We’ve all heard of the challenger sales strategy — “change the conversation, change the game.” But we invited Bill Bice onto our B2B Revenue Acceleration podcast to give us insights into how the challenger sales works across the organization, combining with the marketing team, to drive dramatic revenue.
Bill started his first company when he was 18. Since then, he’s founded and/or advised 27 different companies.
He doesn’t need a marketer to paint lipstick on his product — his experience speaks for itself. And, he’s taken that experience into action as the CEO of boomtime, a company that specializes in word-of-mouth marketing. But Bill Bice has a message for B2B sales teams: Be consultants. Use the challenger sales methodology.
Here are the highlights from our interview:
The best sales reps are already making their own sales material
Many companies are excellent at creating marketing materials.
What they aren’t great at is creating marketing materials that sales reps actually use.
According to Bill, the best challenger sales reps in organizations often spend about 1/3 of their time creating their own marketing material. While this works for the individual, the organization is missing out on all that thought leadership, and since the information lives with the individuals, it’s not scalable.
Bill thinks there’s a better way.
If entire organizations will dedicate themselves to the challenger sales approach and infuse it into their marketing, it can breathe life into the entire organization, aligning both the sales and marketing functions.
For one, companies are in a far better place to leverage the thought leadership and understanding of their executive team. Plus, they can then mass produce both the challenger sales strategy and the materials that are needed to unify the team under such an approach. Finally, this also gives back the top sales reps their time.
But you can take it even further: If you really embrace the challenger sales methodology, then you hire for it and train for it. “We’ve found tremendous value with every sales team in implementing the challenger sales approach, because what it does it creates sales opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise exist.”
Who can become a challenger sales rep?
I asked Bill who can become a challenger sales rep. He noted the 5 archetypes of sales people found in The Challenger Sale:
The 5 archetypes of sales reps:
- The hard worker
- The lone wolf
- The relationship builder
- The challenger
- The problem-solver
Bill said that while the “challenger” actually has its own archetype listed, he believes each of those reps has the ability to use the challenger sales approach. In fact, he actually thinks that it’s more of an approach than a specific type of person.
Position you company as an organization of consultants
The basis of the challenger sale is that you’re teaching your prospect, because you are a subject-matter expert, allowing you to take charge of the conversation. This is extremely helpful to your prospects. When sales reps begin to look at their role as consultants, they shift from a “sales” mentality to an “I can help” mentality.
Often, they may not sell anything at all (at first). Instead, they’re giving advice and providing expertise on areas they have expertise in.
Example of challenger sales rep in action:
We’ve seen the power of this challenger sales approach firsthand here at Operatix.
One of our top sales reps, who consistently uses the challenger sales methodology, recently had an amazing experience while assisting a longtime client of his. This particular client had recently shifted companies. While he had purchased many services from our sales rep before, he was extremely honest when he moved companies — “I won’t be buying anything from you at my new post.”
But, because of their long standing relationship, the contact actually asked for a favor from our rep:
“I know you’re an expert at sales strategy (what we do here at Operatix), and my new role includes managing a sales strategy. Could I pick your brain?”
Our rep obliged, knowing it would never turn into a sell.
He was wrong.
He provided plenty of strategy about building a sales team, and spent a good amount of time on it, never thinking it would turn into anything — he was simply being a consultant.
When his sales methodology was provided to the higher-ups, they actually asked if they could bring on the designer of the strategy as a paid consultant because of how thorough the strategy was.
That’s an example of what happens when you start out as a consultant instead of just a sales rep.
We’ve found tremendous value with every sales team in implementing the challenger sales approach because it creates sales opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise exist.
The challenger sale is basically word-of-mouth at scale
Here’s another interesting piece about the challenger sale:
It’s basically word-of-mouth … at scale.
Here’s how it plays out in practice:
If you continually post thought-provoking content on your LinkedIn network (blogs, podcasts, tips, etc.), then you are constantly attracting and affirming your network through your expertise, pulling others in closer and closer.
You aren’t selling — you’re sharing.
Each time someone clicks, reads, or listens to you, they’re thinking, “This person is a subject-matter expert.”
If and when they, or someone they know, needs to purchase a related product or service, you will be top of mind.
2 tips for any organization considering making the jump to the challenger sales methodology:
The challenger sale is a long term commitment for an organization
For any organization to be successful with the challenger sales methodology, they have to commit to the approach for the long term. It’s not a quick fix, and Bill says that while there may be some quick wins, he believes the biggest issue most orgs face when attempting to make the jump is that they expect the challenger sales/consultative approach to immediately work.
That’s directly against the foundational idea — you have to choose the consultative route, knowing that it’s a long term game.
Use subject-matter experts for your content
Considering the difficulty involved with creating the massive amount of content needed to generate inside-driven sales, many organizations are tempted to hire copywriters who are experts at writing but not necessarily subject-matter experts.
Nothing against copywriters, but if you hire someone who is a professional writer across a variety of industries, you’ll potentially be hiring someone who may have just been working with a car dealership last week, and now, you’re spending more of your time educating them then they are writing.
Instead, hire subject-matter experts.