A few years ago Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson released a book called The Challenger Sale: Taking control of the customer conversation. Their book was based on a study of sales rep productivity over a three year period and looked at over 6,000 reps at 100 different companies. They discovered 2 key insights
Insight #1: Every sales professional falls into one of five distinct selling profiles
- Relationship Builders: These reps focus on building strong professional and personal relationships and advocates across the customer’s organization. They minimize tension in the client relationship
- Hard Workers: Simply put these reps just work harder and longer than anyone else
- Lone Wolves: These reps do it their way and there is no other way
- Reactive problem solvers: These highly reliable, detail oriented reps focus on fixing problems post sale quickly and thoroughly
- Challengers: They use their deep understanding of their customer’s business to push the client to think more about the business and control the sales conversation.
Insight #2: Challengers outperform the other profiles
This one was not hard to guess considering they are selling a book called the challenger sale. Their data says that of all the profiles, the Challengers make us 40% of the top reps they studied. The Challenger sales person does three key things
- They teach their clients: They do not discuss features and benefits but share insights. (Learn more about sharing insights by reading Insight Selling by Michael Harris) They bring ideas to the table that will help their clients make or save money
- They tailor their message to the customer: By having a good relationship with their clients, they tailor the message to fit their customer’s particular needs, aspirations and desires. Not only is each company pitched differently, but each stakeholder in the company is pitched differently
- They take control of the sales process: The Challengers are assertive and are willing to press customers a bit. The pressure they apply is not about price or deal terms but on thinking differently and utilizing the insights to help them become a better company or individual.
The hard pill for me to swallow, especially since I pride myself on the relationships I have built with my clients is relationship builders came in dead last with regard to sales profiles that made up the top reps.
So what does all of this information mean?
- Don’t be reactive
While your clients appreciate you taking care of every issue that arises. Reacting and relationship management, while important, do not provide the strongest return on your investment to your company or your clients bottom line. Instead…
- Focus on providing valuable content/insights
Push your clients to think differently, use insights to create compelling reasons to change. Helping your clients move to a more profitable business model, while sometimes uncomfortable, will return benefits to you and your organization.
- Push your clients outside of their comfort zones
Nobody likes change. Google change management and see how many hits pop up. It was 67.5 million when I searched. Amazon has 25,089 books on change management. People have made careers as change management consultants to help people and companies change.
As a top sales professional, that is your job to get that ball rolling. Push your clients out of their comfort zones and help them realize their true potential.
Continue to build strong relationships, work hard and help find resolutions to customer service issues but also be sure you are bringing valuable, thought provoking insights to your customers. Weight loss shows like The Biggest Loser, Fat Camp and Extreme Makeover all have one thing in common. The person looking to lose the weight, had to be pushed to an uncomfortable place to realize (1) they needed to make a change and (2) change is not easy but is worth the pain.
Help your clients get to that same uncomfortable place and you will see some extreme makeovers for your clients too.