A Review of The Challenger Customer: Selling to the Hidden Influencer Who Can Multiply Your Results
by Brent Adamson, Matthew Dixon, Pat Spenner, Nick Toman
What often differentiates great sales people from the also-rans is their understanding that their success in delivering revenue and retiring quota, is the result of a dynamic alignment and balance between selling and buying. Any imbalance, leads to either no revenue, less or lesser quality revenue, longer time to revenue, or a toxic combination of all of these.
The great, focus more on the buy side, the Buyer and the purchasing process, leveraging that as a pull-through for sales. The pack is more likely to focus on selling and intentionally or unintentionally trying to impose their “sale” on the buyer. This difference may explain why nearly half of B2B reps do not make quota, and why many of their “sales” are in reality orders they were given, rather than being earned, or the proverbial nut blind squirrels tend to run in to.
A few years ago, in an effort to help differentiate and understand how sellers can better navigate through the buy/sell process, the folks at CEB, presented us with The Challenger Sale, which presented a number of insights, many of which are still being debated and digested. Among these was how sellers can drive and ensure that dynamic buy/sell balance leading to more success for all involved. But there is no denying that the perspective was very much that of the “sale”. Now the same team extends things, and presents a book looking more closely at the “Buyer” perspective in “The Challenger Customer: Selling to the Hidden Influencer Who Can Multiply Your Results”.
While the book will resonate with sellers, front line to executive leaders, offering both perspectives and specific actions sellers can take to win more deals, it goes beyond and speaks directly to marketers, and buyers themselves.
The authors speak to the current state of the buying, starting with the acknowledgement that “buying” today is greatly dysfunctional, and the impact of that dysfunction on both buyers and sellers. Rather than starting from the common statement that “selling has changed”, the book explores more closely how buying has changed, and the opportunities and challenges that presents to sellers and suppliers.
With the growing trend of purchase decision being made by consensus, the book raises a couple of counter intuitive points. For instance how catering to the individuals in the consensus group will have diminishing if not negative returns for the seller. They highlight how understanding the dysfunction, and the key players in the drama, present an opportunity for sellers to facilitate consensus through by learning and focusing on the right people on the buy side.
The book goes beyond highlighting challenges, and lays out specific buyer personality types; which and how to harness, and which to avoid, including means of identifying, validating and helping them help build consensus and by extension the seller. In other words the book is full of specific and actionable steps not just broad concepts, providing sellers and marketers a playbook to build from.
While all sellers will tell you it is all about the buyer, “The Challenger Customer”, goes further, providing meaning and context by highlighting ho and why many sellers and marketers miss the mark. Most sellers and sales marketing teams focus time and effort on getting the buyer to see the supplier differently. But since change comes from within, the focus in the book is on how and why changing the buyers’ view of themselves and their process. You then go on to learn how to best leverage “Commercial Insights” as a means of changing the buyer’s view of themselves, why leading with that will lead to sales success.
Here again, the book not only highlights specifics, but reinforces the importance of Marketing and Sales working together in engaging buyers and succeeding in today’s buying environment.
Unlike many sales books that promote a methodology or viewpoint of a given aspect of sales, “The Challenger Customer” provides a clear framework supported by data, and more importantly, a means to implementing and integrating it into your sales organization. Unlike many sales books, there are no grandiose statements or claims, but instead you will find a reasoned discussion and means of putting the framework into practice. There is no claims of silver bullets, just the steps you need to take and work on to successfully implement, presenting concrete examples of companies that have done so. I have always said that success in sales is about execution, with everything else being just talk, well “The Challenger Customer”, delivers on the “What”, “Why” and “How” to execute and win in today’s buying climate. All that is left for you is to read and execute.