Challengers Rule

According to recent breakthrough research by the Corporate Executive Board, today’s effective salesperson needs to be a Challenger – a teacher, a provocateur of sorts, a thinking man/woman who is creative, innovative, and brings new ideas, and thus value, to their customers.

We believe this validates what we’ve seen coming for several years, particularly for those organizations involved in more complex selling.

In studying the attitudes, skills, behavior, activity and knowledge of 6,000 salespeople across 90 companies, the CEB has published conclusions that will have companies reassessing and redeveloping their sales teams for the coming decade. The data is compelling.

In comparing top sales performers to average performers, they found five distinct sales rep profiles fairly even in distribution:

1. The Hard Worker – the self-motivated, driving rep who puts in the time and the effort.
2. The Relationship Builder – the rep who builds and nurtures strong personal and professional relationships.
3. The Lone Wolf – the confident, sales “cowboy” who follows their own instincts, not necessarily management’s.
4. The Reactive Problem Solver – the customer-focused and detailed-oriented sales person who might double as a service rep.
5. The Challenger – the rep with deep customer business knowledge who boldly posits insights and new angles on customer problems.

Seems relatively straight-forward until you evaluate the distribution of super star performers across these profiles. What emerged is a clear winner (40% Challenger) and clear loser (7% Relationship Builder). This distinction is particularly evident in a down economy where Challenger reps thrive nonetheless and others flounder when mere hard work, good service and responsiveness are not enough to win business.

The implications are far-reaching. Past assumptions about what makes a good sales rep are fast-dissolving, while questions are raised once again about nature vs nurture. Rest assured, high-performing Challenger reps are not born, they are developed and can be trained and replicated across your sales organization.

Are you raising up Challenger sales reps?