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.

Advertisements

Are your questions killing the sale?

Sales question gapsProspecting can be tough and so can getting calls returned. When a sales person finally gets that prospect’s call, many fail to quickly establish credibility and ultimately lose the sale, without ever realizing their fatal flaw.

Whenever I begin working with sales teams and leaders struggling in areas like prospecting and quickly establishing credibility, I typically look at their first phone conversation with prospects, and where the reps begin.

Reps who struggle with establishing credibility and getting to deeper business issues are starting at the wrong level!

If you are a sales rep, consider your typical opening statement and question to a prospect and consider what level of expertise your question says about you. For the Sales Manager, consider how you are advising your reps to begin conversations with prospects.

Are your questions killing your opportunities?
Whether you realize it or not, your opening question suggests a lot about your ability to be a credible solution for the prospect.  Consider it this way – When it comes to demonstrating your knowledge about customers [similar to the prospect], their industry, and the biggest issues they face, does your opening question suggest you know…

1. More about these areas than the prospect?
2. Equal to the prospect?
3. Less than the prospect?

Considering the picture above, if what the prospect knows about their own circumstances and how to solve them is the upper hand, the questions asked by so many reps comes in at a much lower level. In other words, the rep’s beginning questions are probing and exploratory, suggesting “I don’t know you, so let me ask you a number of questions that will allow me to better understand you. Once I know enough, I can help you.” If you are unsure if your questions fit the criteria, the questions typically start with, “Tell me about…” or the Five W’s.

The Challenger Sale [appropriately] refers to this as Solutions Fatigue.

Keep in mind that while the rep has already implied that they don’t know the prospect, the prospect doesn’t know the rep either. Since the opening question suggested that they know less than the prospect on business issues similar to theirs and their industry, the prospect has one goal in mind… be brief and share as little as possible to get off the phone as quickly as possible.

After all, for the rep to be able to help, the prospect would first need to bring the rep up to speed, train on where their problems occur and why, then expect the rep’s learning to surpass their own, so that the rep can lead them to better outcomes with the supplier’s solutions.

Talk about a tough sell. There is a better way.

In my next post, so as not to leave you hanging with the problem and no proposed solution, I will address what The Challenger Sale refers to as the Warmer. This is where the aim is to build credibility quickly without being a supplier-centric monologue about yourself or your company.

As a preview of the next post, the aim will be to give a practical example of leading to questions at a higher level – one which suggests you know more about customers just like them, and their industry and typical problems they are encountering…or about to encounter.

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.

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.

Challenger Choreography

Challenger Choreography

Challenger Choreography vs. Unchallenged Choreography

Following are the talking points for each of the 4 slides, which are based upon CEB’s Challenger Choreography:

Slide 1: CEB’s Challenger Choreography – See CEB’s description in the book, ‘The Challenger Sale’

Slide 2: A non-Challenger Rep’s natural tendency to keep things light-hearted and relational tends to be their primary approach to selling. Reps who shortcut the Challenger process will fail to become a Challenger as they are likely to emphasize two aspects of the choreography – The Warmer and Our Solution. They mistake the Warmer for being license to talk about themselves to build ‘credibility’ and then progress prematurely to talking about their ‘Solution.’ This is what I call “Unchallenging Choreography” as prospects were never challenged to look at things differently. Furthermore, this type of rep approach is the epitome of leading WITH solution, instead of TO.

Slide 3: Not only do reps have tendencies to talk about solutions, but prospects go there quickly as well. With customers 57% of the way through the buying cycle (or greater) before engaging a rep, prospects want to go straight to what they believe they already know, without getting bogged down in what is truly the root of the problem. They self-diagnose. But without getting down to the root, no fruit (i.e., The Sale) is likely to be produced, because they see any number of products/solutions being viable. More often, 2/3 of them will remain with the Status Quo as they saw no compelling reason to change. If they were to consider change, it will likely come down to price when the rep fails to redirect how they are thinking about things (Reframe) and walk them all the way through the implications of remaining the same (Emotional Impact).

Slide 4: Reps can mistake the choreography for meaning that they should do most of the talking when ‘teaching,’ which more often sounds like arrogant lecturing. This slide aims to help reps see a balance in their approach. As such, there are a few components to be aware of in the breakout of the three stages I have created, so as not to misinterpret what this slide is meant to portray:

  • The six stages of the choreography are broken into three major categories – Insight, Impact and Solution – as a means for remembering the choreography
  • When working through the choreography, important to remember is that Teaching, Tailoring and Taking Control are not sequential steps, but are prevalent throughout the choreography
  • Similarly, Teaching, Listening and Leading are also important throughout the choreography as is appropriate to the conversation, and therefore should be used as a framework rather than an absolute rule
    • Teaching. In the first stage (Warmer to Reframe), the aim is to establish credibility by demonstrating you really understand customers like them, and to start to ‘Teach’ them a different way to think about their problems. For many businesses, this stage does not take long at all and should represent minimal talking done by the rep, despite the balance of the introductory comments tipping in the rep’s favor.
    • Listening. The second stage (Rational Drowning to Emotional Impact) begins to shift the balance of talking quite quickly to the prospect, as the rep skillfully asks questions post reframe that helps prospects see themselves in the center of the story. Reps should make sure to be in listening mode, while continuing to redirect prospects back down to the ‘root’ of the matter, as they are likely to want to surface. Additional ‘Tailoring’ is necessary here as prospect’s tendency, will not only be to surface, but also to generalize the depth of their problems and impact to their business.
    • Leading. The third and final stage (A New Way to Our Solution) requires the rep to lead the discussion at this point. If stage 1 and 2 have been done appropriately, the prospect recognizes they have a problem that needs to be addressed quickly, but they don’t know how to do it at this point. Therefore, at the ‘New Way’ phase of the choreography, they are asking a question such as, “Is there a solution for this.” Before jumping to your ‘Solution,’ they need to understand specifically what any solution must entail if it is going to resolve their issues. This description should be identical to the aspects your solution is uniquely designed to do. If it describes what competitors solutions also do, you have failed to lead specifically TO YOU. This is why your ‘leading’ them through this part of the choreography is critical.

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable Success

Jeff 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.