What Sets Challenger Sales Reps Apart?

The nature of sales has changed. B2B customers are now more informed than ever and they expect to be challenged constructively by sales reps. Welcome to the age of the ‘challenger sales rep’.

What sets challenger sales reps apart? Well, they understand the diverse complexity that customers face and are able to discuss this at different levels. In other words: 1) they can talk strategy with functional buyers and 2) have solution-oriented conversations with IT decision-makers and experts.

After all, the days of one product or one solution fitting the needs of your customer are long gone. A combination of solutions, at the least, is needed. And this requires the salesperson to be more ‘curious’. Salespeople have to be willing to venture into the unknown.

Challenger sales reps are the ones who challenge their customers and come up with the type of solution customers hadn’t thought of yet. This also means being able to bring different parties around the table (for more on this, see Margaret Franco’s blog: ‘Stronger Together – Breaking C-Suite Barriers Through Digital Transformation’).

As such, it’s often the challenger sales rep who can bring the pieces of the puzzle together. Sometimes, it may mean that they have to use an ‘IT-jigsaw’ to make the pieces fit their customer’s very specific puzzle.

The challenger sales rep has to work smarter

As a salesperson, here’s the good news: being a challenger sales rep doesn’t mean you have to work harder. It means, above all, working smarter. And that means collaborating more: 1) with your customers as well as 2) with other internal teams. And the first and natural ally of sales internally is… marketing!

Completing the end-to-end sales cycle (from enablement over lead gen qualification to completed purchase) can only happen in close collaboration with the marketing colleagues. One way we facilitate this internally at Dell EMC, is by developing a ‘challenger sales’ training program.

Good to know:

  • The line where marketing ends and sales begins has become fuzzy (flou en français, almost fou, which means crazy).
  • Also the age-old split between farming and hunting is no longer a strict dichotomy.

Challenger sales in practice

At Dell EMC, our strategically aligned businesses each provide several pieces of the complex IT puzzle that companies face today.

The sales challenge we see, as a diverse group, is understanding the IT-puzzle our customers are trying to make and providing the right pieces to make them successful.

That starts with an open and honest dialogue on what is needed and what is possible.

It means challenging our customers at different levels to create the biggest gains for them. And it means challenging ourselves from time to time to think beyond traditional boundaries and, instead, place the customer’s solution in the center. The right solution might no longer be found in just one place. It may require the combination of multiple solutions from different providers.

For example, for one of Russia’s main banks, we were able to piece together a puzzle that comprised their customer loyalty and their corporate investment subsidiaries. By challenging them, we were able to set up a technological ecosystem for more effective data storage and analysis. This lead to significantly lower costs and greater flexibility and scalability compared to their earlier legacy set-up.

And boy, it sure does feel great to see our customers overachieve because we were able to challenge them.

I’m convinced that more and more industries are faced with heightened complexity. So where do you see the potential for a challenger sales approach in your organization?

About the Author: Stéphane Reboud

Stéphane Reboud joined Dell in 2003 and has just been appointed as Chief of Staff & VP Strategically Aligned Businesses reporting to EMEA Commercial President Aongus Hegarty. Prior he was over 3 years Vice President Global Services Sales for EMEA. Among previous assignments with Dell, he acted as France GM for Consumer Small & Mid-Market division, EMEA Sales Operations director and Sales Director for Southern Europe on Small Business. He started his career in the UK as Product Manager with General Cable, alternative telco operator. He then moved to the Netherlands to set-up mobile operator Orange/France Telecom Mobile as Products & Services Director before joining Vivendi Telecom Hungary as Chief Marketing Officer. 50 years old, Stéphane holds both an Engineering degree from Telecom Sud Paris and a Master from ESCP Europe. He was honored reaching 3rd rank of “Sales Director 2011” from business magazine “Action Commercial”. Stéphane is actively engaged within the community as Vice-President of Montpellier Business School and EMEA sponsor for MARC (Many Advocating Real Change) at Dell to promote Diversity and Inclusion.