Challenger Tip: Where are you leading?

Challenger Sale Principle: “Lead TO, not WITH your solution”

Pushing ProductI have the honor of talking with sales reps from all over the world who have taken a keen interest in becoming Challengers. A common issue that reps often bring up is their inclination to bring product or solution into the discussion too early.

The typical problem is that reps ask questions about prospect’s business, circumstance, pain, etc. Their asking questions isn’t necessarily the problem. Their problems ensue when they ask aimless questions hoping to pick up on keywords that their product or solutions solve, then they jump right into solution.

Two prominent problems ensue:

  1. Solution Fatigue – Prospects wear out from seemingly endless and aimless questioning
  2. Unripened Prospects – Without getting to the root, the prospect isn’t ripened to hear about change

A New Way

In order to avoid the two aforementioned problems, establish in advance where you aim to lead the call or meeting. Your questions should intentionally aim toward uncovering the problems your solution uniquely solves. As you begin to uncover the pain points, don’t transition to solution yet as you are likely at surface pain…where the problems are still merely intellectual for prospects, not emotive.

Following are three questions CEB uses for message development that will help you determine questions to ask that lead TO your solution, not WITH your solution:

  1. What are the typical prospect’s problems and how are they currently solving?
  2. What do you know about their problems that they don’t?
  3. Considering what you know, what should they be doing differently?

Understanding the answers to these questions is critical in determining where you are leading your next prospecting call.

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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6 thoughts on “Challenger Tip: Where are you leading?

  1. Challenger Principle: “Lead TO, not WITH your solution”

    In my Sandler Training terminology, this sounds like–“Focus on the Problem, not the Solution”
    Whatever we call it, it works for the prospect and the sales person.

    • That’s certainly true, Don and within the context of how I wrote the post, it could appear one equals the other. So as to be clear on the full breadth of “Lead TO, not WITH,” despite my concentration on two areas of the principle, here is more context.

      For starters, CEB’s advocacy for the Challenger is that the identified behaviors apply to the whole organization and get integrated…from New Product Development teams to Marketing teams to Sales teams. This should not be misconstrued with “training other departments on what sales will be doing, so that they can support them.” The misunderstanding can occur when people wrongly apply Challenger as a ‘Sales Process’ but it is not, as author, Brent Adamson has said on a number of occasions.

      With that in mind, the ‘Lead TO’ principle isn’t just about saving your solution until the end. That’s the easy part. The more difficult, but more important part is what is referred to as Commercial Insight. This type of insight not only disrupts the prospects view of their business by juxtaposing the cost of current behavior against the potential of an alternate action, but simultaneously leads the prospect exclusively back to the supplier.

      While you and I both know there is more to Sandler’s “focus on the problem, not the solution” statement, there is a key point I want to make. Too often, reps can do a great job of focusing on the problem, and build a great need for change. But because they didn’t intentionally ‘lead TO’ the problems that their organization is uniquely (and exclusively) able to resolve, the prospect gets to the end of the discussion and considers all products/solutions as equal with the only differentiator being who do I trust more (i.e., Trusted Advisor).

      I would advocate aiming to win on both fronts:

        1.) Be a trusted advisor by teaching them something new about their business or circumstance that will be detrimental if unresolved
        2.) Expose the pain points that your solution exclusively resolves
      • I agree on both fronts (above). I think the first one has to be carefully explained to most sales people because of their established habits. “teaching” can be confused with “telling” or “free consulting”. Something I have found to be very effective in addressing this point is that by asking very insightful questions, you can help the client learn something new about their business or circumstance that wil be detrimental if unresolved. Appreciate the discussion! I will be a regular follower of Jeff!

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