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The Rise Of "The Challenger Sale": Corporate Executive Board Research Confirms The Demise Of Relationship Selling

ARLINGTON, Va., Nov. 14, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Corporate Executive Board (CEB) (NYSE: EXBD), a leading research and advisory services firm, today announced the release of " The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation," a new book that confirms companies are wasting precious time and money cultivating sales people who focus on building and maintaining relationships instead of teaching business insights—the number one attribute customers value in today's complex selling environment. " The Challenger Sale" prescribes specific steps companies can take to develop a sales force of Challengers, which in a study of more than 6,000 sales reps, consistently outperformed other types of sales reps by nearly 15 percent.

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Challenger reps are defined not by overly aggressive behavior, but by their ability to teach new insights, tailor the message for different types of stakeholders and take control of the overall sales conversation.  In contrast to Relationship Builders, who seek to resolve tension throughout the sale, Challengers maintain a certain amount of constructive tension across the sale to keep it moving forward.    

"When it comes to star-performing sales profiles, there is a clear winner and a clear loser. The dominant performance of the Challenger profile stands in stark contrast to that of the Relationship Builder profile, which represents only four percent of sales stars in complex sales.  It's ironic given that Relationship Builder is the profile most sales leaders have placed the biggest bets on," says co-author Matthew Dixon, managing director, CEB.

The success of the Challenger profile is not surprising given that more than 53 percent of what drives B2B customer loyalty is the sales experience itself.  While business customers perceive very little difference between suppliers in terms of brand, product, service and price, they perceive huge difference in terms of the quality of the sales experience.

"SPIN Selling" author Neil Rackham notes in the book's forward that "Customers have been demanding more depth and expertise. They expect salespeople to teach them things they don't know.  These are the core skills of Challengers.  They are the skills of the future, and any sales force that ignores the message of this book does so at its peril."

The good news for companies whose ranks are not already filled with Challenger sales reps is that Challengers aren't only born, they can be made. "Up to 80 percent of sales reps can become Challengers when armed with the right tools, training and coaching. Companies can immediately begin to leverage the un-tapped value locked away in the core of their sales force," says co-author Brent Adamson, managing director, CEB. "By transforming the existing sales force into a Challenger sales force, companies can begin to realize the financial benefits associated with higher levels of sales performance."

Organizations that want to  take advantage of the benefits Challenger Reps deliver should:
  • Generate Buy In – From the senior-most executives to the sales force team members, an organization must form consensus and buy in to the Challenger vision as the new way forward for sales.
  • Identify Their Challenger Deficit – An organization first needs to assess their sales reps and determine what percentage of the team does and does not fit the Challenger profile.  For those who do not, companies should help reps understand what it will take for them to close their skill gap.
  • Align Marketing Support – Sales should educate marketing on the value of customer insight in today's solutions selling environment and the crucial role marketing plays in generating teachable insights for sales reps to deliver to customers.  
  • Reinforce Challenger Behaviors – A close working partnership between sales and human resources is a must in order to provide effective training and coaching for sales staff that reinforces Challenger behaviors on an ongoing basis.

For more information on the Challenger Selling Model or to purchase a copy of " The Challenger Sale," visit: To join the Challenger discussion, visit:   LinkedIn: The Challenger Sale by CEB.  " The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation," is published by Portfolio, a division of Penguin Group USA.

About Corporate Executive Board

By identifying and building on the proven best practices of the world's best companies, Corporate Executive Board (CEB) helps senior executives and their teams drive corporate performance. CEB offers comprehensive data analysis, research and advisory services that align to executive leadership roles and key recurring decisions.   CEB tools, insights, and analysis empower member companies to focus efforts, move quickly, and address emerging and enduring business challenges with confidence. CEB's client and member network includes 85 percent of the Fortune 500, 50 percent of the Dow Jones Asian Titans, and 70 percent of the FTSE 100.   It spans more than 50 countries, 5,300 individual organizations, and 225,000 business professionals. For more information, visit

SOURCE Corporate Executive Board

Copyright 2011 PR Newswire. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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