Closing out the keynote presentations of the final day of Accelerate 2016, Matthew Dixon delivered a great presentation that kept hungry adults glued to their seats even as food trucks opened outside. Aimed to turn orthodox sales logic on its head and “question conventional sales logic,” Dixon spoke about how to drastically improve sales teams and individual sales reps by creating and fostering the challenger sales rep. Drawn from of his, and Brent Adamson’s, bestselling book, The Challenger Sales: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation, Matthew uses extensive research, based off of 3000 different companies, to force sales managers to think differently about selling.
Current State of the Customer
Matthew began by explaining how the current state of sales and the customer is a radical departure from the past. Nowadays customers only engage sellers after they are already 60% through the buying process. Consumers are learning on their own and most of the time know as much about the product as the sales people themselves.
An addition to this is the increasing complexity of sales deals and the dominance of solution selling. It’s becoming more about the complete solutions a company offers than the products themselves. All in all, this produces a more intimidating and complex atmosphere.
What Makes Customers Loyal?
Is it your brand name? Will customers keep on coming back based solely off of your value to price ratio? According to The Challenger Sale the answer is overwhelmingly “NO”, although they do have a part to play. In reality, 53% of customers say that a rep’s sales experience will create a sense of loyalty. Reps that hope to foster loyalty need to offer unique perspectives on issues and teach customers something that they didn’t know already. As Dixon say, “It’s not what you sell. It’s how you sell.” Customers hate when reps waste their time and, as a result, customers need to make buyers value the conversation.
The Reign of the Challenger Sale Begins, Long Live the King
After extensive research, 5 main profiles of sales reps were created: the hard worker, the challenger, the relationship builder, the lone wolf, and the problem solver. You might find this shocking, but the lowest performer is the relationship builder (gets along with everyone and is a strong customer advocate).
Opposite them are the challenger sales reps at the top of the spectrum. These reps always have a different view of the world, love to debate, are able to push the customer, and are the most disliked of the group in the eyes of sales manager because of their hard-headedness. These reps understand that “pain of same is worse than pain of change” and will direct their hard-headedness towards changing the perception of their customers. By teaching new insights, tailoring the message individually for resentence, and (respectfully) asserting control, challengers are able to establish value.
Can Challengers Be Created?
One of the underlying principles of the study was to find the best performing sales traits that can be developed. Dixon says that all of these traits can be taught. It is not easy, however, and takes a radical departure from many preconceived notions about sales. Sales enablement must teach sales members how to have the challenger conversation: lead to (not from) your unique strengths, challenge customer assumptions, catalyze action, and scale across customers. It is up to companies to empower their sales reps with repeatable training and content to make this transition possible.
Dixon himself has to challenge the assumptions of his listeners if he hopes to leave a message, and he does this by following his own methodology. Here at accelerate 2016 he was able to provide new insights that are still at odds with conventional wisdom, he tailored it with reference to Apttus and how the SaaS world operates, and he asserted control through his presence on stage. Overall it was a great closing to the exciting keynote presentations of the morning.