The Challenger Sale

What’s the secret to sales success? If you’re like most business leaders, you’d say it’s fundamentally about relationships-and you’d be wrong. The best salespeople don’t just build relationships with customers. They challenge them.

My third pillar to sales success is The Challenger Sale.  I like information based on research and this was based on an exhaustive study of thousands of sales reps across multiple industries and geographies, The Challenger Sale argues that classic relationship building is a losing approach, especially when it comes to selling complex, large-scale business-to-business solutions.

The Challenger Sales representatives approach customers with unique insights. They tailor their sales message to the customer’s specific needs and objectives. Rather than acquiescing to the customer’s every demand or objection, they are assertive, pushing back when necessary and taking control of the sale.

The authors explain how almost any average-performing rep, once equipped with the right tools, can successfully reframe customers’ expectations and deliver a distinctive purchase experience that drives higher levels of customer loyalty and, ultimately, greater growth.

My takeaways from this read is that for a complex sale we need to move past the relationship and become the consultant; this is not the most astonishing insight.  However, a consultant is respected and not always agreeable to the way an organization currently does things.  They provide wow statements that provide new perspective.

Fig2_3 - The Challenger SaleWe must equip our core sales force with the proper tools.  Again, not ground-breaking but I am surprised with how many companies with robust marketing and research departments that have technical writers allow their sales force to create the messaging.  To enable a complex sale, the company has to own this responsibility and provide what is important to specific industries and how their solution(s) can address the needs of their customers.

To gain the respect of your customer you must have the ability to challenge them and provide unique perspectives.  This may be the most earth-shattering takeaway.  Sale representatives and their managers typically believe they have to grow a relationship with their customer and so contesting the customer’s opinion was negatively perceived.  Even offering a dissenting opinion internally in your organization is sometimes referred to as a negative attitude.  There are ways to deliver a message that challenges our customer without offending them and this is referred to as constructive tension or constructive criticism.  Equally important is understanding that feedback is important to every successful process.

SPIN Selling

Neil Rackman breaks the sales call into four distinct stages which he calls premliminaries, investigating, demonstrating capability, and obtaining commitment.  He discovered a difference between the traditional small sale and the complex large sale in that the most important stage was the investigation stage and not the obtaining commitment stage that most companies teach.  It is not the objection handling or the closing skills that will get you the large complex sale in fact they were required less in a complex sale.  This is a pillar to sales success in that you learn exactly how to use questions to understand a customer problems and needs and the impact a solution can have solving and satisfying them.

The best-documented account of sales success ever collected and the result of the Huthwaite corporation’s massive 12-year, $1-million dollar research into effective sales performance, this groundbreaking resource details the revolutionary SPIN (Situation, Problem, Implication, Need-payoff) investigation strategy.

You will learn why traditional sales methods which were developed for small consumer sales, just won’t work for large sales and why conventional selling methods are doomed to fail in major sales. Packed with real-world examples, illuminating graphics, and informative case studies – and backed by hard research data – SPIN Selling is the million-dollar key to understanding and producing record-breaking high-end sales performance.

How to Win Friends and Influence People

There are four books that I will call the four pillars of sales success. They are as follows: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, The Secrets of Closing the Sale by Zig Ziglar, SPIN Selling by Neil Rackman and The Challenger Sale by Matt Dixon.

Who makes a good salesperson? One of the most common answers is someone that is good at relationship building. I would agree with this answer with one slight caveat and that is the ability to close. I will talk about this when I write about the second pillar.

This was written more than sixty years ago and the rock-solid, time-tested advice in this book has carried thousands of now famous people up the ladder of success in their business and personal lives. This book contains the:

* Three fundamental techniques in handling people
* The six ways to make people like you
* The twelve ways to win people to you way of thinking
* The nine ways to change people without arousing resentment

The key ingredients in my opinion is to deter or avoid conflict, demonstrate sincere interest in the other person, be a good listener, show appreciation, ask questions, and always work in a positive way.

This book works great for how to stay married! 🙂 This is the one book in the four pillars that I would recommend to anyone even if they weren’t going into sales. An excellent read!