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The Challenger Sales Model Explained: Insights and Benefits of a Modern Sales Approach

RepVue Editorial Team
RepVue Editorial TeamJan 27, 2024

The Challenger Sales Model is based on the idea that sales reps should challenge customers and disrupt their current thinking to teach them something new. This involves a deep understanding of the customer’s business and unique perspective to deliver new insights and drive their thinking in new and different ways. The goal is to provide value to the customer by showing them something they didn’t know before, and to help them make sense of all the information they find and use, empowering them to take bold and decisive action with confidence and peace of mind.

This sales approach has been gaining popularity in recent years. For some reps, it has been shown to be effective in complex sales scenarios, where the customer needs to be educated and convinced before making a purchase.

But is the Challenger Sales Model right for you? In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the Challenger Sales Model, including its benefits, drawbacks, and best practices. We’ll also explore the sales rep characteristics that can help you decide whether (or not) to adopt the Challenger Sales Model. 

What is the Challenger Sales Model?

The Challenger Sales Model is a sales approach that emphasizes the importance of challenging customers’ thinking and assumptions. It is based on the idea that the most successful sales reps are those who can teach their customers something new and valuable about their business, industry, or market. 

The Challenger Sales Model is built around three core principles: Teach, Tailor, and Take Control.

Teach

The first principle of the Challenger Sales Model is to teach. In this approach, sales reps must first demonstrate that they possess new and valuable information relevant to the needs of the client. This requires a deep understanding of the customer’s business, industry, and market. By sharing insights and information that the customer may not have considered, sales reps can establish themselves as trusted advisors and thought leaders.

Tailor

The second principle of the Challenger Sales Model is to tailor. In this approach, sales reps must use their insights and information to tailor their message to the specific needs and challenges of the customer. Again, this requires a deep understanding of the customer’s business, industry, and market, as well as the ability to listen and respond to the customer’s concerns and objections.

Take Control

The third principle of the Challenger Sales Model is to take control. In this approach, sales reps must take an active role in guiding the customer through the sales process. This requires understanding of the customer’s needs and concerns, as well as the ability to ask probing questions and challenge the customer’s assumptions.

By teaching, tailoring, and taking control of the sales process, sales reps can establish themselves as trusted advisors and thought leaders, and ultimately close more deals.

Are You a Challenger Salesperson?

Sales professionals need a specific set of traits and skills for the Challenger Sales Model. For many sellers, these will come naturally, but they can also be learned. 

Traits of a Challenger Salesperson

A Challenger Salesperson is a confident, knowledgeable sales professional who is comfortable taking control of the sales conversation and challenging the customer’s assumptions. They are not afraid to push back and challenge the customer’s thinking to help them see their problems and opportunities in a new light.

According to the Challenger Sale methodology, you are a Challenger Salesperson if you have the following traits:

  • Confidence: You are confident in your abilities and are not afraid to challenge the customer’s thinking.
  • Curiosity: You are curious about the customer’s business and are always looking for ways to improve your understanding of the customer’s needs.
  • Teachability: You are open to feedback and willing to learn from your experiences.
  • Assertiveness: You are assertive in your approach and are not afraid to push back on the customer’s objections.
  • Adaptability: You are adaptable and can change your approach based on the customer’s needs.

Skill Set of a Challenger Salesperson

In addition to the specific traits above, you’ll use a unique set of skills as a challenger salesperson that will enable you to effectively challenge the customer’s thinking and take control of the sales conversation. 

These skills include:

  • Insight Selling: You have a deep understanding of the customer’s business and can provide valuable insights that challenge the customer’s thinking.
  • Active Listening: You are skilled at active listening and can identify the customer’s pain points and needs.
  • Storytelling: You are skilled at telling stories that illustrate the value of your solution and help the customer see their problems and opportunities in a new light.
  • Tailoring: You are skilled at tailoring your approach to the customer’s needs and can adapt your messaging to resonate with the customer.
  • Negotiation: You are skilled at negotiating and can navigate complex sales situations to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.

Not every sales rep is cut out for the challenger sales approach. But if you resonate with many or all of the traits and skills above, the Challenger Sales Model may be right for you.

Looking for a company where you can be a Challenger Salesperson? Check out open roles on RepVue.

The Challenger Sales Process

The challenger sales process is designed to help sales reps engage with customers in a meaningful way and provide them with insights and ideas that they may not have considered before.

Teaching for Differentiation

The first step in the Challenger Sales Process is to teach the customer something new about their business. This is done by conducting research on the customer’s industry and identifying areas where the customer may be able to improve their performance. By providing the customer with new insights, the sales rep can differentiate themselves from the competition and establish themselves as a trusted advisor.

