The role of the sales rep is shifting from transactional reps who present information, to Challenger reps who teach customers how to improve their businesses.  Differentiation on features and benefits no longer works.


Customers believe your brand and products are good – but, the problem is that they also believe your competitors’ brand and products are good too. This is no longer a game of what you sell, it truly has become a game of how you sell and the insight delivered in that sales experience.  


Why are Challenger reps so successful? Ultimately, the Challenger reps set themselves apart by doing three things well:

  • They Teach – Providing insight as the basis of the commercial conversation, teaching customers something new/valuable about how to compete in their market
  • They Tailor – Crafting the insight being delivered to resonate with the customer’s specific priorities
  • They Take Control – This does not mean be aggressive or abusive; but rather the standing their ground when challenging the customer’s thinking, and proactively coaching the customer through a behavior change

What about Relationships?

CEB’s research does not suggest that Challenger reps don’t/can’t build strong relationships. In fact, high-performing Challengers are above average on all of the “relationship building” attributes.  But, there is an important distinction in how Challengers build relationships. Instead of establishing trust through longstanding personal relationships, Challengers push the customer’s thinking to quickly gain creditability. Instead of resolving tension in the relationship, they create constructive tension, helping customers understand the urgency and impact of a new behavior.