Winning Challenger Sales Reps Solve Problems and Build Consensus

Challenger sales reps position their solution to meet their buyer’s objectives and to appeal across the entire buying decision group.

Two competing sales reps are vying over one complex solution deal. What separates the winning rep’s solution from the loser? The winning rep better understands and articulates how his solution would circumvent a procurement issue, improve customer satisfaction and deliver within 6 months — all of which align to the CMO’s objectives. The winning rep understood how the solution benefited each of the different stakeholders’ goals, and positioned it as the only viable option.

ChallengerTM reps think about the buying group as a whole — where they’re aligned, where they aren’t — and help the customer navigate those disconnects

Challenger sales reps don’t focus on what they are trying to sell; rather, they focus on what the customer organization is trying to accomplish,” says David Anderson, Vice President, Team Manager at Gartner. “Challengers know that their solutions often impact multiple functions within a business, and they get messy quickly when those executives have different, sometimes competing, objectives and priorities.  As a result, they tailor their messages to each individual but always with the larger goal in mind.”

Read more: The Power of The Challenger Sales Model

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Tailor for individual resonance

Challenger reps teach, but to make a pitch resonate and stick with the customer, they must also tailor the message to different types of customers, as well as to different individuals within the customer organization.

Sales reps focus on uncovering and understanding a customer’s specific business priorities, the outcomes that matter most and the results the customer expects. “Organizations that embrace the Challenger model find ways to help sellers get inside customer mindset,” says Anderson. “This is critically important, because most sellers have never had the experience of trying to buy and implement a complex solution in a business environment.”  

Successful organizations work hard to help sellers better understand the decision from the customer’s perspective. Then reps drive urgency by explaining the implications of action vs. inaction in terms and objectives that apply to the individual.

Read more: Successful Challenger Sales Approach Is All About Timing

Tailoring in the moment

In-the-moment tailoring might not come quickly or naturally to all sales reps. One food and beverage company found success in implementing a “message-to-role-mapping” approach. The approach is successful because it helps the rep not only understand the different executives and functions that are impacted by their company’s solution, but also how the capabilities of the solution align with both individual and collective business objectives. It gives sellers the blueprint for how to help their reps help their customers achieve consensus.

Consensus ultimately boils down to two dominant forces that sellers can influence

As the number of individuals in the buying group grows, sales reps are thrust into more conversations with diverse roles. Often times, there are conflicting ideas within the group about a solution, yet alignment of this group is critical for a purchase decision.

Our research found that reps who focus too much on tailoring to the individuals in the buying group often make the purchase process harder,” says Anderson. “Challenger reps think about the buying group as a whole — where they’re aligned, where they aren’t — and help the customer navigate those disconnects to accomplish their shared goals.”

The formula for building consensus

Consensus ultimately boils down to two dominant forces that sellers can influence — the customer organization’s willingness to change and stakeholder alignment on that change.

To accomplish this, Challenger reps work to identify and manage different stakeholder types. Traditionally, sales reps have focused their time and attention on the advocate, or the individual who is already on board with their solution. Gartner research found that high performers instead target mobilizers, those who are best positioned to drive change, connect stakeholders to each other and secure organizational commitment.

In some cases, Challenger reps can use mobilizers to gain access to the broader buying group directly to collectively explore their shared goals and overcome points of disagreement. In other cases, where direct access to the buying group isn’t an option, Challengers coach their mobilizers and give them information and tools to help the buying group arrive at consensus.

Either way, it’s about understanding the individual and shared goals of the organization, and finding a way to help customers find their path toward change.

Learn more: The Challenger Sale

Gartner for Sales Leaders clients can read more in Replicating the New High Performer.

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