The Challenger Sale – Book Review


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The Challenger Sale (TCS), by Matt Dixon and Brent Adamson is an important book for sales professionals and sales managers involved in complex B2B sales as it proves that a number of commonly held beliefs about sales behavior are obsolete.

Unlike many other “how-to-sell” books based on theories and ideas on improvingthe challenger sales performance, The Challenger Sale is underpinned by rich and extensive data from more than 6,000 sales professionals from more than 100 member companies, gathered over the past four years.

You are a Prospect for Challenger Sales Training

I don’t have a problem (other reviewers did have), that TCS is produced by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) and that the CEB is a member organization providing for-profit sales training for its members. They want to sell you Challenger Sales Development Services…in the same way every other author of sales performance literature wants to sell their services. It happens that we are very much aligned in our view of the sea-change that has occurred in buyer behavior and the need for new approaches in engaging buyers at the moments of truth when face-face.

If you are selling complex software, enterprise hardware or services in a B2B environment and haven’t read The Challenger Sale yet, then perhaps this article might convince you it’s worth reading at least once…regardless of where you get your sales development services.

Relationship Selling is Dead

I and many of my peers were brought up in a World where, as a territory rep, our goal was to establish a relationship with the buyer, and over time, gain access to the organization to earn the opportunity to position our products/solutions.

Through factor analysis of the data, TCS identifies the five distinct profiles or behavioral tendencies of sales people of which the relationship sales person has been the least successful in the past four years for both transactional and complex sales.sales performance


Today, when buyers have an abundance of information about vendors products and solutions at their fingertips, any salesperson that brings insight to the table that can create new opportunities for the buying organization can have a relationship based on that value. Buyers simply have no time or need of relationships with salespeople who do not create value.

Challengers are Winners, Rain or Shine

Based on an analysis of the data, in transactional selling, the star performers outperform the core by 59%. Hard Workers are the top producers in transactional selling.
In complex B2B selling environments, the research indicates that star performers outperformed core performers by almost 200%. As the sale becomes more complex, the gap between the core and star performers widens dramatically…companies are becoming more dependent on fewer sales people to carry the day. It happens that Challengers were the only cohort to make their numbers in the downturn and today are the top performing behavior type by a wide margin.

The 5 Sales Profiles

The Challenger

the challenger

Lone Wolf

lone wolf

Hard Worker

hard worker

Reactive Problem Solver

reactive problem solver

Relationship Builder

relationship builder

Challenger Behavior Attributes

From the 44 attributes in the survey, six of them were statistically significant in defining the Challenger rep:

  • Offers the customer unique perspective
  • Strong 2 way communication skills
  • Knows customer value drivers
  • Can identify economic drivers of customers business
  • Is comfortable discussing money
  • Can pressure the customer

The exciting news is that with the right training, coaching and sales tools, even relationship builders can learn to take control of the customer conversation like a challenger.

Challenger Selling is Journey

The Challenger model is developed around the following pillars:

  • Teaching for Differentiation
  • Tailoring for Resonance,
  • Taking Control

The authors point out that the Challenger Selling Model is simple in theory, but complex in practice and the book lays out the best-practices, tools and lessons learned in implementing the Challenger Selling Model. I recommend it highly.

Bon Voyage!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mark Gibson
Mark Gibson has been at the forefront of developing sales and marketing tools that create clarity in messaging value for 30 years. As a consultant he is now engaged in helping sales, marketing and enablement teams to get clear about value creation. Clarity attracts inbound leads, clarity converts visitors into leads and leads into customers, clarity builds mindshare, clarity engages customers, clarity differentiates value, clarity helps onboard new hires clarity helps raise funds, clarity + execution win markets.


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