I am asked quite often about the Challenger Sales model. I've written about it twice, something that might lead you to believe I like it, but that's not entirely true. Read this article and be sure to read the comments - a disagreement between me and the editor of the study. Make sure you read this article too, written when the study appeared in the Harvard Business Review.
I am certainly not the only one scratching my head about why The Challenger Sale is getting so much attention. There's nothing new here (for 24 years I have been writing about the blueprint to the sales DNA they just recently described, building into our assessments and delivering training on it) and while some of the Challenger approach is fundamentally correct, it can be very misleading too.
Sales has changed dramatically in the past 5 years and among the many things that are significantly different is this: You must be able to differentiate yourself and your company and actually be the added value. You can do that by asking the right questions, at the right time, for the right reason. It's all about listening. Consultative Selling, while being a question-centric approach, is driven by listening and nearly everyone who writes about it misses that point. Another point that is often missed is that when Consultative Selling is properly executed, you can't help but develop a relationship. Another point that is often missed is that if you are effective with Consultative Selling, you will, in essence, also be using Solution Selling. Why am I bringing all of that up? One of the premises of the Challenger Sale is that Relationship Selling and Solution Selling are dead. As they say in Monty Python, it's Not Dead Yet.
I don't promote an approach based on either Relationships or Solution Selling, but both must be incorporated into an appropriate 2013 sales approach. Also worth noting, the approach or methodology is only one part of selling. Without a sales process and a sales model, no methodology will work very well on its own.
Mike Schultz, a partner at The Rain Group, wrote this article highlighting their own study, What Sales Winners Do Differently, and the areas where their study reaches different conclusions from the Challenger Sale.
Finally, if you want to learn how to drive best practices in sales coaching, sales process, sales accountability and sales motivation through your sales team, sales force and sales organization, you'll want to be in attendance when we present our Spring 2013 Sales Leadership Intensive in Boston, May 14-15. It's coming up quickly and seating is limited. If you and/or your sales leadership team would like to attend, please send me an email and I will get back to you. Event details are here.