Artesian and the Challenger Sale

Artesian and the Challenger Sale

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, then I’m guessing at some point you will have either read or discussed CEB’s Challenger Sale Book.

The Challenger Sale: How to Take Control of the Customer Conversation book authored by Matthew Dixon in 2011 became an overnight sensation and has been hailed as the ‘must read’ publication for the modern B2B salesperson.

The Challenger Sale Methodology is based on one of the largest sales studies ever conducted and it famously categorised five distinct B2B salesperson profiles:

  1. The Hard Worker – the B2B salesperson that never gives up. This self-motivated seller always goes the extra mile, always garners feedback and constantly strives to develop their skills.
  2. The Lone Wolf – The independent B2B salesperson. A self-assured instinct follower this seller deliver results but can be difficult to manage
  3. The Relationship Builder – The classic B2B salesperson. This seller is focused on building personal relationships with their customers. They give their time generously and build advocates
  4. The Problem Solver – The detailed oriented B2B salesperson. This seller methodically solves customer problems, is highly reliable and always responds to stakeholders

And finally…

  1. The Challenger – The B2B salesperson with a strong understanding of customer needs. This seller actively teaches their prospect, tailors their sales process according to customer drivers, and takes control of the customer conversation.

According to the research, every B2B salesperson falls into one of these five different profiles that define the skills and behaviours they use when interacting with customers.

These profiles describe a seller’s natural mode of interacting with a prospect and are not mutually exclusive.

In any sales team, all of these B2B salesperson profiles probably exist.   But which is most likely to be successful?

Why not the relationship builder?

The somewhat disruptive finding of this book was that whilst the relationship-based sales method is today’s most popular approach the Relationship Builder is, in fact, the lowest-performing B2B sales persona, with only 7% of top performers falling into this category.

Unsurprisingly, given the book’s title, challenger-type B2B sellers are most successful. The highest performing B2B salespeople fit the Challenger profile. The book found that:

  • 40% of high sales performers primarily used a Challenger style compared to one of the 4 other sales styles identified
  • High performers were more than 2x likely to use a Challenger approach than any other
  • More than 50% of all-star performers fit the Challenger sales person profile in complex sales
  • As sales complexity increases, so does the success rate of the Challenger approach

Does this mean you should throw relationship building out the window? Does it mean that you should disregard all of the relationship-based sales techniques that you’ve so keenly honed throughout your career?

No, of course not. Relationship building is still a fundamental part of good B2B sales practice. Two-thirds of buyers (65%) still find value in discussing their needs with sellers, and almost all buyers (90%) are open to engaging sellers earlier in the sales process.

But in order to engage earlier in the process, buyers expect sellers to bring insight and expertise to the sales process.

Whereas the Relationship Builder will tend to focus on building personal relationships, the Challenger will focus on becoming a trusted advisor – knowledgeable about the customer and their wider ecosystem.

The Challenger Sales Model believes anyone can become a Challenger (or integrate successful Challenger sales behaviours) if they build the right combination of skills.

Challengers lead with insight

Challenger sellers deliver insight about a problem or opportunity in the customer business that they are uniquely positioned to solve or help the customer capitalise on.

They understand the external forces exerting pressure on the customer, whether that be changing market or consumer/end-user dynamics, competitor profiles and developments, or even evolving supply chain demands.

Equally importantly they capture the customer’s current beliefs or assumptions and present new ways of thinking.

According to the book, the Challenger is defined by their ability to do three key things well:

  1. Teach customers something new and valuable
  2. Tailor their sales pitch to resonate with the customer
  3. Take control of the discussions and challenge customer’s thinking

8 step guide to making the Challenger evolution

It’s not easy to change behaviours, I know that. But I also know that with the right coaching and the right sales enablement tools all B2B sellers can adopt the Challenger sales approach.

Artesian complements all aspects of the Challenger Sales Methodology, so here’s my 8 step guide to making the Challenger evolution – Teach, Tailor, Take Control.

Offer the customer new unique perspectives

Today’s B2B customers are most likely to reward sellers who provide valuable commercial insights, new perspectives, or unique ways of thinking that challenge them as well as differentiate the seller’s proposition.

Using data and insight to inform your sales process can help you present the customer with a clear perspective on challenges and opportunities that give them pause for thought, whether that be because it challenges their assumptions, provides a solution they had not considered before, or a pathway through obstacles (such as regulatory changes, or changing competitor or market dynamics) that you predict they might face.

Artesian provides ecosystem watch lists, market alerts, social media insights and people data. Together these assist in helping you deliver that all-important unique perspective.

Harnessing these insights will not only benefit the customer and their businesses but help you differentiate your sales proposition and build more meaningful relationships with customers.

Develop strong two-way communication skills

High performing sellers must not only understand the buyer’s business but demonstrate excellent communication skills.  Strong two-way communication skills are a cornerstone of great sales technique.

The Challenger listens to the customer, listens out for their concerns, listens out for their aspirations and needs, and listens right across their ecosystem.

