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HOW TO SELL ANYTHING

The Challenger Sale: Not Very Challenging

The bestselling book simply repackages old ideas in a new wrapper.
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In 2012, the most popular book about sales technique was The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson. In my view, the book is both original and good. Unfortunately, "the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good."

On it's Amazon.com page, authors tout their book as "the biggest shock to conventional sales wisdom in decades." The big shocker? To sell business-to-business solutions salespeople must "approach customers with unique insights about how they can save or make money."

Great advice. Unfortunately, it's advice that's 40 years old, having been developed at Xerox in the early 1970s.

The book similarly recommends that "instead of bludgeoning customers with endless facts and features about their company and products," salespeople should "tailor their sales message to the customer's specific needs and objectives."

Once again, great advice. However, it's advice that's already been provided in tens of thousands of other sales books and training seminars.

This is not to say that the book contains only good advice. It also recommends that  salespeople should be "assertive, pushing back when necessary and taking control of the sale." (Emphasis mine)

In my view, this is very bad advice. In my experience (and in the experience of the vast majority of the salespeople and sales experts I've interviewed) customers become resistant the moment they perceive anything that smacks of a hard sell.

This doesn't mean that salespeople should be doormats, but the idea that salespeople can "control the sale" is both seductive and illusory--seductive because it represents a way to avoid the uncertainty of sales situation and illusory because it doesn't work.

Like almost every other sales book, The Challenger Sale pretends to be based upon "exhaustive research." So it's scientific, right? Uh, probably not.

According to the book's introduction, the challenger concept is based upon the authors' experience over four years with "dozens of companies and thousands of sales reps." In other words, the material does not come from a scientific study, but represents observations based upon various sales training engagements.

While I have to give the authors credit for a fabulous job of marketing their book, I really can't see why there's been so much fuss over what appears, at least to me, to be a fairly old school rehash of ideas that have been around since the days of the typewriter.

Note: if you're interested in this subject, I'm participating in a webinar about The Challenger Sale on Wednesday, January 9th at 11 a.m. Eastern. It's hosted by the sales performance measurement firm Chally and I believe that it's free to the public.

You can register for the webinar HERE. After the webinar, I'll leave a link in the comments below so you can listen to it as a podcast.

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Last updated: Jan 8, 2013

GEOFFREY JAMES

Geoffrey James, a contributing editor for Inc.com, is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed more than a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for the free weekly Sales Source newsletter.




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