Challenger Sale: The Reframe Exercise

Challenger Sale Reframe

Practice reframes with ordinary objects

The Challenger Sale Choreography
If you are familiar with the Challenger Sale, you will quickly recognize the six components of the Challenger Choreography described as follows:

1. The Warmer
2. The Reframe
3. Rational Drowning
4. Emotional Impact
5. A New Way
6. Your Solution

A cursory review of what each stage of the choreography is intended to accomplish is largely unsurprising, and in five of the six stages, looks similar to many selling systems* out there.

There is more than meets the eye, especially as the real point of differentiation tends to hinge on the second stage with the Reframe. Being able to Reframe, or share an insight in a way that the prospect hasn’t thought of or considered before, is paramount to moving successfully through the rest of the choreography.

*Just a quick note to remind people that The Challenger Sale is not touted, nor intended as a ‘selling system.’ Brent Adamson shared the following on the topic in a blog post back in 2012…

“The Challenger Sale isn’t so much a “selling system,” as it is a way to think differently about how to approach customer interactions.”

— Brent Adamson

Cultivating Rep Proficiency with the Reframe
If you are looking to build proficiency in the way your sales and marketing staff successfully communicates reframes, perhaps the exercises we had done in weekly team meetings will be helpful to you in working with your teams.

Getting people to think differently about something in ways they have never done before is not an easy task, especially for those that had not been thinking that way. Therefore, we were looking to develop and cultivate competencies in this specific area so our team could recognize unique points of view and deliver them without the feeling of “starting from scratch,” as some had described the process.

The ‘Reframe’ Exercise

Following is an exercise I led the teams through to not just teach them what to say, but rather teach them how to think to create effective reframes.

Each Team Leader would bring a mystery grab bag of everyday items to the meeting. The team would pair up and grab an item from the bag. Representative items included things like scissors, a whiteboard eraser, aspirin, etc.

The pairs would take 5 minutes to come up with their Teaching Point, followed by a Warmer and a Reframe on their respective item. Next, they would present to the team for a team evaluation. We would then debrief with the whole team by asking a series of questions, such as, “Did they lead WITH the solution or lead TO the solution?” and “Did they share an insight in a way you hadn’t considered before?”

In one of the exercises, the teams were tasked with reframing the same item – a wire coat hanger. Some groups went down the path of calling out the many uses for a wire coat hanger (e.g., “perfect for unlocking car doors,” which is the stereotypical, product-centric, ‘lead WITH’ approach). We debriefed and they understood where they made their mistake.

However, following is what came from one group [in abbreviated form] as they had a better handle on the reframe process…

Teaching Point: Homeowners are often short on closet space and fail to realize the main culprits of closet space are plastic and wooden hangers which are 5-10 times the width of wire coat hangers.

Warmer: “We often hear from many of our customers that closet space at home is at a premium as they cite that they have too many clothes and their closets are too small. Is this something you experience as well? [They validate with the customer, so as not to assume a problem they don’t have]. The customer/prospect is invited to share the specific details of their problems.

Reframe: “We hear that a lot. In fact I hear solutions ranging from changing out their clothes for each season to complete remodels to build larger closets. What is interesting is that when you consider the #1 choice of hangers for most people, it is the plastic coat hanger. Have you ever considered the fact that a plastic hanger is 7x thicker than a wire coat hanger? Perhaps a different question is why your local dry cleaners don’t use plastic coat hangers? While many believe it is due to cost, their reason is that they would need to build a facility 1.3x larger to house the same number of articles of clothing that they currently house by using a wire coat hanger.

We call the process batting practice as it is a way of warming up before sales calls. This process has been fruitful with our teams as they have started to recognize and develop reframes on the fly to get people to see things differently all throughout the day.

In fact, for several, they have begun to pass along affirmations to their colleagues in the form of, “I never thought of it that way before,” when they have successfully reframed whatever the point was in which they were speaking. They are having fun with the process and the audience, be it customer, prospect, family member or friend, benefits as a result of the new insight.

Following is a resource you can use with your teams to practice Reframes of common everyday objects.

Reframe Exercise Worksheet

Share your insights on exercises you have used or are using with your teams.

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.

Challenging Sale vs. Challenger Sale

After speaking with a number of people across a variety of industries regarding their interest and curiosity in the Challenger Sale, I continue to find one common misperception about the disposition of a Challenger. Too often, their picture of what a Challenger approach looks like in marketing and selling gets depicted like the picture you see below. In other words, they picture a ‘lean forward’ posture, that uses an aggressive and controlling approach. In their minds, this is substantiated by the tagline, “‘The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation.”

