The Challenger Sale is a Break-through in Commercial Teaching

“The Challenger Sale isn’t so much a “selling system,” as it is a way to think differently about how to approach customer interactions.”

                    — Brent Adamson

You want so badly to win every booked meeting with your customer and you don’t want to struggle with the way you will approach them:  Why not opt for the Challenger Sale’s technique “Commercial Teaching”? A break-through in the world of sales in a more planned and organized way.

You simply want to win your prospects’ hearts and minds. Using the right elements and strategy to deliver your potential skills is worth trying since it adds another level of persuasiveness and memorable presentations during your meetings.

Think of the whole situation as when you ask a student what makes him or her successful in solving a problem or understanding a class. You probably won’t hear about some fantastic course books or video lecture series. Most likely you will hear something like:

“It was all about my teacher Mr. Jones. He just never gave up on me, he did his best to support us and provide us with the right material and assistance.”

Think of another scenario, you are sitting and watching a dance performance and it ended like the above framed picture. Watching it would certainly provide pleasure as well as a memorable experience. This is exactly what you should be leaving when holding your meeting with your prospects.

….You Listen to your prospects’ needs and pains, then your turn comes to relieve it, you are the “Perfomer”. But what you aim at is that your “performance” will provide a sense of quality and leave an appreciable effect in your customers. Your performance will help narrow down the gap of skepticism and second thought.

In any performance: The combination of movement, gesture, costume, set design, music and lighting all work together to take you on a journey. The adventure begins the moment you sit down in the theatre and the lights begin to dim.

That is exactly what it is about with your own prospect: You start your journey with them, you set up a meeting and make sure to drag everyone on board, to follow you and to listen to you attentively. Being clear in mind, doing your homework properly and having a well-prepared presentation will make you certain of high interest and ultimately more won deals.

As you might have read from our previous blog, a sales rep is a challenger and that means he/she needs to nail your meeting or “performance” making sure you follow the Three Ts that we spoke about in our earlier post (teach, tailor and take control).

Holding a Meeting Performance through Commercial Teaching?

Well, the objective behind being a teacher is not to teach your customer something from scratch but rather to be your constructive self, organized in how you begin your meeting and close it. It is also for the sake of identifying a core practice that you would perform during your meeting with your potential clients.

What does a teacher do?

  • Literally, a teacher’s mission is to be crystal clear in what he/she teaches and make sure that no one is missed out or no one is left behind.
  • You need to find a method and a structure where you highlight all your prospects’ pains and lay them on the table.
  • You need to teach them something new that they haven’t thought about from before.
  • You are the one to bring new materials and solutions to take them out from the deep shit.
  • You illustrate with data.

Proceeding in your Meeting: the beginning of Commercial Teaching

Above all, doing research on your customers is a smart move. You won’t attend your booked meeting without having a single idea on what your clients work with. This means having a simple agenda for a successful productive meeting with a specific outcomes sought to be achieved. During your meeting, it is needless and ineffective to ask to simple questions to your prospect for the sake of getting deeper into their business issue. This is because such questions imply that you know so little about your prospect’s issues that you can’t figure out the real problem.


You are in a meeting with a new prospect and you ask them these questions:

“What are some of your issues in your business?”

“What have you been experiencing as challenges in your business lately?”

“Have you done something about this X issue lately?”

Unquestionably, your questions convey that you as a sales rep know less about your prospect, their industry, their issues and you leave room for doubt when it comes to hiring you and your services.

The trick is not to make it about you but rather to show your prospect you have the upper hand on matters. Make sure not to book any single meeting nor to pick up the phone and call them until you have a message tailored to their case and issues.

That is how you build the link between what is suggested in “the Challenger Sale’s” book and what is referred to as “commercial teaching” and the purpose behind it is to build credibility and proficiency.

Let the Journey Begin: Techniques of Commercial Teaching

The day arrives and you are sitting face to face with your prospects. Certainly, you did a research, planned and prepared all your questions and you looked upon the issues your customer is facing. All you now need is to aim higher!

