Timur Hicyilmaz

Selling, by one definition, is fundamentally about communication and presentation: how do you make the most of those precious moments of two-way dialogue you have with a buyer? 

Given the stakes involved, much attention has been spent on the mechanics of this dialogue. It’s relatively easy to get caught up in particular do’s and don’ts. 

Communication vs a polished Image 

The Challenger database of seller skills offers some clues as to where to focus. In dialogue moments, should we worry about sellers maintaining a polished image or is it more important that they engage in effective two-way communication, listening and conveying ideas? 

As it happens, the answer should be somewhat liberatingTake a look below at the orange line: on balance, projecting a polished image is certainly worth something but maybe worth less than you’d think. Somebody who excels at projecting a polished image but not at two-way communication has only a 15% chance of being a high performer.

That’s considerably lower than the overall high performer average which comes in at 20%, and only a few percentage points better than doing neither thing particularly well (11%). 

Conversely, excelling at two-way communication on its own, in the absence of projecting a polished image, equates to a 19% likelihood of being a high performer (right at the overall average). As ever, doing both well creates a significant bump in performance, bringing high performer likelihood to 27%, significantly above the overall average. 

The crucial insight here is that two-way communication is a foundation of selling that can’t be substituted by even the most polished of presentations.

As Dale Carnegie famously said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

Opening  the lines of communication 

We have written much about Challenger choreography and the delivery of commercial insight.  It’s critical that this be a dialogue, not a monologue. A skilled Challenger seller puts forward an idea, coupled with open-ended questions to test the reaction of his/her audience.

This is how he/she tests for the presence of a Mobilizer for the insight.  Well placed questions help to uncover a buyer’s skepticism and responding to the buyer’s questions can highlight whether the seller is dealing with a legitimate partner in this buying journey or more of a Talker.

We also recommend considering how this research informs a content strategy. Does the content provided outside the sales interaction support presentation of a polished image or does it expand/enhance an ongoing dialogue with this customer.  Does it ask, in written form, the same questions sales people would ask if the dialogue were live? It needs to, if you want to perform. 

Timur Hicyilmaz

Timur has been conducting research for most of his career. He was part of the team that researched many of the original concepts behind Challenger. Mostly focused on trying to better understand how commercial organizations succeed, Timur has spent time working on everything from trying to understand consumer attitudes toward energy consumption to identifying best practices for hospital operations leaders. His passion is for trying to identify strategies that are more likely to deliver a desired outcome than any others.