The Sales Type the Challenger Folks Missed


For the executives who deem it “the way”, it conjures up images of growing market share and a burgeoning top-line. From many of the sales people I have spoken with over the years, it elicits uneasy feelings that they are going to have to “change” and become aggressive jackasses towards their customers.

Surprisingly, I give the nod to the executives. But that nod comes with some pretty big “Ifs”.

I’ll talk more about the “Ifs” in next week’s blog, but this week I’d like to go to the most basic challenge to the Challenger (no pun intended) – it’s labeling of the different sales people from the very strong research they conducted.

For those of you who haven’t been exposed to the Challenger selling model, I would urge you to read the book. It’s a great read and quite honestly, makes a lot of sense. In my mind, what makes it such a great read is the fact that it is based on a significant amount of research – over 6,000 sales representatives across different industries were evaluated.

After they evaluated this extensive research they came up with four different labels for the types of sales representatives they saw:

> The Reactive Problem Solver
> The Lone Wolf
> The Relationship Builder
> The Challenger

Not a lot of guesswork needed to determine the preferred style.

And while the labels for the Reactive Problem Solver and the Lone Wolf are understandable, I personally think they have the Relationship Builder mislabeled. The individual that the Challenger folks describe as being a Relationship Builder, is not a true Relationship Builder but rather a Friendship Builder.

You see, a Friendship Builder does just that – builds friendships. Friendships in the big scheme of things are easy to create. Simply smile, be friendly, and every once in a while do something that’s unexpected to brighten the other individual’s day. For example, I gave a guy a cold Coors Light Sunday on the golf course. It was 105 degrees. No doubt I’ll be his “friend” forever and I think he may invite me to Thanksgiving dinner!

Building a relationship – a true value business relationship – is completely different. Here, a key factor of the relationship is the value that each party provides the other. It doesn’t have to be financial value, and indeed, it often isn’t. But rather, it comes in the form of information, ideas, strategic thought-sharing, etc. And in a valued business relationship, both parties see value in maintaining the relationship.

Make no mistake about it, I don’t think the Challenger folks got it wrong. I just think they used the wrong label. And I think it’s why so many sales people are offended by that label.

I also believe they missed a label. Perhaps the most important of all – the Superstar – otherwise known as the Challenger/Relationship Builder.

True Challenger representatives are not aggressive sales people who go storming into their customers’ offices demanding why they are not using more of their product. Instead, they simply have absolute confidence.

Confidence that is born from possessing deep knowledge of the product they’re selling, the competition, the market, and their particular customers’ practice and/or business.

Confidence that leads them to be able to have in-depth discussions with their customers about their beliefs… their true beliefs… about their products, which often results in those very same customers changing their behaviors.

Confidence that positions them the furthest from being a jackass for they are typically the consummate professional in what they do each and every day as evidenced by their commitment to excellence and their preparation.

Yet with all that knowledge and skill, to truly be heard one needs to be respected. One needs to be valued in the way only a true Relationship Builder is valued – someone who is important to the physician/customer – and who provides value via knowledge, the exchange of ideas and thoughts, and engaging discussion.

Just as the skill and knowledge of the Challenger representative are akin to the skills of a Tony Award-winning actor on Broadway, the relationship that individual has with his or her clients is the Broadway stage on which they perform. And I firmly believe that both need their respective platforms to achieve lasting success. A play with no stage is short-lived as is the success of the Challenger representative without valued business relationships.

The Superstar.

AKA the Challenger/Relationship Builder. The missing label.

They exist. I’ve seen them. Heck, I’ve made them.

But that my friends, is next week’s discussion.

Hope you all have a safe and successful week!

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