When you read the word “Challenger”, which of the following comes to mind?
If you have read the recent book, The Challenger Sale (Portfolio/Penguin, 2011)by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, hopefully the image directly above is the one you conjured up.
There is so much to like about this book, that it is hard to know where to begin when describing why any professional sales person should spend serious time with it.
The process is attractively simple, undeniably effective, and in keeping with the evolution of the marketplace, especially for complex B2B sales. With all the books published annually on the subject of business (somewhere in the neighborhood of 11,000 last year alone), finding ones that stand out is not an easy task. These guys have done their homework (aided by the resources of the Corporate Executive Board) in researching the qualities and behavioral characteristics of highly effective sales people. By segmenting the group into five subsets, each with unique profiles, ranging from the “Lone Wolf” to the “Hard Worker”, the “Problem Solver”, the “Relationship Builder”, or the “Challenger”, the data concludes that there is a vast delta in percentage of high performers among the categories. From there, the authors proceed to unfold a sales model that integrates customer intimacy, actionable insight, provocative communications, and collaboration toward a common goal, forging an enduring, valuable relationship between the customer and the seller.
Six or seven years ago, I helped author a sales process based on an amalgam of thought leaders, from Miller-Heiman, to Mark Shonka and Dan Kosch, coupled with elements common to SPIN selling and a few others. We called it TUF (an acronym for Them-Us-Fit, as the process required our sales development team to learn their customer’s business, then bring forward only the relevant aspects of our firm in order to come to agreement that there is a “fit” between what we do, how we do it, and what our clients needed to get done). The Challenger Sale is a generation beyond TUF, embedding customer-specific insight and provocation that connects “Them” and “Us”. In fact, The Challenger Sales model moves beyond demonstrating an intimate understanding of (and empathy with) the customer, to control the process by effectively “training” the customer to new, previously unseen or overlooked thinking, focused on customer-specific outcomes.
The bottom line: If you are a front-line business development professional, or if you lead a team of the same, you would be well served to invest roughly thirty dollars and a few hours’ time to read, digest and follow the core tenets of The Challenger Sale. Keep it nearby, along with your dog-eared copies of Strategic Selling and Beyond Selling Value. You will want to refer to it again and again.