Solution Selling vs the Challenger Sale

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Challenger provides three big benefits: 1) It forces sales and marketing to
finally come together and it's impossible to succeed unless they do, 2) It drives strategic demand generation of the right
opportunities, 3) creates a focus on value as defined by the customer

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Solution Selling vs the Challenger Sale

  1. 1. Tony Hughes - Management Consultant Contact Tony About Tony Blog Keynote Speaker Book: The Joshua Principle RSVPselling Associations Home → Blogs → tony's blog Solution Selling vs The Challenger Sale Submitted by tony on Fri, 01/25/2013 - 02:40 Updated August 1st, 2013: The Challenger Sale is essential reading for anyone in complex B2B selling and many enterprise sales organizations are embracing the concepts. Challenger provides three big benefits: 1) It forces sales and marketing to finally come together and it's impossible to succeed unless they do, 2) It drives strategic demand generation of the right opportunities, 3) creates a focus on value as defined by the customer. Harvard Business Review (HBR) published a must read article referencing Corporate Executive Board (CEB) research and The Challenger Sale book. Click here for the HBR article: The End of Solution Sales. Neil Rackham's input to The Challenger Sale book is excellent and he clearly influenced their thinking. He writes the foreword and highlights how this is only the second time (SPIN Selling was the first) that a new sales methodology has been proposed as the result of rigorous (university standards) research. Here is a weninar I did in August 2013 with Dave Stein for Sales and Marketing Management Magazine where we discuss Challenger and answer the question: Is sales management the weak link? Barry Hughes Tribute Recent blog posts Qualification Methodologies How to create your pitch CRM Success or Failure? Creating Sales Compensation Plans Rule of 24. Who belongs in your sales team? Selling Power Sales Channel Ever wanted to fire your boss? Is sales management the weak link in most sales organisations? Creating a sales culture across your entire organisation Solution Selling vs The Challenger Sale more
  2. 2. I will be publishing a white paper on the evolution of professional selling and compare Solution Selling with The Challenger Sale but here are some initial thoughts and links. Let me say at the outset that I'm a fan but there are challenges in implementing Challenger Selling because it's an aspirational methodology / framework, not a process, and it demands significant investment and change management. Although it's positioned as 'the next big thing' to replace other proven sales processes and methodologies, it's actually iterative, not revolutionary. This is evidenced by the fact that Neil Rackham's SAFE:BOLD tool is reproduced (and credited) on page 82 of the book. Challenger is a combination of Value Selling (Rackham / Huthwaite), Insight Selling (numerous derivations) which were built on the solid foundation of Solution Selling (Keith Eades) and also the work on Strategic Selling by Bob Miller and Steve Heiman. Jim Holden is also a pioneer in strategic selling (Power Base Selling) and his eFox process is excellent. My own book (The Joshua Principle) which was published before Challenger has been acknowledged by Dave Stein as articulating Challenger principles. Challenger is important and can make a real contribution to sales transformation initiatives and enable sales people to elevate the conversation with prospects and customers. Simon Tate is Asia-Pacific VP at SAP for their Cloud business and says, "The biggest benefit of The Challenger Sale model is that it creates pipeline." Simon is right and very focused on coaching and mentoring for his people. He also knows not to underestimate the complexity and implementing Challenger in the field. SAP and other successsful companies understand that Challenger is an organizational capability (marketing, management and sales), not just the profile or persona for the best hunter sales people. Again; management, marketing and sales all need to dig deep together to find genuine relevant insights that can be positively yet provocatively taken to customers and prospects at senior levels.
  3. 3. A potential problem with Challenger is that sales people could easily lapse back into a 'telling is selling' approach. Bryn Hughes from The Centre of Sales Excellence believes that "the salesperson needs to know when to push and when to pull. They are both needed and this largely depends on where the customer is in the buying cycle and whether the customer sees the sales person as an industry expert." The framework tends to under-value the role of relationships in selling and we all know that you’d better have a very good relationship with someone if you plan on telling them that their baby is ugly. Both the Trusted Advisor and Challenger models are aspirational but Challenger must be extremely well engineered and strongly evidenced to be effective, especially where you don't have strong relationships. The term 'Challenger' is best avoided in Asian markets for obvious reasons. It is best used to frame strategy for