Sales Training Frameworks: The Challenger Sale Method

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the Attention team

The way sales teams structure their thinking processes, selling approach, and habits can affect their success with clients. It is therefore quite useful for sales leaders to learn more about the different kinds of frameworks that guide strategic thinking within the sales space. However sorting through numerous sales methodologies can be difficult. Which framework will really make the difference for your team? We urge teams to do their research, but one method worth learning about is the Challenger Sale. While this methodology was developed by sales leaders Dixon and Adamson in the last decade, its emphasis on fostering customer education and encouraging mutually beneficial dialogue makes it a timeless staple.

An Introduction to the Challenger Sale

At its core, the Challenger Sale methodology encourages sales reps to push clients to consider their needs from a different angle. The purpose of engagement is 1) first and foremost to teach customers something they did not know before the call, and by doing so make an important investment in building a more educated client base. The second and third tenets of the Challenger Sale framework are 2) to streamline conversations so that they include only that information which is most useful to the particular client and 3) to stay in the lead throughout calls such that sales reps can pivot the direction of conversations as needed (while maintaining a respectful tone throughout).

Authors Dixon and Adamson categorize sales reps into five distinct groups. These include the problem solver, the relationship builder, the lone wolf, the hard worker, and of course, the challenger. These profiles represent what they imply - the problem solver is a reactive thinker who can be depended on to address issues as they arise. The relationship builder’s primary strategy is to bond with a gatekeeper who will advocate on their behalf. The lone wolf can struggle with more collaborative, team-wide initiatives, while the hard worker is especially driven but may lack focus. The challenger describes a sales rep who operates according to the Challenger Sale principles; this sales rep is adept at teaching, tailoring, and taking control during discussions. Of these, the authors claim that the “challenger” is the most successful approach among high performers and that this group does particularly well in a B2B enterprise market. Different kinds of sales reps could benefit from adopting elements of the challenger approach.

Becoming a Challenger through Sales Training

Assertiveness is a key characteristic of the “challenger” sales rep. Sales reps should thus be sure to gain the confidence and sales reflexes they need to engage in vibrant back and forth with prospects. After all, a true challenger will feel more than comfortable exchanging ideas with a potential customer. To challenge buyers to reconsider their established thoughts on a subject, sales reps will need adequate sales training. One tool that will help you ramp up your reps in record time is Attention. Attention is a sales training software that tracks and analyzes individual performance over time and uses the latest AI technology to provide sales reps with instant and customized feedback during real sales interactions.

A sales rep that seeks to adopt the Challenger Sale framework should also strive to understand their client’s industry and context to convey a sense of reliability. In other words, make sure the information front is well-covered and important facts or counters are easily accessible during live conversations. Sales battlecards can help future challengers reference pivotal intel and access pre-prepared counters. Software like Attention makes it even easier to keep up during fast-paced chats by pulling up relevant sales battlecards using voice-activated cues.

In addition, challengers will need to hone their analytical skills in order to identify client problems and craft tailored solutions. Understanding how your client perceives their issues is nearly as important as understanding the issues themselves. Think about what your client may or may not know, as well as perspectives they may have neglected to consider. Proceed by asking yourself not only what information the client would benefit from learning, but also how you can help them correct erroneous or illogical modes of thought. Whether it’s an exercise in cost saving or risk avoidance, sales reps will need to process and dissect their prospect’s worldview in order to disrupt it.

The Challenger Sale approach can feel less immediately gratifying than other, more direct styles of selling (say, those that get to the ask from the start). However there can be significant benefits to engaging with customers in an organic way, especially for a client base that lacks experience and would benefit from some qualified direction. By using the Challenger Sale method to frame issues in a new light for prospects, sales reps can open the door for future buyers to arrive at their own conclusions. This will ultimately persuade them that the product or service in question will lead to significant long-term benefits at their organization.

Keep Challenging Yourself

Sales leaders, whether you’re fans of the Challenger Sale method or not, encourage sales reps to explore different sales frameworks. It’s a great way to motivate junior sales reps to think more deeply about their sales training lessons and the human dynamics that underlie buyer-seller interactions. For a look at another well-known sales method, check out the Sandler Selling system. As for sales training strategy, coaches would do well to confront their own assumptions and explore unique ways to make sales training programs as effective and efficient as possible. Attention is one proven way to turn your junior sales reps into top-performers in just a matter of weeks. All in all, it’s safe to say that a well-rounded training program will lead to more well-rounded sales reps prepared to tackle any challenges that come their way.

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