A certain man wanted to learn to play the piano. He watched skilled players for a while and, assuming that was all there was to it, sat down to imitate what he saw. As you can imagine, he didn’t create great music. Although his arm and hand motions looked expert and correct, he was missing the most important part – touching the exact right notes at the exact right time.

Success in many endeavors is about exactly this. In sales, for example, it’s about applying the right skills, using the right tools, taking the right actions, at the right points in the customer’s decision-making journey. We’ve long known that Challenger skills (Teach, Tailor, Take Control) are essential to support success in complex sales, but it is also important to consider WHEN and HOW to use them. To make the “when” easier, Challenger has put together a simple mnemonic framework  ̶  TEMPO  ̶  that can guide when and how to apply Challenger skills to a day-to-day sales motion. This blog serves as a high-level introduction to the idea.  

Each letter is meant to describe a stage in a common sales process. We hope you find that these stages generally align to sales processes you might use. This framework will help embed the Challenger approach into day-to-day selling activities.

Let’s explore how each stage of TEMPO might fit into a common sales process.

In TARGET, sellers spend time researching and identifying customers mostly likely to be receptive to commercial insight. They prioritize their accounts, segment their territories, understand customer profiles, and recognize how their products and services fit within the competitive landscape. This is proper due diligence to make for most effective prospecting.

From here, a seller transitions into the ENGAGE stage. Delivering Commercial Insight is at the heart of this step. The focus should be on creating a compelling argument to spark the customer’s attention and then more fully introduce the insight.  

Once the seller has the customer’s interest, they begin to explore different stakeholder needs and manage consensus to move the opportunity forward. This stage, MANAGE, involves coaching customer Mobilizers toward internal consensus-building and tailoring conversations to keep the momentum going.

The groundwork is now laid for the PLAN TO CLOSE. Here, the seller must have productive closing conversations and work to negotiate terms and conditions that deliver value to everyone. This step is about taking and maintaining appropriate levels of Constructive Tension to close the deal.

OPERATE & GROW represents the hand-off to customer success and account management. Engaging with customers through the entire cycle can shift a relationship beyond transaction and into transformation, resulting in valuable customer improvement at scale, and over time.

Each situation is different. TEMPO is designed to be sales process agnostic. It allows organizations to follow the process that best suits them, but also have a framework to translate Challenger principles to that process. Time and effort in the various stages is not meant to be equal or rigidly defined. Depending on the complexity of an opportunity, you can choose to spend more or less time and energy on any given stage, crafting a solution best suited to your seller, your buyer, and your needs. Like hitting the right notes at the right time to make beautiful music, using TEMPO helps organizations clarify where, how, and when to use different components of Challenger. This will better prepare you to win complex deals.


Want to learn more?

Download the TEMPO Introduction, which will give you even more insights on how to execute Challenger in your sales process.


Challenger is hosting a webinar series, Winning The Challenger Sale, that includes a discussion of the TEMPO framework. Click here to register.

Spencer Wixom

Spencer Wixom

Spencer is Senior Vice President of Marketing at Challenger, and has helped transform sales and marketing teams in some of the biggest and best companies in the world.