penetrating new accounts but it must be executed by someone with gravitas and genuine customer industry expertise. On a positive note, the Challenger model forces the sales person to take well researched insights to the most senior stakeholders within their prospect or customer and then provoke conversation and thought with a hypothesis concerning how the customer's world can be changed by more than just solving a problem or unlocking greater value. It moves beyond cliche and the big questions for sales people are: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. What insights can you take to the prospective customer? Which customer executives should be engaged? How will you shape the conversation with relevance to their world? What is your [tested] hypothesis concerning the creation of business value? Do you have compelling relevant evidence specific to their business to support your dramatic claims? Do you have the necessary relationships or trust for creating constructive tension? Does it all link back to unique value you offer the market to eliminate your competition? Key benefits of Challenger are that it forces sales and marketing to [finally] come together for effective strategic demand generation. It also creates a focus on transformational business value as defined by the customer and their markets. There are however key points to consider to manage implementation risks for Challenger in the real world:
  4. 4. It's not a silver bullet but rather a complex and difficult strategy requiring deep analysis and capability It's not about hiring a particular persona of sales person (hunter and domain expert) Challenger must be an organizational capability, not as sales strategy Success with Challenger demands high investment and organizational change Sales and Marketing must come together under a single leader to execute You must have unique intrinsic value around which you can build a Challenger strategy You rise ot fall on the strength, insight and execution capability of sales management Poor execution can result in demand generation for your competitor if you educate and fail to close. Don't de-emphasize executive relationships (with customers think: 'trusted advisor with provocative insights') Avoid using the term 'Challenger' in Asian markets (complete cultural mismatch and potentially offensive) Don't even think about trying to make amiable personalities adopt the Challenger persona (unnatural act) How do you start with your Challenger implementation? 1. Honestly and critically assess your competitive differentiation in the eyes of the customer (what matters to them) 2. Then identify the elements that deliver real unique business value (by segment and buyer role) combining the intrinsic (product or service) and extrinsic (how you operate) value elements 3. Create questions to the customer that lead to your unique business value for them 4. Identify insights that you can use to secure appointments and frame conversations 5. Create collateral that supports insights and evidences procative claims 6. Find and target the senior 'Mobilizer' within the customer organization Questions for the sales leadership and enablement community: Is Challenger really more sophisticated than other methodologies or just more difficult to implement? Is Challenger more a 'push selling' approach and therefore contrary to SPIN, Solution & Value Selling? How can Challenger as a methodology be integrated into an organization's sales process and other tools (eFox, TAS, etc)? What are the biggest risks with Challenger (finding the rights reps, training, sales management, internal alignment, etc)? Can Challenger be implemented successfully if sales and marketing remain two separate departments? Can Challenger work even when you're selling a commodity and without a unique business model? Is Challenger best suited to selliing to exisiting clients or to new business prospects? Here are links to others I respect who write about Challenger. Other contributions welcome, please send me links. This video is from Perry Holley for IBM and explains the 5 sales personas and how to create constructive tension.
  5. 5. Tamara Schenk is VP Sales Enablement at T-Systems International GmbH and has also published an excellent perspective that was published in Top Sales World Magazine. Here are the links: The Challenger Sale: My Thoughts From A Sales Enablement Perspective – Part 1. The Challenger Sale: My Thoughts From A Sales Enablement Perspective – Part 2 For a contrasting view on Challenger from an industry leader with impeccable research credentials and real world track record in complex enterprise selling, see Joe Galvin from Miller Heiman Research who talks a lot of sense.Their research highlights the importance of relationships and dangers of telling before understanding. Joe says, "We’ve found that a pitch first, ask questions later approach is simply a gimmick... that neither achieves results nor can be implemented." For details on Challenger from the creators, here is the Corporate Executive Board website. Happy to post more relevant links, just email me (Contact Tony in header of this website) or just post comment. tony's blog Login to post comments

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