Well, ‘The Challenger’ may sound straight out of the Rocky movie franchise, but its actually the seminal work by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, from CEB, USA and is probably the most disruptive sales philosophy after the SPIN Selling model was invented by the good old professor. Primarily The Challenger Sale talks about 3 things — Teaching (for Differentiation), Tailoring (for Resonance) and Taking Control of the Sale, and I strongly recommend that you buy the book to learn about all these, but this post is about an interesting insight on the type of Sales Persona’s that enterprise sales reps can be bracketed into.
Read On – this will resonate with you!
Dixon and Adamson surveyed more than 6000 sales reps across 100+ companies – two average performers and one star performer along forty four attributes and then ran a factor analysis on the data. The analysis indicated that certain rep characteristics tend to clump together. The forty four fell into five distinct groups, each containing a defined combination of rep characteristics. When a rep tends to be good at one attribute she is very likely to be good at all of the others in the group as well.
The Five Sales Rep profiles, they identified are:
The Hard Worker
Hard workers are those guys in your team who show up early, stay late and are always willing to put the extra effort. They are the only guys who paid attention when you taught them on the importance of the Sales process. Intrinsically motivated, they are the typical ‘nose to the grindstone’ sellers. They will make more calls and sales visits every week than anyone else in the team, and are eager to seek feedback, looking to up their game.
The underlining belief of all Hard Workers are that if you make enough calls, send enough e-mails, fill out enough RFP’s , the universe will conspire and all will be well at the end of the quarter/year.
The Relationship Builder
Just as the name implies, Relationship builders are all about building and nurturing strong personal and professional relationships with the Client organization. They are generous with their time and work hard to ensure all needs of the customers are met. Their primary posture with the customer is of accessibility and service. “Just name it, I am here to make it happen for you” , that’s a Relationship builder.
The Lone Wolf
Lone Wolves are the Arnold Schwarzenegger of Hollywood or Sunny Deol of Bollywood. They can crush an entire army alone (or in this case the quarterly sales number), they drive their managers crazy as they have scant regards for the sales process compliance like filling up the CRM, trip sheets etc They are inherently extremely self confident, and as a result they tend to follow their own instincts, and not rules. They are the “Cowboys” who live by the Sinatra song “I did it my way”.
However, they more than achieve what they are asked to do, they crush the numbers, because if they didn’t they would have anyways been fired from the company.
The Reactive Problem Solver
This person is detail oriented and is highly reliable, and tends to focus very heavily on post-sales follow up, ensuring that service issues around implementation and execution are addressed quickly and thoroughly. In the book, One CEB member described the problem solver as “a customer service rep in a sales rep clothing”. As she put it “They come into the office every morning with grand plans to generate new sales, but as soon as an existing customer calls with a problem, they dive right in rather than passing it to the people we actually pay to solve those problems”.
Challengers are the one who push the status quo. They have deep understanding of the customer’s business and they use this knowledge to push the customers thinking and teach them something new about how their company can compete more effectively, save money or get more market share. They are not afraid to share their views, even when it different from the customers. While most sales guys work towards negating the Sales tension around pricing or negotiation, They are the one’s who use the tension effectively to bring the deal to a close. They tend to ‘push’ the customers, not in an annoying manner, and becoming a “Jerk” – but in a way that forces people to think about complex issues from a different perspective. You know that you are a Challenger, if at the end of the meeting your customer’s reaction is “Interesting”, or “I did not think of it that way”, and not just “ Yes, I agree”.
Challengers are most effective when the complexity of the Sale is high, (which is what most B2B sales today are anyways) and the Relationship Builder, a trait that most companies appreciate and tend to build, is highly unlikely to succeed in a complex sale environment.
Guess its time that we look at our Sales team, and build Challenger persona’s. We will do all our stakeholders a whole lot of good.
If you have read till here, you might like this video where Brent Adamson talks about the Challenger Sale.
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