Jan 20, 2012
Review of “The Challenger Sale”
The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, (2011-11-10).
I really like this book! It starts with concepts that I have personally experienced as important to sales success, and extends authors’ learning, research, and thinking further into a next generation of solution selling.
Highlights of Book’s Messages:
· Authors’ research shows that of five sales person types the Challenger Type is significantly more successful, and that the Relationship Builder style that has been widely prompted for years was the least successful.
· Sales success is more about the sales experience, less about the product or service
· The Challenger Salesperson’s attention is focused on:
o “Teaching” their clients something new and valuable about their most pressing business problems for which salesperson’s company has a unique and proven solution (product or service).
o “Tailoring” their solution's uniqueness to their specific client. In the words of the book’s authors’ - “Help clients think about their business needs in a new and surprising way by reframing their thinking, convincingly layout the fully loaded costs of inaction and then providing a credible course of action that naturally leads back to supplier’s unique solutions.”
o “Taking control” of the entire sales process – Assessing the situation early and if not positioned for success then abandon, if favorably positioned then create momentum by motivating their clients to take action in response to salesperson’s “compelling story”. In the terminology of my earlier Blogs referred to by Peter - Get this business need on the client’s “Gain – Pain” radar and push it far past the Pain Threshold!
· An integrated company approach is required to achieve this breakthrough sales success, including:
o Marketing (perhaps Practice in a Consulting Services organization) to define the uniquely differentiated and beneficial solution that your company can take to a group of clients. This must address the key question “Why should these clients buy from us over anyone else?”
o Sales person who must contextualize or tailor this unique solution and its value to her specific customer business situation.
o Sales Manager who can effectively coach the salesperson thru the sale’s process and assist by bringing innovative thinking to the client situation.
The authors have done a good job in in integrating the roles of all the actors including those of the client in the business model elements of People and Process.
· Widespread support within the client buyer organization is required; this is contrary to the old adage about only calling as high as you can in the client organization, and early. In general this is not new as thought leaders like Miller and Heiman have focused on this for some time. What is new here is the reinforcement on the need to sell bottom-up; tailor your message to each of the different buyer groups in your client’s organization to obtain widespread support for your eventual meeting proposal to the senior client buyer(s).
· Provides good practical steps on how to develop a strong teaching presentation that, in words of authors, will “make customers feel sort of sick about all the money they’re wasting, or revenue they’re missing, or risk they’re unknowingly exposed to”.
· Offers a realistic perspective about the amount of change and time that it may take to successfully internalize within an organization – This is not a quick fix!
Some Challenges Companies May Face in Implementing “The Challenger Sale”:
· Defining company’s solution (which you do better than anyone else), and its values that clearly differentiates it from your competition – Answering that killer question “Why should our clients buy from us over anyone else?”
· Moving company’s sales force from product/service selling to the next level of selling solutions where the salesperson is focused on tailoring your company’s unique message in order to teach a specific client buyer to look at their business needs in a new way, and then to motivate the client buyer to take action to implement your unique solution to achieve a desirable impact on your client buyer’s business.
· Refocusing your first line sales managers from primarily performance managers to true sales process coaches and innovation contributors.
Questions for Readers:
· Authors’ reference their research that indicates that “only 14 percent of companies’ so-called unique benefits were perceived by customers as both unique and beneficial! What is your experience? Have you worked for or with an organization that has been successful in defining their unique solution and its value to a group of clients that clearly differentiates this organization from its competitors?
· In today’s internet world of immediate access to all kinds of data are salespeople really able to bring some truly new insights to prospective clients?
· What are your thoughts on sales force “readiness” today? Are the sales leaders following this today? What will it take to move the “next layer” of sales performers to fully adopt this approach?