4 Tips on Rolling Out Challenger Selling to Your Sales Team


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Have you jumped on the Challenger® Sales Model bandwagon yet? We sure have. The principles behind it are so compelling – take control of the conversation, provide insight and teach them something new, and disrupt the buyer’s thinking – I personally want to be a Challenger in all of my interactions, and I’m not even in sales!

But were you as surprised as I was to read Corporate Executive Board’s recent post, “Your Reps Are Set Up to Fail“? In that post, they state that sales organizations adopting Challenger find “nearly two-thirds of their sales force either partially or fully fail to consistently demonstrate Challenger Selling behaviors.” Are we really saying we are seeing only a 33% success rate here? Yikes!

Challenger Selling Works

Qvidian rolled out Challenger Selling to our reps in January at our kick-off. And while It is still very early days, we have considered our rollout successful thus far. Our reps are loving it. They are engaged in learning, applying it in the field, and sharing stories with the rest of the team. And as a result, we are now starting to see more leads turning into opportunities, more momentum in the sales cycle, and less price sensitivity.

While we are just at the beginning of our Challenger Journey, I thought I’d share some of my own “insights” on why we are having success.

CEB is Right About Roadblocks… Mostly

CEB calls out three specific behaviors in current operating environments that are inhibiting Challenger Selling. This was fairly accurate for us, with a bit of tweaking:

  • Process Discipline: There is nothing wrong with an established sales playbook. In fact, having a foundation from which to work helped in our Challenger rollout. The problem lies in the static nature of traditional playbooks, and the inability of them adapt quickly. Don’t throw away the Playbook, adapt it.
  • Short-term Focus: I don’t know about you, but I need my sales team focused on short-term opportunities. My bonus is tied to making that number! We have found the challenge is being able to focus on the short term, with the long term pursuit in mind. Adapt behavior without interrupting the business.
  • Competitive Approach: Maybe I’m old-school, but I even just asked for a sales bell to be installed here in the office (or at the least get the app)! I believe in what we are doing here, so when a rep closes a deal that’s going to change the way a customer does business, that’s something to get excited about! With each rep win, they provide a story about how Challenger helped (or sometimes didn’t) so the rest of the team can learn—and they are excited to share it.

I have seen our rollout not be as much about our culture as it is about our sales process and tools—and adaptability of both.

My Four Tips on Implementing Challenger Sales

CEB is working on creating more tools and best practices through their surveys and resources to help companies successfully adopt Challenger Selling. In the meantime, here’s what I’ve learned from our rollout:

  • It’s About Change Management: You are transforming your sales organization (and to some extent marketing). It’s not just about what the existing behaviors are, its about the fact that you have to change them.
  • You Need Reinforcement: Like Pavlov’s dogs, we need to be conditioned. To change behavior, you need to reinforce and motivate. Presenting Challenger, then expecting reps to apply the principles in a sale without any reinforcement (ringing of the bell!), will not change the status quo.
  • Do NOT Interrupt Selling! In every company I’ve worked, if we tried to effect change that interrupted my reps doing business, it would ultimately fail. Every. Time. The trick is to seamlessly provide change elements in the context of doing business. It not only is less disruptive, but provides immediate results for the rep which in turn is positive reinforcement.
  • Communicate and Share: This might be a given, but cannot be overlooked. Getting reps to communicate and share when things are working (or not) in an efficient way (see bullet #3) is critical to gaining momentum behind Challenger Selling.

In Full Disclosure

Qvidian may be at an advantage. We use our own Sales Playbooks application internally, and re-designed it specifically for our Challenger rollout. It has been the keystone, and is what provides us a dynamic, adaptable hub for everything Challenger.

Here are a couple of examples of how Sales Playbooks has helped our rollout:

  • If you’re not familiar, Qvidian Sales Playbooks at its core is a dynamic, easily adaptable hub that integrates with Salesforce.com to provide reps a custom step-by-step guide for each unique selling situation. This adapts easily to Challenger; for example we matched the stages to those of Challenger’s (ex. Warmer, Reframe, etc.)
  • As our reps personalize our core “commercial insights” after they research an account, they can upload specific insights directly into the Playbook. This allows our VP of Sales to review and coach on appropriate insights at the right time during the sale, without slowing up the cycle.
  • Our VP of Sales has included audio and video coaching tips at certain “plays.” For example a 2 min refresher on “The Reframe” at the appropriate time in the sales process.
  • The last play in the Challenger Playbook is to share what worked, and what didn’t with the team. We use Chatter internally for our collaboration tool, so this links directly to our “Challenger Sales” Chatter group to distribute the story.

We now have many prospects and customers coming to us specifically to launch our Sales Playbooks application to support their roll out of Challenger Selling. I can’t wait to hear from each when they start seeing the impacts of Challenger Selling in their organization!

The Challenger Sale Model - Sales Process

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Republished with author's permission from original post.

Amanda Wilson
Amanda Wilson is the VP of Global Marketing at MobileBridge, the leading provider of mobile app engagement automation solutions. Her experience blended across marketing, product and sales drives her passion for helping companies market and sell their products through SaaS technology. She has previously held marketing leadership positions at Qvidian and Acquia.


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