Challenging What the Customer Knows

The Trail: Blog Post for March, 2016

Jeff Cartwright

Times they are a changing! And with changing times comes changing sales strategies. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize the shift in how people do business in the information age, as opposed to the way deals were done 20 years ago. This post is called “Challenging what the customer knows”, for a reason. With a myriad of information a single Google click away, everyone is privy to loads of facts and data that can, at times, impede your ability to close a sale. Also your ability to really understand what the customer needs. 

Based on the extensive research done by CEB, published in the book by Adamson & Dixon: “The Challenger Sale this post will deliver an introduction on how a salesperson in today’s market can accurately navigate the information age. You’ll need to think of ways to show the customer that the cost of “same” is greater than the cost of “change”. You’ll also need to provide ‘commercial insight’; something pertinent to the customer’s business or industry, that may have missed his scrutiny!  The authors mention three new pathways to begin “breaking down the A”, and “building up the B”. The Challenger salesperson is able to master the following pathways: 


Today’s customer is more informed and particularly more aware of the needs of his business, and where he can go to satisfy those needs. The Challenger Sales Rep is able to teach the customer something new and valuable about the marketplace, and how to compete; in ways that the customer has not yet discovered. Providing industry or market insight, that the customer can use to gain a competitive advantage. This ‘commercial insight’ comes from researching the market and the customer’s industry … then teaching the customer, ways that he can and should change his perspective, thus changing the outcome. The objective is to lessen risk, or increase market share, or develop ways to become more efficient. Instead of asking the customer: “What keeps you up at night?”   The Challenger Sales Rep is teaching: “Here are a few factors that should be keeping you up at night. And, Mr. Customer, I can guide you to avoid the blind spots.”    


The Challenger Sales Rep is able to tailor the teaching message to different types of customers, and to various departments within the same company. To be able to customize the story when he is telling it to the head of marketing, versus the head of accounting.  The Challenger must become a chameleon; with the same level of passion and commitment as he travels throughout each department within the company.             

Taking Control                             

This is where the Challenger is able to assert and maintain control over the sale. The ability to stand your ground when the customer pushes back; moving the conversation away from price and back to the value perspective. Important to be assertive and not aggressive. The Challenger Rep is still about building long term relationships, leading to a unique sense of loyalty on the customer’s part.  At this point; the teaching and tailoring has placed the Challenger is an enviable position. The customer has accepted your ‘commercial insight’, and has agreed to change his perspective. The Challenger Sales Rep has earned the right to guide the customer to a close, benefitting all parties.  

 I would highly recommend reading the book: “The Challenger Sale”. If you’ve already read the book, please comment below and share your successes and challenges with this evolutionary sales process. The game has changed … Are you ready to Challenge what the customer knows, and take control of the customer conversation?