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Here at InsightSquared, we are big fans of the book “The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation” by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson. In fact, we require every one of our new SDRs to read it as a part of their onboarding process. In this post, we bring to you our top 3 key takeaways from the Challenger sales model in 8 minutes or less, so those of you who don’t have time to read it (yet!) can benefit from some lessons learned.

Key Takeaway #1: The buying experience should be your top priority

In most B2B markets, multiple companies sell similar products or services at once. To outperform the competition, your company needs to differentiate itself from the others. But how?

Wrong: Lower prices differentiate your company from the competition.

Right: A better buying experience will give you a huge advantage over your competition.

The Corporate Executive Board (CEB) found that 53% of customer loyalty is attributed to the customer’s buying experience, according to a survey of over 5,000 people at members’ customer organizations. Compare this to company and brand impact (19%), product and service delivery (19%), and value-to-price ratio (9%). No contest.

What does an amazing purchase experience entail, you ask? It means your sales reps offer so much value during their conversations with prospective customers that those prospective customers might have paid money for that conversation. It includes providing ongoing education in the form of free advice, consultations, or marketing tools like blog posts and eBooks that educate the market on new issues and outcomes. Finally, it means an easy buying process.

A great purchase experience is not enough: your purchase experience has to be better than your competition’s. Otherwise, customers will find they can receive great service from you and your competition alike and you have failed to set yourself apart.

Key Takeaway #2: “Challenger” reps are the best at selling

You guessed it – this is where the title of the book comes from. According to the authors, sales reps can be categorized into 1 of 5 rep profiles: the hard worker, the challenger, the relationship builder, the lone wolf, and the problem solver. Sales reps who are “challengers,” meaning they push and debate with potential buyers, consistently outperform their peers in a complex sales environment.

While most reps focus solely on cultivating strong customer relationships, Challengers push customers intellectually and come up with innovative, unforeseen solutions to their business problems. They take control of the sale at the very beginning of the sales process (not just in the negotiating stage) by creating a need for each particular buyer for which they have the only solution. In other words, Challengers creatively adjust their sales strategy to adapt to the specific customer context.

Challengers can also quickly identify key decision-makers and filter out unlikely opportunities, are naturally comfortable talking about money and pushing back when customers request discounts, and create and maintain momentum throughout the sales process.

Key Takeaway #3: Innovation is a sales manager’s biggest asset

The CEB found that these 4 attributes account for sales manager effectiveness, in order:

  1. Sales innovation – Create new ways to solve deal-level problems and invent new ways to position offers based on customers’ unique needs and priorities. Deeply understand what’s preventing a deal from closing, figure out why and where there is a holdup, and innovate ways to move it forward.

  1. Coaching – Guide reps to adapt their message to each opportunity and show reps how and when to control the sale. Drive high quality rep performance.

  1. Selling – Tailor offers to each unique buyer. Help your reps close the largest, most complex deals.

  1. Resource allocation – Emphasize adherence to the sales process and fix issues as needed.

Most people probably wouldn’t have included sales innovation on the list at all if unprompted, which makes the CEB’s findings even more critical. The authors describe it as the “missing link” in the Challenger sales model – simply put, more deals will close when reps are guided by innovative sales managers.


So there you have it in 8 minutes or less. We hope we’ve inspired you to read the book and learn in detail how to improve your customers’ buying experience, teach your team to adopt the Challenger mentality, and innovate your way to winning more and bigger deals.

Do you agree with these 3 key takeaways? What other important lessons did you learn from “The Challenger Sale”?

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Showing 9 comments
  • Ray Carroll

    Best takeaway for me: Teach. Tailor. Take Control. Use this as a formula for coaching your reps to develop the traits of the Challenger.

    TEACH your buyers about the industry and best practices that your product is in. Make them think about their business in a way they never have before.

    TAILOR: customize every question and build every presentation around the needs of your specific buyer. Blind pitches are out.

    TAKE CONTROL: your buyer doesn’t know how to buy your product but you do. Walk them through the steps and the best way to come to a decision.

  • Lindsay Kolowich

    Yes – you’ve hit the nail on the head! This was a really key takeaway. By definition, Challenger reps need to be able to do all 3: Teach, Tailor, and Take Control. It’s all about bringing the consultative & innovative side of sales to the forefront.

  • Thewlyn Oh

    It’s an interesting approach, but necessary to understand for any sales rep – with all the information available on the web, many people have a very good idea of what they want to purchase, and what vendor they want to engage – the tipping point is the interpersonal view of the salesperson, and the feeling they get after the sales conversation…

    For example, how many of you purchased an automobile from a different dealer of the same brand because you thought the salesperson was a jerk? *raises hand*


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  • consider

    There’ѕ definately a lot to know аbout this issue. I love all the points you made.

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