What Happens When a Challenger Sales Rep Meets a Challenger Prospect?

Challenger Sales caught the world’s attention by revealing that most buyers are now almost 60 percent through their order cycle before they talk with a sales rep. Prospects are getting their information independently and access to old-fashioned probing is no longer permitted. These facts are hard to dispute but the conclusions and solutions of Challenger Sales are highly questionable.

The Challenger Sales rep has been profiled as someone strong that will stand his or her ground with a customer. They are known as strong debaters and often have conflicts with other team members in their company. In the Challenger Sales process, sales reps are encouraged to challenge their prospects’ assumptions after they have labored gaining knowledge and making decisions via their research. Challengers then question their prospects’ beliefs by providing “compelling data” to prove them wrong. In the Challenger Sales methodology, the roadmap is taking control by presenting first and asking questions later.

In comes today’s prospect. They can be called the Challenger Prospect. They worked hard independently to gain knowledge. They forged an opinion and believe they are correct and the purchase ownership is theirs, so they feel in control of the experience. Why would we throw a Challenger rep into this scenario? The Challenger Sales rep would be better suited to the prospect of yesteryear that had little information and needed to be led, while today’s prospect might find being challenged a bit unnerving.

The Challenger program contrasts a Challenger Sales rep with what they call the “Social” sales rep. The social sales rep focuses on knowing their prospect, what they buy, and do their best to befriend them. Now, I do not have access to the data used or have the means to validate what the Challenger program used but has there ever been a situation where your solution was better and cheaper yet you still lost to someone who had a better relationship with the prospect? Despite this common scenario, Challenger Sales puts the social sales rep at the other end of the success chart.

I can’t argue with the information presented about our changing prospects but how we treat them can’t be something suited to what worked in the past. How many people, after gathering information and coming to a conclusion, would be open to being challenged? Let’s say you wanted to buy a truck. You searched trucks and decided on a Ford F-10. You went online, picked out your towing package, color and interior and then headed over to the Ford showroom to buy your F-10. The sales rep just finished the Challenger sales book, and in an effort to win the dealership’s Fusion contest, starts telling you that you really don’t need a truck and you should buy a Ford Fusion. As a Challenger Sales rep, he stands his ground and shows you the statistics of how many people buy Ford Fusions to win you over. Does the response, ‘OK’ immediately come to mind?
Now, for all you Challenger Sales zealots, the acid test. You have read the book, completed your information gathering, and reviewed the proof data. You have made up your mind that Challenger Sales is the answer, as is your right to do so. Now I come along, as a Challenger author, stand my ground and challenge that premise. How are you feeling about being challenged?

Author: Rich Lucia

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