Monday, 9 July 2012

The Challenge Sell is perhaps not 'new' but is important

(If the' history stuff'  / 'back in the day' does not float your boat scroll down to the 2012 data at the bottom)

In 2005 the  Sales Engagement study stated  75% of  the poll of Buyers said they wanted a relationship or to put it another way 25% were already saying they did not!
However by 2007 the  Buyers’ views of Salespeople  poll questions began to pick up the change in the purchasing scene. We asked  questions around the most recent significant purchase both in terms of the aspects of the offering and the salesperson with whom they did the business.

The Offering ranked as follows in the 2007 poll;-


The ranking regarding the salesperson involved with the Buyer’s most significant purchase was.


We then asked the buyer respondents to decide which was more important



The answers came across in favour of the offering!.
When I used to  show this at conferences it caused quite a lot of murmuring and some grumbling from some quarters. Many salespeople believed relationship as the only key.
Again others argued animatedly that  the buyer only knows about the offering through the benefits being described  by the salesperson.
Well I was only being a provocative messenger - dare I say 'challenging' to the audiences to get them thinking.

Fairly new onto the bookshelves has come te excellent The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation (Portfolio/Penguin: 2011) by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson  
The forward highlights ‘ breakthroughs’ of selling - the  history of sales 
1.      Front line sales and support account developers e.g. Producers and collectors i.e. a defined selling role they suggest first came from Insurance Inspectors
2.      Psychology of Selling from 1925 EK Strong et al
3.      Drill down questioning models like SPIN  etc.based on research studies
4.      Purchasing advancement through supplier segmentation strategies, supplier chain management  models
5.      The Challenger sale - well it is selling the book and research so fair enough!
  According to their study of complex selling they suggest the Relationship Seller style is not the star performer. 
“ Build relationships first and the sales will follow “ concepts have long been off the selling skills fashion radar for a while now.
Most would agree with Dixon and Adamson and  will find their research both helpful and useful.
I  also enjoyed the way Adamson and  Dixon  have kicked those hackneyed sales style ‘buckets’ around –  the hard-worker, challenger, relationship builder, lone wolf and reaction problem solver.
Again nothing so very new here -in  the UK  'Old School' trainers used to categorise salespeople into styles like like the 'Aggressive', the ' Passive', the 'Schmoozer' etc.
Such descriptions have  long gone passed their usefulness.

A preview of the Buyers' views of Salespeople 2012 has picked up these 'changes' and the need for sales people to contest, challenge or even provoke as a trusted adviser.

Note how in the offering Price is very important across the the top 5 choices but only 9% put Price as their first choice. Challenges must me made around quality,  technical specification, the Product/ Service.

The way Buyers now rank the offering and the qualities of the salespeople above. Notice the importance of Listening skills , Questioning ( Challenging) Skills along with adviser skills and how in the offering Price is very key overall but not in the first choice,

So let our selling be challenging in the best sense of the word. Sales is and should be  a challenge.

Buying need to be respectedly challenged with courtesy and the good of the best deal for both parties.
( The TACK International Buyers' views of Salespeople 2012 is to be published shortly. for more information

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