Challenger Sale Misapplied

With some effort and due diligence, one would quickly agree that this is NOT what CEB was intending nor depicting in the research.

I cringe at the thought of how that kind of posture in messaging, whether in sales or in marketing, would play out with potential customers. In fact,  I recently saw one company’s marketing attempt to ‘challenge’ the prospect’s status quo, which implied that using the competitor’s products may actually “hurt” the end users, not “help” them. Further exploration of this marketing piece revealed that the ‘hurting’ vs. ‘helping’ question asked in the subject line, was not only never answered, but not addressed at all in the body of the email.

Providing unique insights that truly teach prospects into thinking in ways they had never thought before is difficult, and requires much time and attention to do so responsibly. Failing to give the appropriate organizational time, focus and effort to develop a true commercial insight, before launching into what is perceived as a ‘Challenger ‘ message, is not only irresponsible, but likely offensive.

After personally grappling with CEB’s research for a year now, I remain compelled by the evidence of their findings. That said, I also quickly recognize that the ‘how to’ of changing an organization’s and rep’s behaviors is far more difficult than the ‘why to’ that CEB’s book spoke about. It is worth the pursuit, however, and CEB has been instrumental in helping walk through the process of the Challenger implementation.

I am curious, particularly from those familiar with the Challenger Sale behaviors…what picture would you describe of the Challenger to someone inquiring of what a Challenger Sales Rep or Challenger Marketing message looked like? Please leave your comments below.

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.

Challengers: Don’t Confuse Teaching with Learning

Teaching vs. LearningAs a big fan of the Challenger Sale, those that follow the approach quickly understand that ‘teaching’ is a primary leg of the three-legged stool (i.e., Teaching, Tailoring and Taking Control).

For those less familiar, the premise is that the best reps [statistically] TEACH where prospects learn…not SELL…by presenting a unique point of view while offering the prospect value through that unique insight.

Not All Teaching is Good

So what is the problem? The problem tends to present itself with those that misunderstand what the Challengers knew all along…that teaching was never about the teacher.

Those that misunderstand this point and try to emulate the ‘teacher-centric’ model become so enamored with themselves being perceived as the profound ‘teacher’ with a different point of view, that they fail to recognize that nobody is learning anything at all.

As I have said before, “A person who puts their own PR before [t]eaching is merely [PR]eaching.”  (Click to Tweet)

The solution? Concentrate less on how well you’re teaching, which puts yourself at the center of things, and concentrate more on how well they’re learning. This puts your focus and attention back where it belongs…on your prospects and customers.

Prospects will never see themselves in the story you’re telling if the focus is on yourself. (Click to Tweet)

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.

The Sales Athlete: Do You Warm Up or Play Cold?

Sales Call Warm UpHave you ever considered how a professional athlete may perform in a game if they never practiced first? For the golfer, this may look like no time spent at the driving range before tournaments….or no batting practice between games for the baseball player…No free throws for the basketball player…No blocking and tackling for the Football player, etc.

Sure, their natural talent may certainly kick in and mask a bad performance during the game, but would a truly great performance be a realistic expectation of the professional athlete without first practicing?

We are all likely to agree that it is not realistic. More likely, the initial inning, quarter or period played is likely to produce mediocre results, with performance increasing as they get warmed up in real-time.

See where I am headed with this? Consider how often the sales professional jumps into the game with no warm ups. For many sales professionals, they may inaccurately chalk the first few losses on sales calls or appointments as the customer being a poor fit or uninterested. What if in truth, it had everything to do with the rep jumping in cold to a situation in which the customer would later respond better to a ‘warmed up’ competitor?

In doing analysis on contact rates some time ago on each of my outbound sales teams, I noticed that our best contact rates were generally in the morning, though the conversion rates were lower. In digging further, I saw that typically, these peak contact rates for our markets, were within 30-45 minutes of the rep’s shift beginning. The inference was that during peak opportunities with prospects, we were using the calls for what I call ‘game-time warm ups.’

Sales Warm-Up Exercises

As a result, we began incorporating warm up routines that we call ‘batting practice’ into weekly sales meetings and daily sales rep’s routines to improve our batting average. While we vary the activity to adjust to where we are needing the most practice, here are a couple quick and easy examples to follow to incorporate into your own batting practice.

