Challengers 39; Relationship-Builders 7

By January 19, 2012Differentiation

As a sales pro, which team would you rather join? The one that scores 39 points or the one that can only score 7? (And does it make you a bit uncomfortable to reject relationship-building as your strategy of choice?

Let’s back up a bit and consider the old saw, “In God we trust, all others bring data.” In my experience, virtually all decision-making executives have it burned into their brains. It’s therefore also burned into my brain.

So here’s some data that has captured my attention BIG TIME. It’s a continuing analysis, including more than 6,000 sales reps across a wide array of industries. The research exceeds all standards of scientific rigor and statistical significance. It concludes there are five types of sales reps, with super-star reps spread across the five groups as follows:

  • 39% – The Challenger
  • 25% – The Lone Wolf
  • 17% – The Hard Worker
  • 12% – The Reactive Problem Solver
  • 7% – The Relationship Builder

Two questions leap to mind immediately:

  1. What are the characteristics of a challenger rep?
  2. Is my focus on relationship-building misguided?

According to Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson in The Challenger Sale, a Challenger:

  • Always has a different view of the world
  • Has a deep understanding of the customer’s business
  • Loves to debate
  • Constantly pushes customers our of their comfort zones mainly by taking control and discussing money

Think about some of the implications… Constantly debate and challenge the all-knowing customer’s view of the world? Know as much or more about the customer’s business than the decision-makers and influencers do? Spend your life causing discomfort for your customers? Yes, yes and yes.

Is this a book you need to read and think about deeply? YES!!!

And relationship-building? Relax. It’s still vital. Just recognize that being good at it is nothing more than a baseline job requirement, NOT something that will set you apart.