3 Helpful Sales Lessons for Challenger Sellers

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "The Challenger Sale" by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

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How can challenger sellers continue to improve? Are there any sales lessons that challenger sellers should know?

Challenger selling is a proven method of sales. But even as you master the method, you’ll continue learning valuable sales lessons along the way. These sales lessons will help you get in the mindframe of a challenger seller, and make sure you’re using the strategy to achieve your goals.

Sales Lessons for A Challenging Culture

Internal business customers, such as colleagues from other departments, want insight too—for instance, new ideas for saving and making money—so the Challenger model of teaching new ways of thinking applies within and across the organization.

For instance, researchers found that an HR recruiter’s ability to be a strategic advisor to the company accounted for 52% of effectiveness. Similarly, company leaders in other departments want IT departments to advise them on how to use technology to be more efficient or save money. Consider these sales lessons learned and how you can use them to be a better challenger seller.

1. Breaking Out of Order-Taker Mode

Like sales reps, marketing and communications professionals don’t want to be viewed as order-takers. They want to make a more valuable contribution by moving from managing the message to managing the strategy.

For instance, instead of jumping to fill a colleague’s request to issue a press release, a communications professional can help more if she knows the strategic reason for the request. It might be something like, “We want our competitors to know we’ve moved into this new area.” One sales lessons learned is that by knowing the reason behind the press release request, the communications staff can identify opportunities to deliver greater value.

One communications department used a five-step process for analyzing internal requests before acting on them. This improved its solutions and repositioned the department as a strategic partner in improving company results.

2. Communicating Effectively

People with specific expertise in areas like HR or IT often have trouble communicating with colleagues in the company in language they understand.

One of the worst offenders when it comes to technical jargon is the legal department.

Attorneys are trained to write long technical briefs for judges but not to communicate effectively with business partners. Also, instead of offering options, attorneys tend to give “on the one hand/on the other hand” answers.

To build respect and credibility so that your views are taken seriously, you need to show that you understand your colleagues’ needs in the same way that reps seek to understand their customers’ businesses.

3. Earning a Voice

In another one of the sales lessons learned by management and earn a voice in decisions, corporate staff need to deliver compelling insights. For example, to ensure they were making a valuable contribution, one marketing department came up with specific criteria for offering insight (similar to the SAFE-BOLD framework for designing a teaching pitch, described in Chapter 5):

  • The project aligns with an issue important to management
  • The department’s research is likely to uncover significant insights
  • It’s within the group’s expertise
  • There’s a high probability of resolution
  • Resource requirements are minimal

These criteria helped the marketing research staff deliver compelling insights in presentations to the management team.

While it’s difficult to predict every skill companies will need in five or ten years, it’s clear that internal customers, like outside customers, will continue to be hungry for new insight and will appreciate partners who can provide it.

As you learn and perfect the challenger selling method, use these sales lessons to supplement your knowledge. Of course, you’ll also continue to learn many sales lessons along the way.

3 Helpful Sales Lessons for Challenger Sellers

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Here's what you'll find in our full The Challenger Sale summary:

  • Why the best salespeople take control of the sale and challenge the customer's thinking
  • How to package your company with a key insight to spark an "a-ha" moment
  • How to get the organizational support you need to maintain your sales edge

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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