The Challenger Sale Summary (Matthew Dixon & Brent Adamson)

Want to improve your sales success?

The Challenger Sale summary provides a model to do just that.

Sales strategies have evolved from their old one-sized-fits-all past into customised, individual solutions for each client.

This book shows us how to do it.

ABC myth

The old sales adage of “Always Be Closing” has been popularised across the industry, but it’s actually not the most effective method.

Slick salespeople using this tactic tend to breed mistrust.

The authors have instead utilised research to create a new kind of salesperson: The Challenger.

Instead of selling through persuasion, they sell through teaching.

A two way exchange

When we think of sales, we often only consider sharp-tongued salesmen convincing customers to whip out their credit card.

We rarely consider the customer enough in this exchange, who must come first for any sales model to be effective.

Cue ‘solution selling’ – identifying a customer’s particular pain point and customising your product or service to provide the exact solution.

There are two benefits to this approach:

  • Helps the seller differentiate themselves from competitors who may be unable to compete with the level of customisation offered
  • Helps the seller control prices – the customer is buying a specific solution to a specific problem meaning price isn’t as much of a consideration

However, it can also be a more demanding form of sales:

  • Customers can be more demanding as they seek to solve their problem
  • Sales reps must be more creative to guarantee customer satisfaction – instead of selling a one-size-fits-all product, they must work more closely with their customers to create a tailor-made solution

5 types of sales reps

Solution selling isn’t always the best solution, and it depends on the type of rep doing the selling.

Based on a sales study of 90 companies around the world, the authors identified 5 different types of reps:

  • Hard worker – not afraid to get stuck in
  • Relationship builder – nice guys, who go the extra mile to know their customers
  • Lone wolf – do their own thing instead of following protocol, but good at what they do
  • Reactive problem-solvers – more customer than sales-orientated
  • Challenger – deep knowledge of the customer and provide them with innovative ideas and insights

Challengers are most likely to thrive in sales, who comprise almost 40% of top sellers. This increases to 50% when focusing solely on solution selling.


What makes a Challenger so effective at sales is their ability to teach.

Many potential customers are unable to understand different features and benefits, which is where sales comes in.

Indeed, in a study of over 5,000 customers, the authors found that 53% of customer loyalty was dependent on the sales experience.

So, how can we deliver a good experience?

Knowing our customer’s business well and empathising with their problems are just parts of the equation and only take us so far.

The real secret sauce lies in combining those factors and creating a solution which you can teach them, positioning your product or service in the process.

Control the conversation

Effective teaching boils down to preparation and the need to structure the sales conversation in a certain way.

This can be done by mastering commercial teaching, which connect your products or services to a company’s strengths.

Imagine you’re a sales rep for office furniture meeting a commercial client.

There are 6 steps to the conversation:

  • Build your credibility through a hypothesis about the customer’s business – highlight that many modern offices not designed for collaboration
  • Reframe the problem or insight from a different perspective – say that effective collaboration is better in smaller groups of 3-4
  • Explain why the issue is bigger than the customer may know – share research which shows that large conference rooms kill innovation
  • Demonstrate how the problem impacts the customer’s business – when innovation stalls, so does the companies success
  • Offer something to improve the client’s current situation – say a good solution would be to divide their larger conference room into two smaller spaces
  • Offer your solution at the very end of the conversation – sell them your moveable walls

So, don’t just pitch your product – teach and change perspectives first.

Multiple stakeholders

In sales, the big boss isn’t the only one who needs convincing that your product or service is the right fit.

In fact, the authors discovered that it’s actually more effective to convince their team and employees on the necessity of your offer.

Therefore it’s important to tailor your offer to the multiple stakeholders who may be involved in the deal.

That means that rather than an ineffective blanket pitch, you match your offer with their specific needs.

When creating each offer, think about what’s most important to that person. What do they care about?

Own the process

Challengers take control of the whole sales process, from beginning to end.

They have the confidence to deal with the client instead of relinquishing power to the procurement department.

That means that they push to meet senior stakeholders early in the process, are happy to discuss money and are able to encourage a final decision from the prospective client.

Doing these things allows you to qualify good leads rather than wasting time on low converting prospects.

Share the wealth

If you’re running a sales team, how do you spread the challenger mindset throughout your organisation?

Although some employees adopt the approach naturally, the good news is that it’s scalable.

You should have all the sales data you need to educate and inform your junior sales reps.

  • Teaching conversations – share as much information about prospective industries and companies as possible.
  • Tailoring – create a cheat sheet for different stakeholder positions in different industries and companies
  • Taking control – if junior reps are too submissive, they can learn to try a different sales channel or exit the exchange if a senior executive doesn’t get involved at a certain point in the process

Good management

Running a large, successful sales team comes down to good management.

As the CEO, you can’t monitor every sales conversation, but your managers can and should do this.

It’s impossible to create Challenger sales reps if managers are obstructive.

Therefore, hire good managers who possess integrity, good sales knowledge and are willing to support the Challenger model.

The Challenger Sale Summary

All of us are sick of smarmy sales pitches.

To sell today is to teach.

Customise your solution to address your customers genuine pain points and show them how your product or service can help.

Take control of the sales process through tailor-made pitches and convince independent stakeholders that your offer is indispensable.

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