What Is the ‘Challenger Sale’? – An Overview


Relationships with prospects are often touted as an integral part of the sales processes in many sales strategies. The truth is that building relationships isn’t the best strategy for closing sales for top-performing sales representatives. An effective salesperson controls the sale and teaches the prospect how to solve their problems rather than spending too much time building a relationship with them. 

According to Gartner, customer buying journeys are becoming increasingly complex. B2B buyers meet with potential suppliers only 17% of the time when considering a purchase. Online research accounts for 27% of their time instead.  

In this situation, prospects have preconceived ideas about their needs and price points prior to entering a sales environment. The challenger sales model shines in this setting. Prospects don’t require product information since they already know about its features and benefits. The internet provides buyers with a wealth of high-quality information. Since most prospects are aware of what’s out there, they already know what to look for. 

Buyers, however, are becoming overwhelmed by the seemingly endless options and are in need of assistance making a decision rather than feeling confident in their purchase path. A sales rep is more likely to be interested in explaining to them why they should buy rather than what they should buy if the buyers reach out to a sales representative. 

Are there any answers to these new buying behaviors that can be derived from the challenger sales methodology? 

In order to better understand this, let’s take a closer look at it. 

What Is The Challenger Sales Model? 

Challenger Sales is a way of selling where sales reps are encouraged to emulate certain high-achieving salespeople – or ‘challengers’ – in their own sales processes in order to enhance their own performance. Taking control of a sale can be done by teaching prospects what their situations are, tailoring how they communicate to suit a specific prospect, and teaching prospects everything they need to know. 

In order to take control of a sales experience through a sales book format process, the challenger sales model and methodology are built around a sales process. Dixon and Adamson argue using the Challenger sales model that sales reps can take control of any customer conversation with the right sales training and the right sales tools if they use the right sales approach. 

In order to comprehend the importance of using the challenger sales methodology in order to control a sales situation, it is imperative that we begin by diving into what exactly the concept of a challenger means in the first place. 

There are five distinct types of sales reps, according to Dixon, Adamson, and colleagues, based on the attitudes and behaviors that they observe in thousands of sales reps: 

Types of Sales Representatives 

  • The Challenger: The ability to see things differently, understands the customer’s business, enjoy engaging them in debates, and pushes them to step outside of their comfort zone is what differentiates him from other salespeople. 
  • Lone Wolf: Lone Wolfs are strong performers, but they may not necessarily be good team players as well. There is no doubt that they exceed quotas as they are confident in their ability to sell, but they can be quite difficult to work with personally. 
  • Hard Worker: Hard Workers strive to improve themselves in their role, but they may not focus their attention on the drivers of value that are important to the customer. 
  • Relationship Builder: A salesperson is one who builds relationships with clients, which is what you think of when you think of a salesperson. In order to build internal advocates, these sales reps connect with a gatekeeper at the target company and slowly try to create a relationship with them. 
  • Reactive problem solvers: An effective Problem Solver is capable of finding solutions for problems in both the target prospect’s business as well as the team’s. A key characteristic of their work is their eagerness to solve problems and their commitment to keeping all stakeholders well informed. 

With the Challenger profile, reps can create a sense of constructive tension to create a higher chance of making a sale. Customers are forced to reconsider their ways of thinking when they are challenged intentionally, and they are forced to gain a new perspective as a result. In this way, a casual debate becomes a medium to create some slight tension within the conversation. Challenger sales representatives are in a good position to offer their customers an alternative path forward by encouraging them to consider new possibilities. 

This approach relies on providing customers with insight about a problem that they do not know they have or an opportunity they do not understand that the supplier is uniquely positioned to solve for them. 

As a result of this analysis, a sales rep can identify the flaws or untruths in the prospect’s beliefs or assumptions and then make room for a better solution to be offered to the prospect. 

How Effective Is the Challenger Methodology in Recent Times? 

Is “The Challenger Sale” Model a successful model in recent times? There is no doubt that challenger selling works and can help salespeople gain the confidence they need to enable them to perform at their best, regardless of the rapidly changing and evolving sales landscape in which they find themselves. 

In order to determine how effective the method really is, let’s take a closer look at the results of the research. 

It is interesting to note that when the researchers looked at average sellers’ performance across all five types of sellers, no significant differences were found between them. The reason for this is that, according to them, anyone can become an average seller as long as they possess the necessary skills. No special skills are required to do this, nor do you have to follow a certain approach. 

Yet, they highlighted the fact that there was a huge difference between the types of sellers that were most successful among the top-performing sales staff. 

Almost three-quarters of top sellers use challenger selling styles in their approach to selling. There can be no doubt that the challenger approach is being widely used by high performers more than any other approach. 

