What does it take to win the sale in today's increasingly competitive environment? In The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation, authors Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson set out to discover the key characteristics of a star sales rep.
Their research graded more than 6,000 sales reps on 44 attributes, classifying them into five distinct profiles. The most successful and high-performing profile, by a landslide, was one they called the "challenger."
The challenger, they found, had the ability to
- Teach the customer a new way to look at his or her own market and business issues.
- Tailor the solution to the specific issues that the customer faces.
- Take control of the conversation, thus leading the customer through the application of the insight to the customer's problem and the steps to transition from the current approach.
Here are three reasons you need to hire a "challenger" for your own team:
1. Customers seek out these salespeople. The most effective salespeople are in fact sources of information and guides to the buyer's own business performance. Customers crave tailored insight and a guide who can intelligently direct them to make the most effective decision for their company.
2. Buyers are smarter about you (and dumber about themselves). Crazy talk? The explosion of information access has made buyers feel more knowledgeable about the pricing, features, benefits and vendor options in their purchasing decisions. But they're not as good at seeing the business impact for themselves. Credible sales people who can connect the dots in the sales process and provide ongoing service are at a premium–and get rewarded by more business and loyalty.
3. Sales disparities will grow. The market dynamics that have favored these "challengers" in the past decade are likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Among them: a shift to online technology, growing governance requirements around structured purchasing processes, and the movement of transactional purchases to direct online sales.
Risk is becoming a disproportionate motivator, as companies seek to shift risk to their suppliers. This can affect the sales process in multiple ways:
- Pay for performance
- Un-guaranteed order volumes
- Delivery penalties
Consequently, salespeople now must negotiate on issues well beyond the quality and price of their own products or services.