The Challenger Sale?

12 Dec

goldfish jumping - improvement and career concept

Recently, someone asked me about the Challenger Sales program; it gave me pause and led me to thinking about all of the sales training methodologies that have been introduced over the years. The long list includes sales models like SPIN, Conceptual Selling, SNAP, CustomerCentric, Sandler and now, the newer Challenger model. Below is a short recap of these six models. For the purpose of this blog, I’ve summarized this list in very simplified terms.

SPIN (Situation Problem Implication Need-Payoff) Selling – Don’t tell the prospect… ASK and help them find the best solution

Conceptual Selling – Listen, share and get commitment

SNAP Selling – Keep sales on track by keeping it simple, being invaluable, aligning with the prospect and raising priorities

CustomerCentric – Collaborate and empower the buyer to buy

The Sandler System – Uncover the pain, determine obstacles, decide together to continue; move on or close the deal

The Challenger Development Program – Teach, tailor and take control. The customer already knows what they want, so your job is to inform them about larger business problems, ideas and insights. Through educating and challenging them on their preconceived beliefs, you will ultimately lead them to the sale.

There are many similarities between all of these models. To a great extent, a lot of the solutions are just semantics. Most of these systems can be effective – and most of them still need to be tweaked according to your customer and your solution.

I personally like the Challenger model because of the initial premise – the prospect may already believe that they know what they want. They may not give you the time to go through discovery questions and therefore you may need to challenge the buyer to consider alternative solutions.

I also prefer the Sandler model because it stresses the need to qualify through questions and understanding at the beginning of the process. It also encourages you to walk away if your organization doesn’t have the best solution and it isn’t worth the time to push back. You simply cannot always customize your solution and/or be all things to all buyers.

Ultimately, these are the most important areas on which to focus:

1. Teach your internal sales team a model. Any sales process is better than winging it.

2. Always be consultative, collaborative or whatever you want to call it. The old-fashioned push doesn’t work.

3. Understand the decision maker(s) and their personality style which determines how they buy.

4. Uncover the prospects’ potential needs. Whether that’s gathering intel before even speaking with them or through a discovery process (even if it’s only 2-3 questions).

5. Figure out their budget parameters.

6. Determine if your solutions are a fit (or move on).

7. If there is a pain, then move forward with the Sandler or a pain-selling process.

8. If you KNOW they are a good prospect but the pain or solution is unclear, then move into the Challenger Sales. Educate and push back … still moving them to yes or no.

It’s complicated.The best salespeople can use both Sandler and Challenger accordingly. The sticking point is whether you continue to push the sale or give up and decide to move on. I’m concerned that the Challenger model can be a waste of time if the salesperson is overly bullheaded and refuses to give up and possibly offends the customer or prospect; but the Sandler pain-solution doesn’t always work with good prospects when they won’t reveal their challenges and needs. Teach your salespeople a method; more senior salespeople can learn more than one. In the year ahead, I challenge sales leadership to buy their teams a few books and discuss the different approaches in selling your solution.

Forward never straight~ Drew

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