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Why challenging is the only way forward in sales

  • By
  • Managing Director

Sales is a challenging industry, so it seems only right that the most effective technique to close a deal is now the ‘challenger’ method. While the days of gently building up a relationship with a client to understand their needs are still here, salespeople have become more direct.

Salespeople can now get greater insight than ever before on a prospect’s competitors, business performance and website and solutions are easier to find.

The shift in sales technique has happened gradually, moving from a consultative approach where you’re sharing expert knowledge to persuade a prospect your product is best. Now, it seems that the challenging approach - where you demonstrate on every level that you understand their business, and what it needs - is key.

Consultative Sales

The consultative approach is focused on building a rapport with your customers, not going in for a direct sell but instead asking questions about their business before introducing your product. By positioning yourself as an expert in your chosen field and building up the relationship, your prospects begin to trust you and are more likely to buy the product or service you’re selling.

Following the financial crash in 2008 companies were, understandably, reluctant to commit themselves to buying anything without evidence of how it can work for their business and a lot of convincing that it’s worth the investment.

Things have changed economically and so should your selling style if you want to be the most effective seller in the current market. In 2013, ‘The Challenger’ book came out and revolutionised the industry’s perspective on sales techniques by outlining four different selling styles. There was only one winner though, with 40% of the high performing sales people surveyed using the ‘challenger’ technique.

The challenger approach

The clue’s in the name. This approach embraces confidence, debate and telling the customer that they might not be right when it comes to the business decisions they’re making.

A challenger is less concerned about softly building up a business relationship before pitching their product. Instead, they get to the heart of what a customer really needs through competitor based examples, extensive research into the company and financial questions.

The key to this approach is the research. In order to ask questions that challenge how a prospect thinks about their company, you need to know their business inside out. Your sale isn’t about the product, it’s about highlighting areas for improvement in their operations and introducing your service as a solution.

It’s a confrontational approach, but in a market where competition and choice is fierce, you need to offer something more. While every approach should be tailored to your prospect, many people appreciate this style of selling because it challenges their perspective on how the business is run and offers something more than a physical product.

While it’s not as soft as the consultative approach that people are used to when dealing with salespeople, a challenger approach is more likely to get you and your product the recognition it deserves.

Leave the daily check-ins and relationship work to the consultative ones. You and your prospect are looking to make profits and find solutions, not make friends. 

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