  1. Call yourself – Leave yourself a voice mail message with your most compelling point to provide value or a teaching point. Perhaps just a 30 second message that demonstrates credibility or adds value with reason to call back. See how you sound to yourself and determine if you would call yourself back. If not, refine and repeat.

  2. Pair share – This is a quick exercise to do with a peer in which you practice a specific skill, question or comment in areas you are likely to find yourself dealing with. Over time, you will find that the paired reps begin to give more open and honest feedback on what statements ‘compelled’ and what ‘repelled.’ After all,  they want the same type of feedback for themselves.

  3. Spontaneous Reframes – At the leader level, we work on spontaneously coming up with a unique point of view and reframe on common, everyday objects or situations. The goal of these exercises is to quickly identify what we want to teach, then do a warmer statement to establish credibility in the topic and end with a reframed way of thinking about the object or situation. At the leader level, we call this ‘Iron sharpening iron.’

Those are a few ideas from what we are doing. How about you? Do you use unique exercises to warm up your sales leaders and reps?

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.

The Best Information Comes From Short Questions – by Mark Hunter “The Sales Hunter”

Mark HunterThere’s no better way to improve the quality of information you receive from a potential customer than by asking short questions.  We all can recall far too many times when we’ve sat across the table from a customer we’re trying to help–and we know we can help, if they would just provide us information about their needs and goals.

The problem is that no matter what question we ask, we get the same response: a big fat “I don’t know” (or something along that line).  Then, almost without thinking, we put on our super-salesperson cape and start telling the person everything they need.  Unfortunately, when it comes to getting the sale, the person turns cold.

Our problem in dealing with this type of customer is we need to find a better way to engage them and to get them to think about what they want and need–and then share that information with us.

The answer to this dilemma? Short questions. I believe that short questions get you long answers (while long questions get you short answers).  What too often happens is we are talking to a customer and asking them what we believe are simple questions, but in reality, those questions are simple only to us.

To someone unfamiliar with your industry, the questions are complex.   For example, we ask a question that has a couple of facts wrapped up in it. As a result, it winds up being more of a statement for which we are simply looking for feedback. No wonder clients can give us the cold shoulder and the blank stare.

What we want to do is ask short questions. In their simplest form, they are questions like “why” and “how.” Or possibly they look like this: Could you give me an example?  Could you explain that again to me?

The shorter the question, the more likely we are to get a long answer. The next step is to ask them another short question, following up on what they just said.  The beauty about this is it allows the client to do all the talking. By doing the talking, they’ll tell you what their needs are. They’ll tell you their big life goals and will reveal a level of information you need to determine how to best serve them.

When using the short question approach, there are only two things you need to remember.  First, ask the customer a soft easy question to which you know they’ll respond. Then after they have given you a response, continue with the short questioning approach by asking, “Could you give me another example?” You then pause and allow the client to give you more information, upon which you follow-up again with another short question such as, “How?” or “Why?” Basically, you want to do whatever you can to get them talking more.

The second rule to remember is to not keep asking the same short questions. If you do, you’ll come across as an inquisitive 3-year-old rather than the professional salesperson you know you are.

You can avoid this best by picking up on a single item they shared with you and drilling down on just that one item. When you drill down on a single item, you demonstrate your listening skills and your ability to truly discern information.  The beauty of this approach is when it works, the customer will many times share with you exactly what they want in a policy and they will begin asking you questions about features and benefits.

Short questions get you long answers.  Long questions get you short answers. It is up to you as to the approach you want to take, but if you want to actually learn something about the customer’s needs, you will get there quicker by asking short questions.

Mark Hunter, “The Sales Hunter,” is author of High-Profit Selling: Win the Sale Without Compromising on Price. He is a sales expert who speaks to thousands each year on how to increase their sales profitability.  To receive a free weekly sales tip and read his Sales Motivation Blog, visit www.TheSalesHunter.com. You can also follow him on Twitter http://www.Twitter.com/TheSalesHunter, on Facebook www.facebook.com/TheSalesHunter and on Linkedin http://www.linkedin.com/in/MarkHunter.

Reprinting of this article is welcomed as long as the following is included: Mark Hunter, “The Sales Hunter,” www.TheSalesHunter.com, ©2012

Sales Questions: Stop Asking Prospects Why!

Why QuestionsGetting deeper in conversations is a problem many people deal with. If you are struggling with this in your conversations, then perhaps you need to consider HOW you are asking your questions, not WHY. Huh?

