The Challenger Sale

Compete and win in a customer-empowered world

Why Challenger?

Three questions sales leaders frequently ask prompted the research leading to Challenger:

1. What sets the best sales reps apart in a complex sales environment?
2. How do you replicate winning sales behaviors?
3. How do you create a differentiated sales experience? 

We studied thousands of customers and sales professionals around the world, spanning every major industry, geography and go-to-market model, and discovered that classic relationship building is a losing approach in today’s complex business-to-business sales.

Instead, challenging customer thinking and teaching customers new insights are key.  Download Gartner's latest research to learn how Challenger has evolved. 

The sales environment is complex

The traditional approach to selling doesn’t work today. Deals are increasingly complex, and customers have access to more information earlier in the sale. As a result, customers are buying in new ways, delaying initial contact with suppliers and requiring greater consensus to move forward.

Today’s customers don’t need sales reps in the same way as in the past — customers now wait until they are 57% through the purchase process before contacting a rep. Buyers do independent research and set their own purchase criteria, all before the first seller interaction.

For the first time, our customers know more about us than we know about them.
Vice President, Sales, Healthcare Industry

It’s not what you sell, it’s how you sell

Due to this more complicated sales environment, it’s no longer just about what you sell, but rather how you sell.

Our research revealed that 53% of customer loyalty is driven by the sales experience — more so than by the brand, product, service and price combined. A customer's interaction with a rep largely dictates this experience. 

Chart showing that the purchase experience drives 53% of customer loyalty.
The five profiles of sales professionals are Hard Worker, Challenger, Relationship Builder, Lone Wolf and Problem Solver.

Sellers fall into one of five profiles

Our research revealed that every sales professional in the world falls into one of five distinct profiles:

Hard Worker: Goes the extra mile, doesn’t give up easily, is self-motivated, likes feedback and development 

Challenger: Has different view of the world, understands the customer’s business, loves to debate, pushes the customer 

Relationship Builder: Builds strong customer advocates, is generous with time to help others, gets along with everyone 

Lone Wolf: Follows own instincts, is self-assured, is independent 

Problem Solver: Responds reliably, ensures all problems are solved, is detail-oriented

Challenger reps are most likely to win

Challenger reps outperform all other profiles. In fact, more than 50% of all star performers in complex sales environments are Challengers.

Pie chart showing that 54% of high performers in complex sales are Challengers.
The Challenger selling behaviors are: teach for differentiation, tailor for resonance and take control

Challenger rep behaviors build constructive tension

Challengers teach, offering a unique perspective and maintaining two-way communication.

They tailor their approach according to customer value drivers and economic drivers.

And they take control of the money discussion with the customer.

Challengers lead with insight

The Challenger selling approach relies on delivering insight about an unknown problem or opportunity in the customer’s business that the supplier is uniquely positioned to solve.

Challengers capture the customer’s current belief or assumption, expose the flaws or misinformation in that thinking and present a better course of action. The better course of action helps customers learn something new about their business, usually how to save money, make money or mitigate risk.

Get more Challenger selling resources

Learn more about what sets Challengers apart from the rest, and see if you have natural Challenger tendencies.

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    Keys to a successful Challenger rollout

    Companies who achieve the largest commercial impact from Challenger focus on building sustainable capabilities by taking a methodical approach to change management and sustaining momentum over time.

    Generate buy-in

    Prepare the organization

    Align sales and marketing

    Equip managers to coach and lead change

    Build commercial insights

    Design and deliver training

    Embed into account planning, opportunity pursuit & CRM

    Reinforce the change

    Stay ahead of changing customer dynamics

    Gartner Challenger experts

    Brent Adamson

    Brent Adamson
    Distinguished VP, Advisory, and Co-Author of “The Challenger Sale” and “The Challenger Customer

    Nick Toman

    Nick Toman
    GVP and Co-Author of “The Challenger Customer

    Nick Toman

    Rick Karlton
    Managing VP
    Martha Mathers

    Martha Mathers
    Managing VP
    Jonathan Grieb

    Jonathan Grieb
    Managing VP

    Scott Collins
    VP, Team Manager
    Carlos Guerrero

    Carlos Guerrero
    Senior Director, Advisory
    Matt Kiel

    Matt Kiel
    VP, Team Manager, ANZ
    Liam Kelly

    Liam Kelly
    Director, Team Manager, EMEA

    Danielle McKinley
    Director, Advisory