Challenger: Use a Warmer to Build Credibility

Challenger Sale WarmerIn my previous post, Are your questions killing the sale?, I framed the ineffectiveness of reps using exploratory questioning with prospects to get deeper into their business issues.

The consequence of this approach is that the prospect gives little more than short answers to your questions, with no meaningful information shared. This is because your initial questions suggest you know less about the type of problems they face than they do.

If you are a rep that struggles to get deep in conversations about real issues with prospects, or a Sales Leader struggling to improve your team’s close rates, this post is for you.

Brief Recap of the Problem
Your opening statements and questions will immediately convey one of three things to the prospect about your ability to address the problems they are facing, or will face in the future. Your question will either show:

  1. You know more than the prospect about these areas
  2. You know equal to the prospect, or
  3. You know less than the prospect

For example, if a rep asked the following question of a prospect, what would it suggest about their knowledge of the customer, their industry, and/or the issues they are likely to face?

“What are some of the challenges your business has been experiencing?”

If you chose #3, you are correct as the question suggests the rep knows less about the prospect, their industry, and problems they will face than the prospect does.

Important to note is that questions or statements that infer you know equal to or less than the prospect creates no value in their mind. They have no need for you unless you can successfully demonstrate you have traveled this path before and have successfully navigated businesses like theirs to better outcomes. The trick is not to make it all about you.

Aim Higher in Your Opening
The goal of the Warmer in The Challenger Choreography is to build credibility by quickly demonstrating you understand business issues like those that they face. This is a critical first step, especially since the next step is to Reframe the way they have been thinking about their issues.

“A proper frame (a.k.a. The Warmer) must be in place before a Reframe can occur”

A proper Warmer statement contains 3 elements:

  1. Relate – This gives the prospect the sense that the businesses and issues you work with, will relate to them as well. They aren’t alone. (e.g., “I work with businesses similar to yours from all over the country”)
  2. Demonstrate – Saying you work with others like them isn’t enough. You must demonstrate understanding by identifying the issues they are likely facing. (e.g., “Three of the most troubling issues we see them face are [x, y & z].”
  3. Validate – This is not a monologue. Therefore, take a minute to validate you are on track with what they are facing by asking a question. (e.g., “Are you experiencing these [business issues] too, or are there others you would add?”)

If you truly know and understand what businesses like theirs are experiencing, the underlying message to the prospect is, “I understand you and companies just like you.” This builds their confidence and your credibility, which will lead you into deeper discussions with prospects more quickly.

Warnings on Assumptions and Arrogance…
It is common for reps and leaders to ask, “Isn’t it arrogant to assume we know more than they do without talking to them and asking them questions first?” My answer? If these concepts are misunderstood and misapplied, then “Yes.”

The only real assumption made here is that if you have worked with many other customers, affected by similar issues, you have a reasonable belief that this has, or will, affect them too. If so, you have a broader perspective and expertise from which to help. That isn’t arrogant, nor assumptive.

Upcoming Posts…
Next, I will be addressing what I have labeled the ‘PreFrame,’ followed by the Teaching Point. Both of these precede the Warmer, but the Teaching Point should precede any interaction with a prospect or customer.

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.

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2 thoughts on “Challenger: Use a Warmer to Build Credibility

  1. Anonymous says:

    Unless you went to med school and did a residency, the rep and manager knows less than the doctor customer. Don’t play games with your customer. The challenger model will not work here.

    • I am curious to know more from your perspective of why you believe the “challenger model will not work here” when in fact it does work with remarkable consistency. Is that based on your opinion or do you have evidence that controverts CEB’s research?

      I agree that you should not play games with customers, but never suggested doing so in the first place.

      As for the doctor metaphor, your suggestion that “med school…and residency” are required to know more than the customer is also quite curious. I would posit that if you have had success in sales, you too know more about the busyness issues customers like the one you are speaking with faces. No med school required, although it is [arguably] a form of residency.

      Perhaps a mechanic example will be more helpful.

      When a customer brings their car to the mechanic because it squeals every time they turn the steering wheel, the mechanic does not need med school, nor does he need to have seen this specific car before he can help. His experience in seeing many cars ‘like’ this car gives him a basis to start the discussion likely leading toward a loose belt, rather than asking a slew of exploratory questions that may or may not have anything to do with the current condition.

      I get the feeling that even this example will not change your view, which is okay, but I would love to hear from you on what you believe does work. Your emphatic claim that “challenger will not work here” without any supporting evidence, doesn’t make the case. No need to be anonymous either.

      I respect and value differing points of view, and want to know and understand you and your point of view better.

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