3 Attributes of a Challenger
We like to talk about a number of attributes that factor together statistically to describe the challenger profile. One of the things we’re very careful about is not to lay claim to having invented challengers, per se. What we did was document what the best salespeople are out there doing already then we tried to lend a bit of a story to what we see in the data. The three things, specifically, we see in the data, and our members and clients would concur with this interpretation, is that challengers really do three things that are different from the average performing salesperson.
First, they teach the customer something new. They show up with new ideas to make money, to save money, to mitigate risk, to steal market share, to engage employees who engage customers. Whatever the key outcome is that your company is striving to deliver for your customers; they show up with those new ideas and bring those ideas to the table. They’re often ideas that the customer themselves hadn’t thought of before.
Second, they’re able to tailor those messages. They don’t just teach a message or an insight, they tailor it depending on who’s sitting across the table. We know today is a world of consensus buying, B2B selling is a game of herding cats at some level. The more people who are involved in a sale, the more a salesperson needs to actually tailor that message to make it resonate at a personal and emotional level with that stakeholder sitting across the table.
The third thing that challengers do that’s very different is that they’re assertive, or they take control, as we say in the book. We don’t mean that they’re pushy or aggressive or obnoxious. We think that’s a big misinterpretation people have when they hear the term “challenger”. They think of that old used car salesman notion of the salesperson. Really what we’re talking about here, though, is professional, respectful, and holding your ground.
It’s not about being passive and doing whatever the customer wants, nor is it about being aggressive and doing whatever you want. It’s a comfortable middle ground where we can use tension to our advantage to get the customer to really rethink core assumptions of their business to get them to see that when we’re bringing a disruptive solution to the table, that the pain of same is actually worse than the pain of change.
Again, teaching, tailoring, and taking control are the three things that we see challengers do very differently from average reps.