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Challenger Sales Reps Take Control of the Customer Conversation

February 27, 2019

Contributor: Jordan Bryan

The best sales reps understand and guide their customers through the B2B buying process.

You’ve heard it before — the sale was going well until you started to talk price. The client holds the deal hostage unless you meet their demands. How did the conversation become solely focused on price when all prior conversations were focused on how important the solution is to their success?

“ Sellers must take charge of the buying process and focus the conversation on value”

Sellers often fail to maintain control of the buying process, allowing customers to dictate the seller’s deal strategy and next steps. In an increasingly complex and unpredictable sales environment, sellers must stay one step ahead of customers and sustain constructive tension throughout the sales interaction.

“Challenger™ sales reps take control of the buying process in three distinct ways,” says Scott Collins, VP, Advisory, Gartner. “These differences are highlighted in which customer stakeholders they choose to engage, how they drive momentum for a deal and how they negotiate.”

Find the right people

Commonly, sellers try to find two key roles in the buying group — the senior decision maker or economic buyer and the advocate. The senior decision maker has the authority to help overrule an indecisive customer buying group, and the advocate can guide and champion the solution internally.

However, focusing solely on these two roles is problematic because decision makers are increasingly unwilling to make decisions without broader organizational consensus, and true advocates rarely exist — less than 1% of individuals.

“ Prepare sellers to take control of the sale by coaching customers”

High-performing sellers target stakeholders who excel at rallying their organizations on a purchase and ultimately driving consensus. Gartner refers to these stakeholders as mobilizers. “Rarely do these mobilizers support a given supplier,” says Collins. “Rather, they support good ideas or insights that benefit their organization.”

Drive deal momentum

Customers faced with new or complex purchase decisions are often unable to articulate the full set of stakeholders, timelines, decision milestones or likely objections. As a result, buying easily loses momentum. “High performers actively guide customer stakeholders through the consensus-building process. They provide prescriptive guidance to mobilizers,” says Collins.

Organizations must prepare sellers to take control of the sale by coaching customers through the purchase process.

Take control during negotiations

In a customer interaction, many sellers tend to behave passively and avoid tension at all costs to make the situation amicable and collaborative. As a result, customers control the interaction and often force price-based negotiations, or delay decision making.

“ Exchange value; don't give it away”

Sellers must take charge of the buying process and focus the conversation on value — not only price. It’s important for sellers to find the balance, ensuring they are not pressing customers too hard. “An established framework can mitigate sellers’ aggressiveness and help them be assertive without appearing too inflexible,” says Collins.

Sales organizations can develop a framework that follows these principles:

  • Create an action plan: A simple template helps sellers' negotiation preparation and visualize an early path to deal closure, removing the burden of thinking in the moment during the actual customer interaction.
  • Shift discussion to value: Provide sellers with guidance to make them feel more comfortable with postponing customer requests that may create tension.
  • Refocus and explore priorities: Support sellers in identifying additional customer needs and solution components to enable sellers to negotiate beyond price, leading to better outcomes for both parties.
  • Exchange value; don't give it away: Sellers who understand how different concession patterns affect customers are better able to control the negotiations

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