I agree with the books’ authors that “moving to the Challenger Selling Model is a journey.” Indeed, it is a long journey and requires you to develop a discipline to think, learn and teach like a Challenger in order to be successful.
The book’s main premise is that in order to be successful as a Challenger salesman, you have to bring insights about customers’ industry and business that challenges an executive to think differently so that he can compete more effectively. The way to do it is through teaching instead of the traditional relationship based selling.
Before you embark on teaching an executive, it helps to see what what neuroscience can tell us on how a brain learns and thinks.
Henry Ford once said that “thinking is the hardest work there is, which is the probable reason why so few people engage in it.” According to Daniel Willingham in his book, “Why Don't Students Like School,” he explains that our brain works very efficiently, fast and predictably when we use our senses (e.g. driving a car), since there is lot of real estate in our brain for these types of functions; however, when it comes to thinking, we have limited amount of space to do this. This makes thinking hard, slow and uncertain.
There is a paradox of presenting a new idea. We like new ideas but tend to reject it quickly because it is novel and uncertain. So your challenge is to introduce the idea to an executive in a way that makes it familiar and certain. This requires utilizing strong discovery skills, not for the purpose of finding his needs, but to find out whether the executive has the background knowledge and can come to an understanding on his own.
If you can help an executive think about your idea, then he will see you adding value. Otherwise, he will think you are either wasting his time with nothing new to offer, or something so novel and uncertain that he will reject it quickly.
Hence, to succeed as a Challenger, you must develop skills to have a conversation with an executive where you are providing him just enough information to keep him curious till you elicit the "money" response: "I never thought of it like that." This is when you know have broken through.
Now the challenge is to adroitly let him have more chunks of information so you and he are co-creating a solution that he feels like he created. This is the challenge that is difficult but done well will prove most effective to not only you, but your customer and your company.
In my next blog, I will present a simple example of Challenger selling. I will show you how I would go about selling a cloud based tax software to an accountant who is currently using a shrink wrapped tax software.
Jay Oza is a founder and principal innovation development consultant at 5ToolGroup, a company that specializes in helping startups and established firms bring innovation to market within 90 days through our unique 5Tool Methodology that integrates sales, marketing, partnerships, customer development and agile/lean methodology to enable frugal or ("Jugaad") innovation. We believe that to succeed today, you have to continuously look for ways todo lot more with lot less. This is the only way to win today.