The Challenger Sales Methodology vs. The Challenger Mindset

Find yourself resisting the Challenger sales method? Try looking at it less as a methodology and more as a mindset.

At only a decade old, the Challenger sales methodology is relatively recent. Especially compared to other methodologies like BANT and the Sandler Selling System, which have been in use since the swinging 60s. 

It may be young, but the Challenger sales method just so happens to be one of the most recognized sales methodologies today. 

But what’s the appeal? And is Challenger Selling all or nothing? 

What is the Challenger sales method?

The Challenger sales method was conceived by Brent Adamson and Matthew Dixon, authors of The Challenger Sale, a 2011 book published off the back of the Great Recession that occurred between 2007 and 2009.

The book’s authors categorize salespeople into five distinct personas and examine the unique selling characteristics of each. 

1. The Relationship Builder

Think of the consummate salesperson and a Relationship Builder will come to mind. They know that every happy customer becomes an ambassador, and will patiently take their time cultivating a genuine connection.

2. The Hard Worker

As their name suggests, this type of salesperson is motivated, driven, and not afraid of the daily grind. They’re always looking for ways to improve. 

3. The Problem Solver

This salesperson is reliable, meticulous, and detail-oriented. The Problem Solver troubleshoots before challenges occur and acts as the glue that holds the team together, often finding solutions not just for their customers, but also for their colleagues.

4. The Lone Wolf

This salesperson tends to go it alone, relying on their confidence and intuition to perform. The Lone Wolf can lack interpersonal skills and the ability to work well in a team, but this doesn’t stop them from exceeding quotas.

5. The Challenger

This salesperson is confident, fearless, and tactfully persuasive. The Challenger is there to offer new perspectives and strives to change the customer’s opinion by convincing them of the value their product, service, or solution provides. 

If you haven’t already guessed from the name of the book, Adamson and Dixon suggest that the most successful persona – and the one each sales rep should strive to be like – is the Challenger. 

The authors carried out extensive research and found that 40% of high sales performers used a Challenger style.

The Challenger method posits that buyers are more informed than ever, thanks to the data made available by digital technology. In a world where ‘Google’ has become a verb, is anyone surprised?

As a result, Challenger Selling is less about finding solutions to your prospect’s problems (we’re assuming today’s prospects are tech-savvy enough to have already figured this out) and more about the 3 T’s:

  1. Teaching them something new and valuable
  2. Tailoring the sales pitch
  3. Taking control of the conversation

The end goal? To challenge the customer to change their status quo and convince them to make a sale with you. 

The challenge with Challenger Selling

Did you read the description of the Challenger persona and think, “I don’t fall into that category and I don’t know if I want to!”

What if you’re gentle instead of brazen? 

Diplomatic instead of dogmatic? 

Assertive instead of aggressive? 

You might be a Relationship Builder who’s more than happy to stay that way. You value authentic connection and collaboration. You genuinely care about your customers. Bulldozing your way through a sales conversation sounds like a synonym for self-sabotage. It doesn’t take a top-tier salesperson to predict that approach ending badly!

Don’t worry, because Challenger Selling is much more nuanced than that.

The Challenger sales method is for everyone

Here’s the good news. You don’t have to be born a Challenger; you can become one. You don’t have to change who you are as a person or adopt a new sales rep persona. 

If you’re a Hard Worker you can keep being the diligent Hard Worker that you’ve always been. Fancy yourself as a bit of a Lone Wolf? You can be the Lone Wolf with a Wolf of Wall Street energy.

The point is, you can be whoever you want to be, but with the added tools you need to carry out Challenger Selling. 

Here’s the thing: there’s no one-size-fits-all sales methodology. Your whole team can be trained in the Challenger sales method, and you still won’t get a sales force that acts and thinks the same way. 

Why? Because you were all different types of salespeople to begin with. 

You can send every breed of dog to the same renowned obedience school and at the end of the day the Retrievers will love playing fetch, the Collies will take to herding, and the wide-eyed Chihuahuas will keep vibrating with excitement for no good reason. 

Even then, all the Chihuahuas won’t act identically. Do you see where we’re going with this? All salespeople are unique in their own ways, regardless of how they’ve been trained.

But what about that original concern? You’re not a Challenger and don’t want to be!

Challenger Selling state of mind

First, stop thinking of Challenger Selling as a sales method and instead, approach it as a mindset. After all, the results you get from selling depend entirely on how you behave

And guess what happens when you change your behavior? You get different results.

Meaning, you can still learn to take control of the conversation in the way a Challenger would, and reap the same rewards – simply by transforming your attitude. 

Instead of being resistant to changing your approach, be open to embracing new ways of doing things. We’re certain that no matter what sales methodology you’re using, adopting a Challenger Selling state of mind will help you seal the deal when it comes to closing sales.

How to be yourself and act like a Challenger

Simply put, the Challenger mindset boils down to sheer confidence. 

But what if you don’t have it? 

Below are four tips and tricks for how to adopt a Challenger mindset while still being true to who you are as a sales rep and as a person:

1. Buy into what you’re selling

A large part of Challenger Selling is convincing your prospect that what you’re selling has value. But do you really believe that? 

You might remember the classic 80s ad for Hair Club for Men where the president announces that he’s not just the president, but also a member. The ad might make you cringe nowadays, but you’ve got to admit, he believed in his product! If you believe in what you’re selling, so will your customer.

2. Leave fear at the door

One of the biggest Challenger traits is being unafraid to talk about money. If money talk makes you shudder, you’re not alone. But something being common doesn’t mean it should be ignored. 

If you follow step one, then step two will follow naturally. If you truly believe your product, service, or solution is worth what it costs, then you’ll be less fearful of bringing up the price.

3. Fake it ‘til you make it

Or to put it a little more eloquently, “What you focus on expands.” It’s a quote attributed to author Esther Jno-Charles but repeated by many, most likely due to its resonance. It might sound a little airy-fairy but is backed by some serious science. If you’re not feeling positive and confident about acting like a Challenger then pretend that you are. Eventually, that positivity and confidence will become real and continue to increase.

4. Believe your own hype

Step three and step four are intrinsically linked. This tip makes us think of a story about a mother and her young daughter. The mother had body issues that started in childhood as a result of hearing her own mother criticize herself. 

She didn’t want her little girl growing up with the same body issues she grew up with, so she committed to modeling self-love continually and boldly even – and especially – when she didn’t believe it. Guess what happened? That mother ended up verbalizing self-love so often, she actually started to accept her body. If you tell yourself that you’re a Challenger enough times, then you’ll start to believe your own hype.

Why you need the Challenger sales method

In a nutshell, because it works. The numbers don’t lie. No matter how resistant you may be to Challenger Selling, you can’t deny that it has a proven track record.

Some sales professionals don’t rate the Challenger method because it’s about taking control of the conversation, instead of focusing on the client’s needs and being solutions-focused. 

You can’t blame them for believing that in today’s climate, a Relationship Builder’s style of selling would prove to be more successful. But surprisingly, Relationship Builders were found to make up only 7% of star performers!

Do you know what that tells us? The Relationship Builders surveyed required a mindset adjustment!

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from The Challenger Sale is that Challengers have the ability to survive and thrive in difficult environments because of their adaptability. This tells us that success is less about accruing knowledge and new skills, and more about becoming the kind of salesperson that can adapt and evolve in a rapidly changing industry.

This belief is at the crux of everything Krauthammer stands for. Our unique training method focuses on behavioral change – because being the type of professional who’s ready to tackle whatever comes their way, is worth more than a whole book of knowledge. And that’s a fact.

The Challenger Sales Methodology Vs. the Challenger Mindset