How to Survive the Post-Challenger Sales World

Ralph Grimse

The Challenger Sale debuted in 2011, but the underlying research dates to the 2008 economic downturn. The book and methodology left a large wake in the sales enablement space. It was the first methodology in the post-internet era to get significant traction. However, the principles seemed to be either wildly acclaimed or wildly disputed. Many organizations that tried to adopt Challenger failed miserably.

Modern selling has continued to change since the initial Challenger research. We’ve seen the rise of social selling and continued changing buyer dynamics. We’ve also witnessed the dramatic rise in influence of the sales enablement function. 

A sales methodology can offer incredible value by differentiating ‘how’ you sell. But our research points to a different set of principles for the next generation of methodologies:

1. Built on business intelligence. Sales methodologies must be unique to your sales talent, customers and offerings. This is the key to differentiating how you sell. The days of off-the-shelf selling approaches are long gone. Today’s selling requires a data-driven approach to understand the unique situations your reps face. Equally important, data provide insight into the most effective selling actions. 

2. Combination of messages, strategies and tactics. Historically a methodology would just define the ‘how’ of the sales process. But a modern methodology needs to define the ‘what’, ‘how’ and most importantly the ‘when’. This requires close integration of selling messages, strategies and tactics. The key is deploying these actions at the right time to move the buyer forward.

3. Modern selling is not linear. The current B2B selling and buying experience is not linear. Sellers needs to be agile enough to support the buyer moving through their journey. The sales methodology must acknowledge non-linear stages and enable an adaptive opportunity management process.

4. It’s situational. The modern salesperson can’t just deploy an insight-driven strategy to a buyer. They may also have to be a problem solver, a hard worker and relationship oriented depending on the situation. Good sellers must have the ability to operate in each of these modes. The key is knowing ‘when’ to execute what approach.

5. It’s constantly evolving. Your sales team needs to be adaptable. So, too does your sales methodology. The framework for how you sell must accommodate input from the field and marketing. It should adjust to feedback without requiring complex re-training.

6. It includes a specific approach for the front-line sales leaders. The sales methodology must become a tool that makes their job easier. It must provide the guidelines for your sales management process – from how managers coach to how they forecast. This requires a different enablement strategy that goes well beyond “training”.

Building the next generation sales methodology can be a complex proposition. But sales and sales enablement leaders must face a hard question: Are they willing to deal with the consequences of not building an adaptive methodology?

We’re challenging you to think differently about your sales methodology. Contact us to see how our research applies to your organization. We’d love to share more about our experiences building the next generation sales methodology.

Ralph Grimse

Ralph Grimse

Ralph is a partner with The Brevet Group, and for 20 years he has led sales performance teams in the United States and Asia. Recently he also served as a sales leader in both the media and technology industries. Ralph’s work has focused on a unique blend of management consulting and sales enablement to help companies execute their sales strategies. Prior to this role, Ralph was the APAC sales effectiveness leader at Mercer.