For the enterprise sellers and those who have other more complex sales processes and/or who are in companies with a very complex sales process, the data shows that over 50% of top sellers in these organizations fit the Challenger type of seller. 

The Relationship Builder approach was largely adopted by only 7% of the top salespeople, on the other hand. 

Business Benefits Of Challenger Selling 

A modern-day product and service will always be more complicated than the one it was a few years ago, and so will its sales process. Gartner reports that 77% of B2B buyers say that their latest purchase was one that they found to be “very complex or difficult” in the recent past. 

There has never been a time when customers had so much access to information as they do now. There are countless details on a product and its experiences with customers that can be found online with a quick search. 

This causes customers to delay contacting salespeople while they do their own research so that when they are ready to speak with you or your sales team, they already know what they want. 

As the sales process is complex, there is a great deal of opportunity for businesses to take advantage of the Challenger sales model in this complex area. There has been some research that suggests that in complex sales conditions, the Challenger sale approach is the best solution to solve the sales problem. If it comes to complex sales, the Challenger methodology offers a winning formula when compared with other methods that stagnate. 

Challenger Sales Methodology – Pros & Cons 

Challenger sales models are beneficial to your sales force in many ways. Nevertheless, there are some disadvantages as well. Despite its ability to drive sales through constructive tension, the Challenger sales methodology does not work as well for average-performing salespeople or for products with simple sales cycles. Your high performers might benefit from training on this sales method first. 


  • Opens the door to discussing budgets with customers by identifying their economic drivers 
  • Gives customers an opportunity to explore a product in a way that other sales methods cannot 
  • Knows what the key value drivers are for the customer and is able to communicate them effectively 


  • Reps trained solely using relationship-building methods have a harder time implementing this 
  • Best used by only those sales reps who are at the top of their game 
  • Sales approaches with only complex sales cycles are best suited to this product 

Steps to Adopt the Challenger Methodology 

It is essential that sales reps take control of the sale and become artful influencers who help customers make a purchase decision before they can begin to implement the challenger sale methodology into their approach. It is similar to riding a rollercoaster in that the challenger sales strategy taps into the prospects’ most fearful fears, then raises their hopes by presenting the product as the solution, eventually ending on an adrenaline-fueled high with the prospect eager to make a purchase. 

The Challenger Sale can be adopted into your sales process in the following ways: 

  • Warm-up Prospects:  

You must first convince the prospect that you understand the challenges they face before you can adopt the Challenger sale approach. Your ideal target customer’s challenges, pain points, and needs must be researched for data to achieve this goal. The more foundation you build now, the better you will be able to sell later on because the more perspectives and solutions you provide for your prospects, the more likely they are to consider other perspectives. 

  • Reframe the Conversation:  

You should have already asked your prospect about their biggest problem, such as struggling with conversions or integrating new technology. In order to grow from their pain, you must now reframe it as an opportunity. However, your prospect is unlikely to have any plans for addressing the issue, although he or she may have strong opinions about it. During this process, you can begin to ask solution-focused questions so as to eliminate any misunderstandings they might have about your service and guide them towards the belief that your solution is appropriate. You apply the Challenger sale methodology by challenging your prospects to focus on your solution. This is not a sales pitch but rather an attempt to elicit curiosity in the prospect while putting pressure on them to solve a problem they cannot solve on their own. 

  • Evoke Emotion:  

There’s no such thing as a customer buying a feature, benefit, or advantage – they buy an emotion. Therefore, showing your audience versus telling them how your product works are the key to effectively selling your product or service. Whether you’re selling a B2B product or service, emotions play an important role. You can shift prospects’ perspectives by using storytelling as a sales tool. Alternatively, you could share the success stories of someone who used your solution and how it improved their lives or businesses. 

  • Value Propositions Should Be Highlighted:  

Your goal is to educate your prospects about what an ideal solution to their problem would look like without ever mentioning your product. When you present your product, you’ve already sold the prospect on the solution by presenting the answer first. Through techniques that reframe the prospect’s perspective, show them how you can help them solve their problem. 

  • Introduce the Product:  

It should be easy to take this last step if you have followed the previous steps exactly. The prospect’s problem has been identified, it has been reframed, the prospect has gained trust, and a solution has been proposed – all that needs to be done now is to reveal the solution. 


Sales reps need to be able to provide prospects with the Challenger sales model and methodology because sales processes are becoming more complex, and prospects are doing more research on their own before contacting them. 

If you’re willing to learn more about the challenger sales methodology, then you need to check out the UNext Jigsaw Executive Program in Strategic Sales Management 


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