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Want More Business? CHALLENGE Them

If you want more business, challenge your clients.

In 2011, Brent Adamson and Matthew Dixon published, The Challenger Sale, based on an extensive study of different types of business-to-business sales reps.

They divided the sales reps they studied into five categories:

  • The Challenger: As a Challenger, you offer a new perspective to your prospect and don’t shy away from conversations about money. You understand what brings them value and leverage that information to deliver an irresistible pitch — and to tactfully pressure them. Challengers teach their prospects something valuable, tailor their sales pitch to the individual, and take control over the conversation.
  • The Hard Worker: The Hard Worker strives to get better in their role but doesn’t necessarily focus on the customer’s value drivers.
  • The Lone Wolf: The Lone Wolf is a high performer but not necessarily a team player. Confident in their selling skills, they exceed quotas but are difficult to deal with interpersonally.
  • The Relationship Builder: When you think of a salesperson, you’re thinking of the Relationship Builder. These sales reps get in contact with a gatekeeper at their target company and slowly try to create an internal advocate.They engage in what sales trainer Andy Gole calls “social selling.”
  • The Problem Solver: The Problem Solver is adept at finding solutions for issues in both the team and the prospect’s business. They drive results by eagerly solving problems and keeping all stakeholders in the loop.

While the authors thought the best sales results would have come from the Relationship Builders, their study concluded that the best results actually came from the high performers they characterized as Challengers. Among their findings were:

  • 40% of high sales performers primarily used a Challenger style.
  • High performers were more than 2x likely to use a Challenger approach than any other approach.
  • More than 50% of all star performers fit the challenger profile in complex sales.
  • Only 7% of top performers took a relationship-building approach — the worst performing profile.

The authors noted that the Challenger approach only worked better among high performers. Among average performers, all profiles were roughly as successful as one another.


What the study didn’t show that is relevant to the insurance and financial services world is that Relationship Building must come first. Advisors who charge in to challenge prospects don’t get them as clients. “Social” conversations—getting to the “know, like, and trust”—give the advisor the right to talk about and present solutions, and to be Challengers.

The difficulty advisors run into all too often is that they don’t switch from a “social conversation” to a “business conversation.”  This is how author and sales trainer Andy Gole describes the problem for salespeople in every industry.  In my work we talk about it as  being stuck trying to continue to please your prospects or clients, so that you continue to be liked by them, rather than to serve them by challenging them to do more of what needs to be done to protect their future.

If your conversions of prospects to clients isn’t 75% or better and your advice to take certain actions is too often not being taken, check to see if you’re switching gears from relationship building to challenging, from social conversations to business conversations and from pleasing to serving.  You’ll see a difference immediately.

There may be some truth to the idea that clients want to be educated, but what they really want is to be told what to do by their chosen expert.  Tell them what to do and challenge their beliefs, and your sales will increase.

I can help you become an expert at this shift into service.  If you’d like to talk about it, contact me and we’ll set up a time to talk.

And in the meantime, keep REACHING…

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