The Challenger Sale

Compete and win in a customer-empowered world

Why Challenger?

Gartner 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. 

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    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? 

    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. 

    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.

    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.

    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
    Nick Toman

    Tom Cosgrove
    Senior Director
    Jonathan Grieb

    Alice Walmesley

    Brian C Cain
    Carlos Guerrero

    Alex De Fursac Gash
    Senior Director
    Matt Kiel

    Daniel Hawkyard
    Liam Kelly

    Scott Collins
    Vice President
    Liam Kelly

    Liam Kelly
    Vice President

    Elizabeth Beard 

    Tessa Flaherty
    Senior Principal

    Matt Kiel
    Vice President

    Jonathan Grieb
    Managing Vice President

    Carlos Guerrero
    Senior Director

    Danielle Mckinley