Four years ago, the bestselling authors of The Challenger Sale overturned decades of conventional wisdom with a bold new approach to sales. Now their latest research reveals something even more surprising: Being a Challenger seller isn't enough. Your success or failure also depends on who you challenge.
Picture your ideal customer: friendly, eager to meet, ready to coach you through the sale and champion your products and services across the organization. It turns out that's the last person you need.
Most marketing and sales teams go after low-hanging fruit: buyers who are eager and have clearly articulated needs. That's simply human nature; it's much easier to build a relationship with someone who always makes time for you, engages with your content, and listens attentively. But according to brand-new CEB research-based on data from thousands of B2B marketers, sellers, and buyers around the world-the highest-performing teams focus their time on potential customers who are far more skeptical, far less interested in meeting, and ultimately agnostic as to who wins the deal. How could this be?
The authors of The Challenger Customer reveal that high-performing B2B teams grasp something that their average-performing peers don't: Now that big, complex deals increasingly require consensus among a wide range of players across the organization, the limiting factor is rarely the salesperson's inability to get an individual stakeholder to agree to a solution. More often it's that the stakeholders inside the company can't even agree with one another about what the problem is.
It turns out only a very specific type of customer stakeholder has the credibility, persuasive skill, and will to effectively challenge his or her colleagues to pursue anything more ambitious than the status quo. These customers get deals to the finish line far more often than friendlier stakeholders who seem so receptive at first. In other words, Challenger sellers do best when they target Challenger customers.
The Challenger Customer unveils research-based tools that will help you distinguish the "Talkers" from the "Mobilizers" in any organization. It also provides a blueprint for finding them, engaging them with disruptive insight, and equipping them to effectively challenge their own organization.
BRENT ADAMSON, coauthor of The Challenger Sale, is a principal executive advisor in the sales and marketing practice at CEB.
MATTHEW DIXON, coauthor of The Challenger Sale and The Effortless Experience, is the group leader of the financial services and customer contact practices at CEB.
PAT SPENNER is the strategic initiatives leader in the sales and marketing practice at CEB.
NICK TOMAN, coauthor of The Effortless Experience, is the sales practice leader at CEB.
All four authors are frequent contributors to the Harvard Business Review and live in the Washington, D.C., metro area.
CEB is the leading member-based advisory company. By combining the best practices of thousands of member companies with its advanced research methodologies and human capital analytics, CEB equips senior leaders and their teams with insight and actionable solutions to transform operations.