The Fourth Challenge With Challenger Selling

by Chris Young - The Rainmaker

If you have not read The Challenger Sale, you need to.

If you have yet to read Challenger Sale by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, I highly-recommend you put this powerful sales book on your reading short list. 

For a tight, 15-page summary, download the Best Sales Book Summary from Hubspot.

For an even tighter summary, following is an excerpt from The Challenger Sale book listing:

Read_The_Challenger_Sale_-_Taking_Control_of_the_Customer_Conversation.jpgBased on an exhaustive study of thousands of sales reps across multiple industries and geographies,The Challenger Sale argues that classic relationship building is a losing approach, especially when it comes to selling complex, large-scale business-to-business solutions. The authors' study found that every sales rep in the world falls into one of five distinct profiles, and while all of these types of reps can deliver average sales performance, only one-the Challenger- delivers consistently high performance.

Instead of bludgeoning customers with endless facts and features about their company and products, Challengers approach customers with unique insights about how they can save or make money. They tailor their sales message to the customer's specific needs and objectives. Rather than acquiescing to the customer's every demand or objection, they are assertive, pushing back when necessary and taking control of the sale.

The things that make Challengers unique are replicable and teachable to the average sales rep. Once you understand how to identify the Challengers in your organization, you can model their approach and embed it throughout your sales force. The authors explain how almost any average-performing rep, once equipped with the right tools, can successfully reframe customers' expectations and deliver a distinctive purchase experience that drives higher levels of customer loyalty and, ultimately, greater growth.

The Challenge with Challenger Selling.

While I strongly believe in the power of Challenger Selling, this approach is not without its challenges. Bob Apollo's(@bobapollo) recent article, "The Challenge With Challenger Selling", encapsulates concern areas well:

"But as many have discovered, adopting Challenger is neither a miracle cure nor a sure-fire recipe for success. In a number of instances, Challenger Selling has transformed sales performance - but in others, it has failed to achieve the hoped-for results. How can these differences be explained?"

Apollo shared three challenges in particular:

  1. What if marketing isn't up to the task?
  2. What if salespeople aren't up to the task?
  3. What if your organization isn't sufficiently committed? 

I want to share a fourth challenge with Challenger Selling.

The Fourth Challenge with Challenger Selling.

The fourth challenge with Challenger Selling is:

What if the Prospect lacks the capacity to appreciate and/or execute your value proposition? New Call-to-action

If you are currently using the Challenger Sale Approach or a close derivation, have you ever felt like the Prospect lacked the capacity to understand what you were offering? Or perhaps you felt the Prospect understood what you were offering but would never take action because that action would damage relationships, change the status quo, or they lacked the ability to commit to a course of action?


Twenty years ago when I studied economics in graduate school, I learned the power of data analytics. I came to realize that data analytics has the power to cut through the fog of business and relationships to guide solid decision-making. I realized that the use of data analytics could become a serious competitive advantage.

After grad school, I naively-believed that if I merely showed people the data, they would make the appropriate decision. I found that while many people professed that they sought to make good decisions based on data, precious very few actually did so. These people are not capable of engaging in the Challenger Sale Approach because they are unable and unwilling to act on the counsel provided.

At The Rainmaker Group, we have come to realize that our ideal target personas have the following in common:  

  • Strong Business Acumen - The ability to comprehend a business situation and develop a strategy leading to an improved business outcome.  
  • Edge - The ability to make a decision and execute knowing that perfect information is not available and that course corrections may be made as needed.
  • Relationships are balanced with business need - The ability to make people decisions based on maximizing the net present value of the business model AND respecting the human needs of the organization.  

Stop wasting time on never-gonna-get-its.

What are the traits of your ideal target personas?

What are their habits?

How would you know one when you see them?

The target persona goes well beyond job title. You need to climb into the heads of your target personas to identify what makes them tick and what keeps them up at night.

Avoid those who will never get what you have to offer because they will only waste your time.