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The 5 Types of Sellers of The Challenger Sale Blog Feature

Bob Ruffolo

Founder & CEO, Keynote Speaker, Entrepreneur, Recipient of Comparably’s Best CEO ’17

September 21st, 2015 min read

the-challenger-sale-1It's how you sell, not what you sell.

In The Challenger Sale, Matt Dixon and Brent Adamson explain the ideas and strategies that drive the most successful Sales teams in business today.

In preparation for this book, the authors researched over 6,000 salespeople and over 90 companies across a wide variety of industries to identify the exact characteristics and tactics that top performing Sales reps use in order to create a system of selling that anyone can replicate.

They call this The Challenger Model. 

The average consumer is much savvier than they were 20 years ago, yet companies continue to train their employees to use Sales strategies that are completely outdated.

While Dixon and Adamson note that certain characteristics of top performing salespeople are timeless, the most effective approach to selling today is far different than what worked in the past.

Seller Profiles

One of the key studies cited in The Challenger Sale is also one of the largest Sales studies that has ever been conducted.

In this study, a notable finding was that 53% of customer loyalty is based on the Sales experience that the customer received -- as opposed to price, quality, or branding like many companies assume. That means the sales reps for your company are playing the largest part in determining whether your customers will be loyal to your brand or not.

With that statistic in mind, are you more likely to consider a new approach for your Sales team? 

According to the research, there are five different profiles that categorize B2B Sales reps by the skills and behaviors that they use while interacting with customers. Each profile describes a sales rep's natural tendencies in regards to how they interact with people and the profiles are not mutually exclusive.

Here are the five seller profiles ranked from least to most effective:

1. The Relationship Builder

  • Classic consultative rep
  • Builds advocates internally
  • Creates relationships with prospects

Relationship Builders focus on developing strong personal and professional relationships throughout the customer organization.

These sellers are very generous with their time, do everything they can to meet customers' needs, and work diligently to resolve any tensions that arise in the commercial relationship. Ironically, while most Sales programs are designed to create and encourage Relationship Builders, it is the least effective of all of them.

2. The Reactive Problem Solver

  • Highly detail-oriented
  • Reliably responds to stakeholders
  • Ensures all problems are solved

Reactive Problem Solvers are considered highly reliable and detail-oriented from the customers' perspective. They are known for their focus on post-Sales follow-ups to ensure that service issues are addressed and solved quickly and thoroughly.

3. The Hard Worker

  • Doesn't give up easily
  • Self-motivated
  • Interested in feedback and personal development

Hard Workers are the members of your team that show up early, stay late, and always go the extra mile. These Salespeople can make more call in an hour and meet with more prospects in a week than anyone else on your team. The hustle never stops for hard workers. 

4. The Lone Wolf

  • Follows own instincts
  • Self-assured
  • Delivers results, but difficult to manage

Lone Wolves are deeply self-confident and have a natural ability to succeed on their own instincts. They break rules, are hard to manage, and do things their way or no way at all. They are the least common profile of all Salespeople, but they are the second most common among top performing Salespeople.

5. The Challenger

  • Different view of the world
  • Loves to debate and push customer
  • Strong understanding of customers' business

Challengers use their deep understanding of their customers' business to challenge their thinking and maintain control of the Sales conversation. Challengers aren't afraid of expressing controversial views and are assertive with everyone they communicate with. Among top performing Salespeople, Challengers are most common.

As I'm sure you gathered from the title, this book is all about the Challenger profile and how to implement that approach.

Here are some interesting statistics from the study:

  • 40% of top Sales performers primarily used a Challenger style, rather than one of the other four Sales styles the book identified.
  • Top performers were more than two times likely to use a Challenger approach than any other approach.
  • Over 50% of all-star performers fit the Challenger profile in complex Sales.
  • Only 7% of high Sales performers took a Relationship Building approach, the worst performing profile.

Something that's interesting to note is that as Sales complexity increases, so does the success rate of the challenger approach. However, it seems only top performers get the most benefit from this approach. Among average performers, all profiles generated about the same results.

Working with Your Challenger Sales Reps 

In our full synopsis of The Challenger Sale, we'll go into the six significant traits of a Challenger Sales Rep, Commercial Teaching, how to tailor your sales pitches, and implementing the PAUSE Framework when managing Challenger Sales Reps. 

To view the full summary, click "continue reading" below. 

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