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7 Steps to Developing a Challenger Sales Model

| February 22, 2018 | Quark Blog Team

Consumers today continue to grow savvier meaning sales reps have had to adopt new sales tactics in order to survive. It is no longer sufficient for sales reps to present would-be buyers with detailed information on product features and benefits. Through a simple Google search, buyers can arm themselves with all the product knowledge they need. Case studies, whitepapers, webinars, and other freely available digital resources are regularly resourced by the modern buyer. Indeed, buyers today will complete 57% of the buying process before even engaging the sales rep.

With buyers more knowledgable than ever, a traditional solutions-oriented sales pitch with a focus on product benefits will no longer suffice. Today’s buyer will most likely know precisely how your product can solve business needs and will not appreciate valuable time being wasted. Research has shown that in order to succeed today, sales reps need to move beyond traditional sales methods and adopt a challenger mentality.

Sales challengers are sales professionals that use their deep knowledge of their customers’ business to disrupt their thinking and take command of the sales conversation. Sales challengers are unafraid to express even potentially controversial viewpoints and add value to the sales conversation by providing the buyer with unique insights into their own business needs. The influential book, “The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation” by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson popularized the concept of the challenger sales rep with its release in 2012.

Features of a Challenger Seller

There are 3 traits of challenger behavior that set challenger sales reps apart from the rest:

How to Develop A Challenger Sales Model

Research by the Sales Executive Council has shown that the most successful reps today are sales challengers. The other categories of sales rep are relationship builders, hard workers, lone wolves, and reactive problem solvers. 40% of top performers today are challengers. When it comes to complex selling, challenger sales reps are even more successful with 54% of star performers in the solution selling environment being challengers.

With every advantage counting in today’s hyper competitive business arena, it is unsurprising that many companies are choosing to implement challenger sales models. At Docurated, we are big believers in challenger sales. So much so that we have developed 7 steps companies can follow to successfully implement a challenger sales model in their organization.

1. Educate

The first step in implementing a challenger sales model in your organization is to educate your sales force. A straightforward step you could take here is to make “The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation” compulsory reading for all reps during the onboarding process. Sales training will also have to be adjusted to focus on challenger selling. Challenger sellers must learn to teach buyers new perspectives on their business needs. To take on the role of challenger, reps will need to be informed and up to date on all the latest industry trends and consumer needs.

2. Align Marketing and Sales

The challenger sales model requires a realignment of marketing goals in support of the sales organization. The role of marketing in the challenger sales model is that of an “insight generation machine”. Marketing must create content that supports the challenger sales rep. Content must be tailored to the specific business needs of buyers and challenge how they view their own company. Challenger selling is a cohesive process with tailored content at its core. Marketing must continually support the sales organization with the most up to date and relevant content.

3. Eliminate Content Retrieval Problems

Challenger selling relies heavily on the availability of tailored and unique content. While it is vital that marketing continues to produce unique content, it must be accessible to successfully implement the challenger sales model. The trouble today is that companies are creating such a high volume of content, much of it has become inaccessible due to aging file and folder structures unsuited to today’s big data. At present the average sales rep spends 6.5 to 8.8 hours per week searching for content. To successfully implement the challenger sales approach content must be instantly accessible. If content retrieval nightmares run rife at your company, the challenger sales approach will be less than effective. Ensure these issues are solved by introducing productivity solutions that eradicate content retrieval problems. The adoption of these productivity tools will help to develop a successful challenger sales model in your company.

4. Adjust Your Sales Metrics

The challenger sales model must be reinforced by a clear set of metrics that encourage challenger behavior. Assess your current metrics to see if they are aligned with your new challenger sales approach. Be careful not to create a metrics dashboard that is too large to be effective. Remove current metrics that do not work and support the remaining metrics with new metrics that encourage challenger selling. The creation of these new metrics may require extensive stakeholder feedback to clearly lay out the end goals.

5. Ensure Pipeline Accuracy

To provide unique perspectives on customer needs, the challenger sales rep needs to be sure of the accuracy of the sales pipeline. Without a strong infrastructure, the challenger sales rep will struggle to offer relevant insights to prospective customers. Help to ensure the accuracy of your pipeline by clearly defining each stage of the sales cycle. Examine the cause of any inaccuracies in your current projections and look to quickly eliminate these roadblocks. If you incorporate CRM technology to help pipeline accuracy make sure that the sales cycle on your system is an accurate representation of your sales process. If not, take the time to align your system and processes. Challenger sales reps rely on clean and accurate customer data to provide customers with tailored insights.

6. Redesign Your Hiring Processes

Maintain your challenger sales model by hiring reps that exhibit the traits most closely associated with challengers. Ask prospective hires questions that test their intellect, values, and motivations in addition to the conventional questions on experience and behavior.

7. Communicate Challenger Success

Reinforce your challenger sales approach by encouraging successful reps to share details of successful deals and how they applied the challenger technique. Needless to say, communication is key throughout the challenger sales model implementation process. Sales leaders should make time for regular challenger coaching sessions with underperforming sales reps and should also share specific insights with sales teams at meetings to help with the challenger approach.


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