The word ‘challenger’ means different things to different people.
Why challenger salespeople are important
Some may see it as being competitive, and some might think of it as a form of aggressive behaviour. But when it comes to sales, there is no doubt that the challenger is someone you want to have on your team. Why?
Let us explain. A survey of 6,000 sales reps across different locations and industries was carried out by CEB – a leading best practice insight and technology company – and they found there were five dominant approaches to selling that sales reps will fall into.
- Relationship Builders focus on developing strong personal and professional relationships and work hard to resolve tensions in the commercial relationship.
- Hard Workers will make more calls in an hour and conduct more visits in a week than just about anyone else on the team.
- Lone Wolves are deeply self-confident. They are the rule-breaking cowboys of the sales force who do things their way or not at all.
- Reactive Problem Solvers focus on post-sales follow-up, ensuring that service issues related to implementation and execution are addressed quickly and thoroughly.
- Challengers use their deep understanding of their customers’ business to push their thinking and take control of the sales conversation. They’re not afraid to share even potentially controversial views and are assertive – with both their customers and bosses.
The most valuable player
On face value, most people would probably say that relationship builders would be the most valuable player on a sales team (perhaps with the hard workers following close behind). And sure, that may have been the case 10, or even five years ago, but the fact is, customers have changed the way they buy, and that means there needs to be a change in the way salespeople sell. So the outcome of all of the above? That ‘challengers’ are the most successful salespeople, due to four main capabilities (as outlined by The ChallengerTM Selling Model):
- They teach their customers.
- They tailor their sales message to the customer.
- They take control of the sale.
- They build constructive tension.
The key takeaway here is that learning to identify challengers is extremely important for the hiring process – particularly for complex sales environments and if you need your sales team to increase gross profit in the business (who doesn’t?).
But it is also critical to note that need for approval and/or a non-supportive buy-cycle (hidden weaknesses mentioned in step two) have the ability to derail a challengers success.
The only way to overcome this risk? By doing a pre-hire sales-specific assessment that test for their roadblocks.