Tailoring the Message

Once the customer has been taught something new, the sales rep must tailor their message to the customer’s specific needs. This involves understanding the customer’s business and identifying areas where the sales rep’s product or service can provide value. By customizing the message, the sales rep can demonstrate that they understand the customer’s needs and are committed to helping them achieve their goals.

Taking Control of the Sale

The final step in the Challenger Sales Process is to take control of the sale. This involves guiding the customer through the sales process and providing them with a clear understanding of the value that the sales rep’s product or service can provide. By taking control of the sale, the sales rep can ensure that the customer is fully engaged and committed to the buying process.

Overall, the Challenger Sales Process is an effective way to engage with customers and provide them with new insights and ideas. By teaching, tailoring, and taking control of the sale, sales reps can differentiate themselves from the competition and establish themselves as trusted advisors.

Implementing the Challenger Sales Model

If you’re a sales leader looking to implement the Challenger Sales Model, you need to do two things: build a Challenger organization and coach your team to adopt the Challenger approach.

Building a Challenger Organization

Building a Challenger organization means hiring and developing sales reps who embody the Challenger attributes. These attributes include being able to teach, tailor, and take control of a sales conversation.

To identify candidates who possess these attributes, you can use a combination of behavioral interviewing and skills assessments. Once you have identified the right candidates, you need to provide them with the necessary training and resources to succeed. This includes providing them with the right sales tools, such as customer insights, sales playbooks, and objection handling guides.

Coaching the Challenger Approach

Coaching is essential to ensure that your sales reps adopt the Challenger approach. This involves providing ongoing feedback and guidance to help your sales reps develop the necessary skills and behaviors.

To coach your sales reps effectively, you need to establish a coaching framework that includes regular check-ins, role-playing exercises, and performance reviews. This will help your sales reps develop their skills and build confidence in their ability to apply the Challenger approach.

In addition to coaching your sales reps, you also need to ensure that your sales managers and leaders are aligned with the Challenger approach. This means providing them with the necessary training and resources to effectively coach and manage their teams using the Challenger approach.

By building a Challenger organization and coaching your team to adopt the Challenger approach, you can achieve significant improvements in your sales performance and drive growth for your business.

Challenger Sales Model vs. Traditional Sales Methods

Depending on your level of experience in sales, you may be familiar with other more traditional sales methods.These methods include relationship selling, solution selling, and consultative selling. While these methods have been effective in the past, they may not be as effective in today’s market. This is where the Challenger Sales Model comes in.

One of the key differences between the Challenger Sales Model and traditional sales methods is the way they approach the sales process. Traditional sales methods tend to focus on building relationships with customers and finding solutions to their problems. In contrast, the Challenger Sales Model focuses on challenging the customer’s thinking and offering new insights and perspectives.

Another difference between the Challenger Sales Model and traditional sales methods is the way they prioritize their sales efforts. Traditional sales methods tend to prioritize the needs of the customer, while the Challenger Sales Model prioritizes the needs of the sales rep. This means that the Challenger Sales Model is more focused on closing deals and generating revenue, while traditional sales methods are more focused on building relationships and providing value to the customer.

Overall, the Challenger Sales Model is a more modern approach to sales that is better suited to today’s market. By focusing on teaching, tailoring, and taking control of the sales experience, sales reps can close more deals and generate more revenue. While traditional sales methods may still have a place in some industries, the Challenger Sales Model is quickly becoming the go-to approach for many sales teams.

Measuring the Impact of the Challenger Sales Model

A key benefit of the Challenger Sales Model is its ability to deliver measurable results. By focusing on teaching, tailoring, and taking control of the sales process, the Challenger approach can help you achieve higher win rates, faster sales cycles, and larger deal sizes.

Here are some ways to measure the impact of the Challenger Sales Model:

Win Rates

The Challenger approach can help you win more deals by teaching your sales reps to engage with customers in a more strategic way. By challenging customer assumptions and presenting new insights, your reps can differentiate your offering and win the sale.

Sales Cycles

The Challenger approach can also help you shorten your sales cycles by reducing the time it takes to close deals. By providing customers with new insights and challenging their assumptions, your reps can help customers make informed decisions more quickly.

Deal Sizes

The Challenger approach can help you increase your deal sizes by helping your reps uncover new opportunities and expand customer thinking. By presenting new insights and challenging customer assumptions, your reps can position your offering as a strategic investment rather than a commodity purchase. Overall, the Challenger Sales Model can be a powerful approach that can help you achieve measurable results. By teaching, tailoring, and taking control of the sales process, you can win more deals, close them faster, and increase deal sizes.

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