What You Challenge Matters — the 3 Areas Where Sales Can Challenge its Customers

Unless you’ve been under a rock in sales, you’re keenly aware of the growing popularity of the Challenger Selling approach. The Challenger selling approach is the result of a substantial study by the CEC (Corporate Executive Board) that showed; sales people who challenged their customers and prospects out performed those who didn’t.

I’m a fan of the challenging sales approach, probably because I’m just a challenger, debater and provocateur by nature. As I’ve worked with my clients and their sales people, I’ve identified that as important as it is to challenge your customers or prospects, it’s good to know where you can challenge them.

When it comes to sales, there are 3 areas you can challenge your customers:

  1. The problem and their view of the problem
  2. The solution
  3. The sales process

The Problem: Challenging a customer on “the problem” means you are questioning the customers view point, assessment of the problem, existence of the problem or evaluation of the problem. As a sales person, your ability to provide greater insight, teachings, background and assessment insight on the problem the prospect or customer is facing the better. As much as our customers like to believe they understand their challenges and problems, there is almost always things they’ve missed, impacts they didn’t consider, fallout they were not anticipating.  Challenging a customer or prospect on how they are viewing their problems and the impact of that vantage point is a valid and powerful place to be a challenger.

The Solution: There are a million ways to skin a cat and this holds true in sales. There is certainly no shortage of solutions in the world of problem solving. Challenging a customer on how they are choosing to solving their problem is a real and functional selling approach.  Solutions can be complex. They are often rarely thought out to the very end and in almost every case there is downside. No matter how good a solution is, there is always room for debate and challenging. Challenging the solution is the most common challenge area.

The Sales Process: I think this is the most underutilized challenge space. Customers and prospects don’t always address the decision process very well.They don’t prioritize very well. The don’t capitalize on evaluation opportunities correctly, they put too much importance on the wrong things, they don’t put enough emphasis on the right things. The sales process is a unique journey that every customer manages, executes and bungles in their on way. It’s for this reason sales people have plenty of opportunity to challenge how their customers and prospects are moving through the buying process.

Challenging your customers and prospects is a valid and effective way to sell AND gain the respect and confidence of your selling audience. That being said, knowing where you can challenge is key.

Sometimes the win is in challenging the view of the problem. Other times, it’s in challenging the solution or the sales process itself. Sometimes challenging them all is how you get to the win. Either way, know what you are challenging and why!

There is more than one space to challenge you customers and prospects, get good at identifying them all. You’ll see a difference.


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