The Challenger Sales Model

A Fresh Approach to Sales

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Sales models and approaches come and go. What may have been the hottest and most widely used sales approach a few years ago is now considered old-fashioned. This "short lifespan" is caused by industry trends, external influences, and the general economy. In the book "The Challenger Sale," authors Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson present a model that stands to send most others into antiquity.

The Challenger Sale

For years, sales professionals believed that the key to success in sales was building relationships with their clients and prospects. The theory was solid and based on the old belief that if customers like a rep, they will find a reason and a way to buy from that rep. And if they didn't like a rep, they would find a reason and a way not to buy from that rep.

For the most part, this logic holds true. People do like to buy from people they like, but the problem is customers are busy, well-informed, and have too many options. Further, investing time in a relationship is less effective when buyers can no longer base a decision on how well they like (or dislike) the sales professional. The Challenger Sale authors suggest that while relationships are important, their three-part sales model offers a better approach.


The Challenger Sales Model begins with the importance of a sales rep bringing new information or a different way of doing things to their customers and prospects. The buying public has ample resources from which to garner information and often know much more about your product than you might believe. They also know, in many cases, the same about your competitor's offerings.

Buyers know their business and the challenges they are seeking to overcome when considering making a purchase. If a sales professional focuses on why this product is better than the competition's or assumes that the client is most likely unaware of problems or challenges that this product solves; the rep is wasting the client's precious time and is bringing nothing new to the bargaining table.

However, if the rep informs the customer of how common industry challenges have been solved with a different approach and teaches them about unique features that his product or company offers, then the customer will see the time invested as valuable. The more valuable a rep, the more likely it is that a sale will be made.


The next part of the Challenger Sales Model is for the sales professional to tailor a solution to meet the specific needs of a customer. It demands a blend of creativity and flexibility in the product or service offered.

The creative part comes from the sales rep, and the flexibility is something that a product/service either has or doesn't have. However, a product/service that at first does not appear to have any flexibility may still be tailored to a customer.

The flexibility could come in the form of customized financing, for example, or could require a customization of the entire manufacturing process. The key to tailoring a solution begins with the rep having a thorough understanding of the customer's needs.

Take Control

The final part of the Challenger Sale is for the sales professional to take control of the sales cycle. It is more common than unusual for a sales professional to encounter objections and resistance from a customer. While traditional sales models suggest that each customer objection is treated and viewed as a legitimate concern of the customer, the Challenger Sales model teaches that unreasonable or unrealistic customer questions/demands/objections are best handled by the sales professional being firm, authentic and by challenging the customer to "keep it real." This approach requires courage, confidence, and plenty of skill: A trifecta of traits that are the envy of almost every sales manager in the world.