Some Insights into Challenger…


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A number of people have commented that “we don’t need to do Discovery” when using the Challenger sales methodology…  They are wrong!

The Challenger and Insight-oriented sales methodologies have largely come about, I believe, because marketing has failed to accomplish its job, in many organizations. Specifically, marketing has failed to move customers from “latent” pain through “awareness” of that pain to “taking action” to address the pain:

– Latent Pain:  Customer doesn’t know that he/she has the problem or it is simply one of many problems that are accepted as status quo.

– Awareness:  Customer realizes the that problem is important – and that it can and should be solved. This was often referred to as generating “hope and curiosity”.

– Taking Action:  Customer decides the problem needs to be addressed – and starts to look for solutions by exploring and contacting vendors.

Solution Selling, Sandler, SPIN and other similar sales methodologies are largely based on marketing being successful in moving customers to the point where customers are Taking Action. At this point, the customer is willing to invest time in a Discovery meeting because the customer is actively seeking a solution – that’s the key difference between Solution Selling methodologies and Challenger/Insight.

Since customers today are often not actively seeking a solution, Challenger/Insight methodologies start the sales cycle with the sales person moving the customer from Latent Pain through Awareness to Seeking a Solution. This is done through the use of “business insights”:  provocative statements and informal references of how “other, similar customers have solved their problems with xxx, which they realized were holding their organizations back in ways they had not previously understood…”

One perceived gap between Solution Selling and Challenger/Insight models is, therefore, the timing and nature of Discovery.

Challenger/Insight models correctly assume that customers are unwilling to invest time in a Discovery conversation that is designed to find pain. I’m in violent agreement with this! That’s the equivalent of the “Harbor Tour”, but done in Discovery instead of a demo.

So, the biggest difference between these sets of methodologies is the starting point for the sales cycle. Challenger/Insight models start with the assumption that the customer is not actively looking for a solution – and hence it is too early for Discovery. The customer needs to realize that there are business problems that need to be addressed, first. Solution Selling picks up the process a bit later, when the customer is actively looking for a solution, and therefore the next conversation should be one of Discovery.

Once the customer is actively Seeking a Solution, both sets of methodologies come back into alignment – the vendor has earned the right to explore the problem more deeply with the customer and a Discovery conversation can take place. Discovery still, absolutely, needs to be done – and done well!

[By the way, the statement, “Marketing has failed – and therefore sales needs to change the way it sells” – is a wonderful example of a Challenger/Insight selling provocative statement, designed to map to a high-probability problem that is faced by heads of sales. Nice!]


[Observation:  I’ve been (inadvertently) practicing the Challenger model since 2003…  The huge majority of my prospects were either unware that their demos could be (much) better and/or didn’t care, as they assumed that “that’s just the way it is…” – status quo.  

My job, early on, was to let people know that demos could be better – MUCH better – and to help prospects understand how much their traditional demos were hurting their businesses.  The articles (, webinars, book, blog postings, etc. – and particularly the “Stunningly Awful Demos” series – were crafted to provocatively move prospects from Latent Pain to Awareness to Taking Action.  I think it has worked pretty well, so far!]

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Peter Cohan
Have you ever seen a bad software demonstration? Peter Cohan is the founder and principal of Great Demo!, focused on helping software organizations improve the success rates of their demos. He authored Great Demo! - how to prepare and deliver surprisingly compelling software demonstrations. Peter has experience as an individual contributor, manager and senior management in marketing, sales, and business development. He has also been, and continues to be, a customer.


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