Put to another use (how might a different function in the customer organization value this?)
  7. Eliminate (what elements customers are unwilling to pay for and can be removed?)
  8. Rearrange (how can you change the order of things to make them more relevant?)
  9. Reverse (how can you reverse your approach to do the exact opposite?)


3 Steps to Boosting ROI of Training Investments

  1. Generate training buzz before you roll out and increase the demand
  2. Engineer high-quality experiential learning that gives a sense of ‘safe practice’ focused on real accounts
  3. Create sustained behavioral certification programs to reinforce learning over time


It’s what you do before and after the training that makes a difference

Improving sales training content have little to do with improving the training itself. Think about ‘before and after’ of your training so that you can make sure there’s demand for it and certify that reps are actually practicing new behaviors they learned in the classroom and achieving intended results.