According to many sources, it’s getting harder for reps to close sales. Prospects are becoming increasingly likely to take issue with budget and create objections related to price. But experienced reps know that even the hardest objections in sales can be overcome.
The 2011 book The Challenger Sale by Brent Adamson and Matthew Dixon suggested that the way to charge ahead is to take on the persona of a “challenger,” challenging both conventional sales approaches and your prospect in sales calls.
What is the Challenger sales method, and how do you use reframing, a key challenger tactic, to close a deal?
Challenging the Status Quo
Most sales leaders train their reps to go along to get along—to play the long game of relationship-building with their prospects, or even being apologetic about asking for a sale. But Adamson and Dixon, in The Challenger Sale, presented the idea that that’s the least effective strategy in closing sales. The better way to go, they said, is the Challenger Sales Model, wherein the rep takes control and teaches the prospect how to solve a problem in their closing techniques.
The book also introduced the idea of the five sales profile types (more on that later), with the Challenger being the highest-performing, and the one that all reps ought to emulate and evolve to more closely resemble.
Take control of the conversation. Challenge the buyer. Don’t shy away from conversations about money. Tailor your communication to suit specific prospects and situations and take control of the sale. Own the conversation. Have a deep understanding of your prospect’s business and anticipate the perfect moment at which to drive the sale. The Challenger offers a new perspective to the prospect. Apply tactful pressure, and make an irresistible pitch using a methodology called the 3 T’s:
· Teach them something valuable
· Tailor the pitch
· Take control
The Five Seller Personas
Adamson and Dixon introduced the idea of the five different sales rep profile types in The Challenger Sale. They’re not mutually exclusive, they say; any rep can display habits of each. The Challenger sales method is also not for everyone—they mainly address reps making complex B2B sales. But if you do have a complex sales cycle, Adamson and Dixon make the case that Challengers will be the highest-performing of them all. Here's a quick overview of the four others and how you can coach them to evolve into a Challenger if you want them to know how to close a sale.
The Hard Worker
Hard Workers are willing to offer lots of free information, network hard, and become trusted advisors to their prospects. They go the extra mile, show up early, stay late, and probably even make the most sales calls and visits of anyone on your team. They strive to get better in their roles, but their way can be a slow and inconsistent way of selling. Encourage them to focus on the customer’s value-drivers.
The Lone Wolf
The Lone Wolf is confident in their selling skills, great at what they do, and often exceeds their sales quotas. They’re also fiercely independent. While this can serve them in some ways, it can also make them difficult to work with interpersonally. These reps aren’t far off from being Challengers in their sales performance, but work with your Lone Wolf on becoming more of a team player, to supercharge their performance.
The Relationship Builder
Relationship Builders default to the traditional approach to sales—contacting a gatekeeper at the prospect’s business, then playing the long game of relationship-building and advocating with the right decision-makers. But they might come across as more of a friendly customer service rep than a seller. They may like to encourage prospects to buy based on benefits and opportunities, but that may yield little meaningful change and fail to move the needle on persuading them to break their status quo. Instead, coach them on finding a pain point to drive home. Work with them on, in their sales calls, saying something that will specifically suggest there’s a detriment to the prospect’s business because of a circumstance or condition they didn’t understand or anticipate until talking to your rep, and emphasize how bad that problem is, so they have a basis from which to evaluate how much better their business could be.
The Problem Solver
As the name suggests, these reps are great at solving problems for their prospects. They’ll set everything aside if a customer has a problem. But sometimes they can get too fixated on that, and focus on solving problems rather than giving that to the person who’s paid to solve customers’ problems, taking the rep away from other sales calls. Coach your Problem Solver on being more assertive, and keeping to their own task of driving sales. Implement a tool like Map My Customers to keep them on track, and your whole team on the same page.
The Challenger, on the other hand, is brutally honest and upfront, unafraid of challenging their prospect’s perspectives. And one of the trademarks of a Challenger is the reframe—they recognize that a change needs to occur in the prospect’s mind and they need to reframe the prospect’s thinking. Here are a few challenger reframe examples that any rep can use in sales calls to channel their inner Challenger.
1. Focus on Their Problem
While the temptation is to focus on your solution and its benefits, Challengers focus on the prospect’s problem. Make plain to them that the way they’re doing things now, they’re probably spending too much and experiencing inefficiencies in places most companies don’t think to look. Often the prospect is not even aware of a problem. You have to present them with it. This can look like presenting an uncomfortable question Check out this Ameriprise Financial ad, in which a billboard is unveiled that reads, “Retirement. Will you outlive your money?” This confronts people with an uncomfortable question, but reframes it as something it would behoove them to think about—and a problem Ameriprise can happily help them solve.
2. Present Yourself as a Revolutionary
While keeping the focus on their problem, present your solution as a disruptor. Check out this TaylorMade ad. TaylorMade here claims to have solved a problem none of their competitors could. They say that for years, everybody has been doing the same thing, but “everybody was wrong.” They were the ones to think differently. They present themselves as revolutionary. They say, “We figured out that moving a driver’s center of gravity low and forward actually promotes crazy distance.” Try incorporating the italicized language into your sales calls. Or try some version of, “For the longest time, you’ve been told ____”, but not anymore; you and your team/company have cracked the code. For a dynamic method of how to close a deal in sales, present your solution as a “breakthrough.”
3. Mind Your Language
Reframe a big budgetary ask as an “investment.” Use that one word to change their beliefs. Convince your prospect that a higher price tag is just a bigger “investment” that means greater returns. Or disrupt their belief system by using a line like, “What may surprise you is that…” And just like in number two above, give an insight that goes against conventional wisdom and gets the prospect to see their problem differently.
All seller personas need to keep in mind that inertia is strong in most prospects. So to coach your reps on how to be a better closer in sales, discourage them from asking if the prospect would like time to think about the offer, or using other similar phrases that give the prospect the option of choosing no action.
Anyone can be a Challenger! If a rep wants to know how to be a better closer in sales, coach them on incorporating a reframe or two into their sales process, and see what the Challenger sales method can do for your team.