7 Steps to Developing a Challenger Sales Model

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

With buyers more knowledgeable than ever, a traditional solutions-oriented sales pitch focusing on product benefits will no longer suffice. Today’s buyer will most likely know precisely how your product can solve business needs and not appreciate valuable time wasted. Research has shown that 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 in-depth 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 challenger sales rep’s concept with its release in 2012.

Features of a Challenger Seller

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

  • Challengers assume a teaching role during the sales call.Challengers alert the buyer to opportunities within the buyer’s own business that they had not previously thought of. This unique insight requires a deep level of understanding of the buyer’s own business.
  • Challengers take charge of the sale.Challenger sales reps assertively deliver insights to the buyer and assume control of the sale. Challengers are confident and assured in their interactions with buyers.
  • The challenger sales rep provides insight that is tailored to the customers needs.Challengers are sufficiently well versed in their customers’ business to give advice and wisdom specific to each of their customers. The challenger possesses a thorough understanding of the target market.

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 sales rep categories 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. We are big believers in challenger sales. So much so that we have developed seven steps companies can follow to implement a challenger sales model in their organization successfully.

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 a challenger’s role, reps will need to be informed and updated 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 buyers’ specific business needs 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 implement the challenger sales model successfully. 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 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 adequate. 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 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 sales pipeline’s accuracy. Without a robust 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 eliminate these roadblocks quickly. If you incorporate CRM technology to help pipeline accuracy, make sure that your system’s sales cycle is an accurate representation of your sales process. If not, take the time to align your strategy and operations. 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. Communication is critical throughout the challenger sales model implementation process. Sales leaders should make time for regular challenger coaching sessions with underperforming sales reps. They should also share specific insights with sales teams at meetings to help with the challenger approach.

Quark Content Enablement platform can help author, automate, publish, access, recommend and analyze the content with relevant industry insights. Please review our 2-minute video on why Quark Content Enablement is the only Unified Content enterprise SaaS platform designed to fulfil all your Digital Publishing, Content Automation, Content Management, Marketing Enablement, and Sales Enablement needs. Additionally, you may request a demo.