3 Ways First Sales Interactions Are Fundamentally Flawed
Sales | Jul 25, 2019 | 3 min read
When we start the Challenger journey with organizations and spend time with their sales teams, we often observe salespeople conducting first sales interactions in one of three fundamentally flawed ways;
The conversation typically goes something like this: a seller starts the meeting, makes introductions and jumps right into an overview of their company. The seller tells the prospect how long they’ve been in business, shows them a nice shiny page of all the fancy logos they work with and then asks the customer about their business and what they’re struggling with.
The seller might go on to ask the most tired question in sales - “What keeps you up at night?” and risk sounding like everybody else walking into that prospect’s office. Worse yet, the seller hasn’t given the prospect a reason to care. Challengers don’t lead with their solution; they lead the customer to the solution.
Challengers have a visceral reaction to the word ‘discovery’, which is often associated with painful meetings where a salesperson asks question after question about pain points, the customer's business, its go to market strategy, who its typical customers are, the number of employees, etc.
It’s obvious from the line of questioning that the seller hasn’t done research and is trying to get the prospect to do some of the heavy lifting. When salespeople run discovery calls like this, they don’t create value and consequently waste a customer’s precious time. Think about this; how often do these types of discovery calls get moved or cancelled?
On the other hand, a meeting designed to explore the costs and risks of the customer's status quo – that’s a far less likely meeting to cancel. Challengers do their homework before a call; they prepare in a way that creates the greatest value for their prospects. They embed any smart discovery questions, where answers aren't easily available, in the context of the commercial insight they deliver.
Many organizations we’ve worked with have tried to do Challenger on their own by reading the books or working with an organization that claims to train on the Challenger concepts and help in building Challenger insight. In reality, organizations claiming to "support" Challenger often have only a surface level understanding of the core concepts.
As a result, sellers follow the six-step choreography (outlined below), but not fully. They lead with the Warmer to build credibility, tee up the Reframe of what the typical organization gets wrong and then, like Evel Knievel, jump right over the case for change and straight to the solution.
By skipping the Rational Drowning and Emotional Impact, they skip the critical step of making the pain of same greater than the pain of change – a core principle of the Challenger approach. By not walking in the ‘valley of despair’ with the customer and quantifying the cost of inaction, the seller misses an opportunity to give prospects a reason to care.
Sellers incorrectly think they need to get through all six choreography steps in a single meeting, when in reality they could spend the entire first meeting just on the Warmer and the Reframe. Success with the Challenger choreography is not defined by the time required to get through all six steps, but rather by following the right pattern and having each step powerfully resonate.
Challengers deliver Commercial Insight in their first sales interactions and every interaction thereafter. They create value by articulating how other organizations have struggled with an unrecognized, misunderstood or underappreciated problem. They set expectations before the call that the time invested will be a valuable use of the prospect’s time.
The last piece is perhaps the most critical: Challengers do not end meetings by asking prospects who else should be involved or ‘where we go from here?’ – they prescribe this information. (E.g. “Based on our work with organizations like yours, at this point we would want to include your marketing team”).
To Challengers, the end of a first sales interaction tees up a powerful request for the prospect that answers the four Ws;
Do your prospects associate conversations with you as ‘value add’ or are you perhaps guilty of one of the three mistakes outlined above?
True Challengers aspire to create enough value in a sales conversation that a prospect would pay just for the opportunity to have a conversation with them. A high bar? Yes, but trust me, it's what customers are looking for.
John is a Senior Consultant with the Challenger Activation team. He’s worked across 30+ Challenger transformations and has led the development of over 80 commercial insights in partnership with our clients. Before Challenger he worked in both corporate strategy and sales/marketing operations.