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Within one year, we helped a leading wireless networking company turn around a severely threatened contract renewal for a major client.
In 2011, the Challenger sales methodology burst onto the scene, advising sales organizations to rethink their approach to complex sales opportunities. However, instead of providing solutions to buyers’ needs, the Challenger sales model advises sales reps to aggressively take control of the selling conversation and embrace friction as a strategy to win sales.
The Challenger sales methodology hinges on the claim that solution selling is dead. Challenger training claims that solution selling used to work because buyers didn’t know how to solve their own business problems. But now, buyers are better informed and more capable of identifying solutions for themselves, making the traditional approach to solution selling obsolete.
But is the Challenger sales model really the best way to convert buyers into valued, long-term customers? We don’t think so. In fact, at Korn Ferry, we believe that Challenger selling lacks the impact of a proven methodology. We see it as a tactic that doesn’t meet the needs or expectations of today’s marketplace.
Buyers don’t want a pushy seller who talks about answers to problems they don’t have. They want informed, collaborative sellers who bring value-added insights to the buying cycle.
Challenger sales training got one thing right: buyers are more informed than ever before. Supported by digital technology and vast amounts of data, most buyers can identify solutions without the assistance of a sales rep. In fact, our recent research shows that nearly half of buyers identify specific solutions before they even talk to a sales rep.
But contrary to the Challenger sales methodology, a sellers’ ability to define their needs and identify solutions doesn’t mean the end of solution selling. Instead, solution selling is just evolving to meet buyers’ needs and expectations in new ways. More than half of buyers (54%) find value in discussing their needs with sellers, and the vast majority of buyers (75%) are open to engaging sellers earlier in the sales process.
The catch is that to engage earlier in the process, buyers expect sellers to bring insights and expertise to the sales process. That can only happen when sellers are supported by robust methodology — not a tactic or sales gimmick.
A sales methodology provides a framework for selling activities. It gives sellers a common touchpoint they can rely on to consistently close deals and navigate the dynamics of both sales relationships and the marketplace itself.
Unlike the Challenger sales methodology, our time-tested sales methodology enables sellers to meet the actual needs of today’s buyers. Strategic Selling® with Perspective emphasizes the need to add value and insight early in the sales process. Using industry knowledge, customer business acumen and expertise, sellers add perspective to help buyers identify a solution that diagnoses and addresses their key business challenges.
Perspective establishes credibility by engaging buyers as partners in solving complex business problems. Through a combination of mindset, insight and experience, sellers can use perspective to add value to the sales process, differentiating themselves from other sellers in the marketplace.
Frequently, perspective takes the form of data or content that leads buyers to approach their problems and solutions in new ways. It can also take the form of an innovative idea or a piece of content that demonstrates how others have addressed similar obstacles.
But while perspective challenges customers’ assumptions (like the Challenger sales model), it’s always presented in the context of the sales relationship. The goal is to partner with the customer to identify the best possible solution and mitigate additional concerns that may arise post-sale.
To further reinforce the use of perspective in the sales process, the Strategic Selling® with Perspective methodology integrates with our innovative sales analytics platform, Korn Ferry Sell.
Korn Ferry Sell uses predictive analytics to provide sellers with specific actions they can take to change deal outcomes in real time. As a cloud-based, mobile-first tool, Korn Ferry Sell helps sellers become more effective partners for buyers, creating added value in the sales process.
At the end of the day, you need a proven sales methodology and sales technology that provides a valued resource for sellers. The Challenger training falls short because it doesn’t do any of that. It’s a gimmicky sales tactic that is completely at odds with the expectations of today’s buyers and the needs of today’s sellers.