They’re therefore knowledgeable which builds credibility, and importantly from a foundation of trust and insight, they’re great at making the customer listen to them, be persuaded by their arguments, and accept their advice.

Artesian enables you to track insights, track influence and track buying trigger events.

These provide endless opportunities to strike up a conversation, update customers about something new and relevant, offer solutions and direct the sales journey/take control of the conversation in the most customer-centric way possible.

Know the customer’s individual drivers

Challenger sellers tailor their sales strategy according to the customers drivers, not their own.

It’s not enough to be knowledgeable about the customer and their ecosystem, high performers also add into the mix knowledge about the customers value drivers.

According to Challenger Inc. possessing this greater depth of knowledge can increase a seller’s likelihood of being a high performer by up to 32%.

Once you understand customer value drivers you’ll be better placed to articulate the value that you can bring to the table.

Artesian can help with instant access to customer news alerts, market alerts and both company level and people level insights.

Know the customer’s economic drivers

Challenger Sellers are not scared to talk about money. Why?

Because by leading with insight they know the customer’s financial position, they know the customer’s expectations and red lines, they know what else is on offer in the market and how they can compete/differentiate, and they know the impact both in terms of ROI and wider added value their product, solution or service can deliver.

With advanced data insights, risk insights, news and market alerts Artesian can ensure that you too can be comfortable discussing money and directing the customer to close the deal.

Manage stakeholders

In any complex B2B decision there will typically be between 6-14 stakeholders.

The Challenger seller will seek to intuitively identify, engage, manage and reliably respond to all the stakeholders in any buying journey.

To put it bluntly, they track them all down and win them all over. They have relevant conversations with each, they tap into their aspirations, they address their concerns and they are not afraid to answer their objections. In doing so they manage them toward collectively reaching consensus.

Artesian provides the deeper level people insights, social media tracking you need to get a strong handle on the agendas and priorities of individual stakeholders and position your sales strategy to win over each and manage them towards an agreement.

Don’t sell, coach – lead to your solution not with it

According to Gartner a company’s brand, products, services, and pricing are no longer the main drivers behind customer purchase decisions.

Instead, the greatest differentiator between B2B sellers is the sales experience.

Challengers are most effective at selling in the complex world of buying today because they take control of the purchase conversation in a way that coaches the customer towards the unique strengths of their solution, product or service. They don’t lead with it!

Artesian’s data insights, news and market alerts will provide you with the insights that improve your real-time understanding of what’s driving a customer at any given moment, and therefore your ability to prioritise their needs and guide them towards a sale.

Change how the customer acts by changing how the customer thinks

According to Salesforce 75% of business buyers expect companies to anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions.

The Challenger always aim to teach the buyer something about their business. Whether that’s how to think differently about their commercial needs, how to capitalise on new and valuable ways to compete in their market, how to avoid potential obstacles in their path, and importantly to realise that the pain of the same is greater than the pain of change.

To do this they come armed to the conversation with a deep understanding of the customer’s business and their wider ecosystem as well as insights that resonate with their concerns and aspirations.

Artesian delivers the invaluable news alerts, people, social, financial and commercial insights Challengers need to teach.

Artesian enables faster and more accurate anticipation of customer needs, pain, market challenges and opportunities.

Use Artesian to help you get ahead of needs, take control of the conversation and change how the customer thinks and acts.

Deliver collective learning that drives consensus and higher deal quality

Challengers share tactics and best practices, develop and sustain cross-functional relationships with others in their team and wider organisation, and facilitate the filtering of news and insight from elsewhere in the organisation, or market to their sales team.

According to an Aberdeen Group study, highly aligned organisations achieve an average of 32% year-over-year revenue growth – while their less aligned competitors see a 7% decrease in revenue.

Likewise, a Sirius Decision report suggests that organisations with tightly aligned operations are achieving 24% faster growth and 27% faster profit growth.

Artesian makes collective learning easy. Share your posts, insights using our mobile app, forward them on to colleagues by SMS or email them directly to team members from within the platform.

Likewise, share watchlists and collaboratively track influence. Be like the Challenger and ensure that not only are you well versed in the customer but that your whole team is too.

Artesian and the Challenger Sale

I’ll finish with a few Challenger Sales quotes I picked up from other bloggers

“How you sell has become more important than what you sell.”

“Challengers aren’t so much world-class investigators as they are world-class teachers. They win not by understanding their customers’ world as well as the customers know it themselves, but by actually knowing their customers’ world better than their customers know it themselves, teaching them what they don’t know but should.”

“What sets the best suppliers apart is not the quality of their products, but the value of their insight—new ideas to help customers either make money or save money in ways they didn’t even know were possible.”

“The best sales conversations present the customer with a compelling story about their business first, teach them something new, and then lead to their differentiators.”

Artesian complements all aspects of Challenger and equips you with everything you need to succeed. To see Artesian in action, click here.