Today I continue my interview with Brent Adamson and Matthew Dixon, author of the groundbreaking new book, The Challenger Sale. Their research has major implications on sales success in today's business environment. [Note: Miss Part 1? Click here to read it.]JILL: Can you define the Challenger style in more depth. What kinds of things will Challengers do that others won't?
MATT: Sure thing. According to the data, there are three things Challengers do differently.
They teach the customer during the sales interaction. They share new ideas for making money or saving money that customers themselves hadn't even realized existed. This is a very different type of sales conversation than what most reps deliver.
They tailor those insights to the different types of customer stakeholders they're engaging. This is obviously a “select for” skill in a world where complex sales demand more and more consensus in order to get done.
They take control of the sale. This isn't about being pushy or aggressive, rather it's about being assertive-around everything from the insights they share to the way they negotiate on pricing. This is absolutely critical when dealing with highly risk-averse customers who are content with the status quo.
JILL: You say that only a small percent of reps are naturally Challengers. If it's not your primary style, can you turn yourself into one? And, if so, what do you have to do?
BRENT: We believe that Challengers are made, they're not just born. Of course, it makes sense to adjust your recruiting approach to look for Challengers on the open market when you're looking to backfill positions or hire for new positions.
But, our experience has been that with the right tools, training and coaching, the majority of reps can be equipped to at least play the role of the Challenger when in front of the customer.
JILL: Let's talk about sales organizations. What can they do to create more Challenger reps? I'd love some specific examples.
MATT: To pick up on Brent's point, challenging is as much about organizational capability as it is about individual skills. Aside from the organization's role in creating new training to educate reps on Challenger skills and equipping sales managers to coach to Challenger behaviors, the organization plays a huge role in terms of helping reps to figure out what to teach their customers.
The last thing you want is your individual reps figuring out what to teach on their own. You'll end up having reps teach customers about problems you can't solve and, potentially, ones your competitors can. The job of identifying teachable insights is the job of marketing in most organizations.
In the book, we share several case studies-including stories from W.W. Grainger and ADP-that show how these insights are identified and then turned into tools that the average salesperson can use to create an insight-led sales conversation with the customer.
JILL: Matt & Brent, thanks a million for writing The Challenger Sale and for sharing your thoughts today. I know that everyone who reads this interview will appreciate it. And, as I said from the onset, I personally thank you for doing this research. The sales profession needs it.