A new book, The Challenger Sale, shows the value of a unique marketing strategy. The book encourages sales teams to be more like personal trainers than bartenders.


With the wealth of customer connections that are available to brands thanks to social media, sales and marketing teams have been more focused on maintaining conversations with their base than ever before. But relationship building may not be the most effective way to increase sales, according to a recently released book by research and advisory firm Corporate Executive Board entitled, “The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation.”

The most effective type of sales representatives may be surprising

Research on sales approaches revealed several general types of representatives: the Hard Worker, the Problem Solver, the Lone Wolf, the Relationship Builder and the Challenger. Each type can deliver an average performance, but according to authors Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, the Challenger consistently out-performs the others. Most companies focus on cultivating customer relationships, but Dixon and Adamson found that “the best focus on pushing customers’ thinking, introducing new solutions to their problems and illuminating problems customers overlook. That is, they challenge their customers.” Instead of spending company resources on the relationship builder, they argue, it would be better to transform the sales or marketing team to one of challengers.

Challengers are born, but also can be made

Though reps may have naturally gravitated to the Challenger workflow, others can be trained. “Up to 80 percent of sales reps can become Challengers when armed with the right tools, training and coaching. Companies can immediately begin to leverage the un-tapped value locked away in the core of their sales force,” Adamson said in a press release, managing director at CEB. Companies can realize the financial benefits of this high level sales performance by “transforming the existing sales force into a Challenger sales force.” The training program emphasizes an approach that teaches the customer something new while being assertive throughout the sales process - its more about challenging the customer’s assumptions and showing how they can compete more effectively in the marketplace than simply about selling products.

By Ivory King