HBR: Top Salespeople are Challengers. Not hard workers, problem solvers or relationship builders.

Selling has become much harder in the past decade with global competition, economic headwinds and rapid innovation. Yet, every company has a few top performers. The authors launched a global study of 6000 sales reps across 100 companies in multiple industries. The authors categorize sales people into 5 categories: 1) Relationship Builders, 2) Hard workers (stay late, go extra mile, make more calls), 3) Lone Wolves (self-confident, do things their own way), 4) Reactive Problem Solvers and 5) Challengers (deep understanding of customers’ business; take control of sales conversation; share controversial views with clients and bosses; are assertive).

The study concludes that Challengers dramatically outperform other profiles, particular Relationship Builders. They teach their customers. They take control of the sale. They dominate the world of complex selling.

The article also includes two excellent tools: A Challenger Self-Assessment (and scoring guide) along with Pre-Call Planning Questions that can prepare a Sales person for interactions using the Challenger approach.

While I believe the author’s conclusions are sound, I doubt that a salesperson can succeed in today’s environment without Relationship Building and Problem Solving competencies. That being said, I think this article is required reading for all of us involved in sales and sales management.

HBR Article: Selling is not about relationships

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