It is very natural for us to ask a person a ‘Why’ question when asking about something that isn’t working or is broken. That said, I would encourage you to think back to your childhood when you were asked a ‘Why’ question by a parent (e.g., Why did you do that?). I don’t know about you, but for me, I immediately mounted a defense every time that kind of question was asked. After all, who wants to be treated as if you did something wrong?

When you ask questions that begin with ‘Why,’ you almost guarantee the first word of their response will start with ‘Because.’ How often have responses starting with ‘Because’ won the deal? You see, ‘Why’ often times puts a customer in a position to defend or justify ‘why’ they made a decision, a change, etc. Consider the difference a question beginning with ‘How’ can make when asking about a decision or a choice made versus ‘Why.’

  • Why did you choose that particular solution? Asking why they did this can imply that you think they have made a bad decision and often leads to the prospect spending the rest of the conversation on making sure you know they had good reasons to change to whatever they are using now. In fact, your intended proposal would require them to make another change to your product. If they did feel like you were questioning their reasoning, how might that predispose them to respond to your proposal?
  • How did you decide on this solution? Asking how lends itself to more of an explanation of the process they used, which can surface very useful information.

For clarity, I am not at all advocating the banishment of asking ‘Why.’ It can, in fact, be very effective when used in the right context and circumstances. As with all things’ use your judgment. Then next time you get a defensive response from a customer, perhaps consider ‘why’ that happened.

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.

Are You Succeeding on Purpose?

Repeatable Success

Guilty of accidental success?

Five words consume your every thought as you think to yourself, “I should have seen it coming!” But you didn’t.

Another sales forecast missed for the last reporting period and the revenue you thought would come in, simply didn’t. Instead, what came was the CEO’s invitation to meet with her about last quarter’s shortfall.

You were going in prepared with the four economic shifts affecting the whole industry that resulted in last quarter’s missed forecast. You rehearse the four talking points in your mind:

1. Tight budgets
2. Competitive landscape
3. Shifting consumer trends
4. Longer buying cycles

You are not only prepared, but convinced that these four areas are commonly understood and accepted conditions that the CEO can take to the board as the reasons for the continued declines.

As you walk into the CEO’s office, you notice the subtle, yet noticeable change in her disposition. Whereas recently, frustration ruled the day, today is different. You think to yourself, “Is she distracted? No, not distracted, but melancholic…or is that disappointment? Yes, disappointment. Or perhaps its…”

“Chris,” she says for the second time, interrupting your thoughts. The CEO wastes no time in delivering those five haunting words…”We are letting you go!” It’s funny how, when caught off guard, your mind goes to the strangest places. Instead of presenting your defense, you suddenly realize in a moment of clarity that she only uses “we” when “WE are having a good month”…or when “WE have to let someone go.” With the recent sales shortfalls, there has been no “WE are short of projections,” that’s for certain.

The rest of the 5-minute discussion–monologue, actually–is a blur. All that remains are the five words rattling around your head that you just can’t seem to shake…”We are letting you go.”

In the following days, you are less shocked by the decision as you knew this was a distinct possibility. What has really rattled you though, is that you remember the day you went from being the company’s ‘Golden-child’ to being incapable of hitting a single sales forecast for 6 consecutive months. You hadn’t done anything differently, and had kept the intensity high with your team, but you had no idea what truly caused the sales decline. What happened?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sound vaguely familiar? Thanks to a colleague sharing his story, this likely has a healthy dose of realism for a few of you. While the end of the story may be different for you, chances are you have had a change in the business environment in which you were no longer producing the same results that came easily only a quarter earlier.

The common question is, “What contributed to the sales decline?” The more appropriate question is, “What contributed to the success in the first place?”

Let’s be honest with each other for a minute. We ‘sales and marketing types’ are an interesting breed. For many of us, we are quick to claim it was our doing when things are going well. When performance declines, we are quick to look for, and point to conditions that created the performance issues. “It certainly wasn’t my fault!”

For these exact reasons, this website was created to help the executive level leaders down to the front-line reps ‘Succeed on Purpose!’ That’s right, succeed on purpose – an operating philosophy and principle I developed over the last two decades. In other words, it is the process of creating Intentional, Predictable and Repeatable Success. Watch for my book, ‘Are You Creating Repeatable Successes?,’ in the near future.

I encourage you to not only be a reader and consumer of the concepts, methodologies and recommendations, but also a contributor. The incentive? First, it is better to give than receive. Secondly, for a select few that contribute meaningfully to the discussions and posts, I may very well use you as a contributor in my book…only with your written consent, of course.

Enjoy!

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.