Many of our clients have asked us to interpret the 2019 Gartner for Sales Leaders study of “Givers”, “Tellers”, and “Sense Makers”. These are presented as new behavioral profiles for sellers, with a focus on sharing information with customers during the buying journey.
Not surprisingly, according to the Gartner research, Sense Makers win. But at the risk of creating too many winning seller profiles, many Challenger clients are also asking: how does this study reconcile with what Challengers do?
After supporting over 600 clients in implementing the Challenger model across the last 10 years, we see the answer as very simple. In short, Challengers ARE Sense Makers.
Why challengers make sense
Challengers are surgical and highly strategic in how and when they share information with customers, simplifying and prioritizing the right facts and ideas to support their Commercial Insights.
They also follow a sales process that is mapped directly to the customer’s buying journey. Challengers deliberately use Verifiers to ensure that the customer’s buying group is along for the ride. They target their most salient commercial insights towards Mobilizers, or customer stakeholders with whom they partner to navigate a messy and sometimes non-linear buying journey.
Of course, the broader sales and marketing organization must help to develop and distribute the information a seller delivers, and ensure that the right information is available to the seller at the right time and place to efficiently close new deals.
There are real benefits found in the Sense Maker profile, and its skills of Connection, Clarification and Collaboration, particularly once the Commercial Insight is established, a Mobilizer is found and Taking Control of the buying journey is in full swing. Sense Making can align the message found in marketing content with the message shared by sales people, fostering better sales/marketing collaboration. The skills also help sellers better feed their Mobilizers the best possible information to build consensus and navigate the buying journey.
That said, we should be cautious about redefining the center of the seller’s skill set, particularly as it becomes harder to gain initial access, shift status quo thinking, build consensus and reach a purchase decision in complex B2B sales.
The beauty of Challenger – and a primary reason for the transformation in sales philosophy it’s engendered – is its close connection to truths about persuasion that are thousands of years old and transcend language and culture.
Challenging is what top sellers are born to do
People sell to people by engaging around ethos (credibility), logos (rational arguments) and pathos (emotionally engaging stories). Engagement with content (as powerful as that content might be) can’t substitute for skilled two-way Challenger dialogue in ultimately moving individuals to action.
In our experience, what truly excites the hundreds of thousands of sellers on the Challenger journey is that they – through their own skill, creativity and teaching expertise – are capable and responsible for leading customers to positive action and improved business outcomes.
This power and influence over the sales experience gets sellers up and working in the morning when the job has become significantly harder to do. Investing in the value of the seller as a skilled professional will keep them motivated and engaged – which is badly needed – and will differentiate the best sellers from the rest.
Sense Maker research is a re-affirmation that in today’s buying and selling environment – one filled with good information along with lots of white noise – the best sellers, i.e. Challengers, are out there making sense of the world for their customers. It builds on, but perhaps should not redefine, being a Challenger.