Well, start your meeting by breaking the ice which leaves a positive impression in your customer. Don’t spend half an hour presenting yourself and what you are working with. You are in a meeting where the focal is your prospect. This is exactly the idea behind the use of commercial teaching in the Challenger Sale book.

Think of your meeting as a choreographed dance that is coherently and cohesively designed. That each element in that dance lead the flow come to the next move and you are the only performer on the platform who is supposed to perform each move without flaw.

To succeed in your meeting, you need to follow these sex elements, worth bearing in mind while meeting your prospects.

 1.The Warmer

At your meeting, fully engaged and well prepared.  The teaching phase has already started when you stepped in from the door. You are supposed to teach them new perspectives in a compelling and assertive manner to drive actions. The purpose in this phase is to gain credibility and to show professionalism on one side and clarity of mind and aim for closing the deal with your own conditions on the other.

As a Warmer:

The most critical phase where you need to build and gain trust as quickly as possible through proving your understanding of the issue behind because this stage is followed by “the Reframe” one where you represent or re-describe the prospect’s problems and how they have been thinking about them in your “own words”.

So, make sure that your Warmer statement will include the following elements:

  1. Establish correlation and association to their business: Show prospects that you have worked with businesses like theirs and that you have a full grasp of their issue. It will be appreciated!
  2. Mastering your cunning and profession: Being able to convey to your customer what they are dealing with in a professional but simple visualized way will make them listen and follow you. Mentioning two or three common issues will make them just happy.
  3. Raise your customer’s curiosity: You want to involve your customers through-out the meeting, so keep your content sparse (don’t give too much solutions) and build suspense.
  4. Interact and communicate with your prospect: Your meeting’s success depends on a clear two-way interaction supported by visuals to reinforce credibility.
  5. The more your customers communicate their “pain” the more trust you gain.

Be a Good LISTENER – means a Good Teacher but a Sharp sales rep

To build a sturdy relationship with your prospective buyer, you always need to start listening to your prospect. Take your time to engage with them and gain a deep understanding of how your prospect’s business works and what issues are specific to them. Since you have a constrained time to talk to them, make sure you use it properly to show them your extensive knowledge and how you can challenge their outlook of how to get results in their business. Therefore, listen, increase your attention span, stay alert and connect with your prospect.

2.The Re-frame:

“The Reframe is the central moment of the commercial teaching pitch, as the entire conversation pivots off what you’re about to do next.”

                                                       … from the Authors of “The Challenger Sale”


The critical moment has come…

This is the phase where you need to negotiate and manage your alignment with your customer in relation to their issue. You stand at the climax with your prospect with the decision of Buy vs NOT to buy. What your prospect tries to achieve is to create a “focus negotiation frame”, which means your prospect think twice on how to consider all potential gains and losses and available options for different situations. This is the thing, Here comes the right application of the two elements we mentioned in our previous blog: “Tailor and Take control of your meeting”.  If you cleverly play your role as a challenger sales rep, then you turn the ball cleverly into your hand and wittily moves the focus of the decision making away at this stage.

So, remember all you need to do is to sway the focus of your prospect from taking a decision of buying vs not buying.

Once you listened to your customer’s pain, do not respond by giving a solution but rather redefine their problems and explain that the solution they imagined won’t help them solve their issues. Instead, astonish them with a new point of view where you will bring up a new set of ILLUMINATION AND MAKE THEIR HEAD SPIN! This doesn’t mean you will confuse them, but just rephrase their issue differently.


3.Rational Drowning vs Emotional Impact

As we stated from before, to reach out to your customers and tell them a story to involve them and draw their attention to the core of their story because the deeper you draw them with you to the bottom of their things, the more uncomfortable they become.

According to a study done by the University of Texas (Metzger, 1997) a person will remember 20% of what they hear but up to 80% of what they do and say. By aiming for the uncomfortable center of their own story, this leaves an emotional impact and build emotional connection if it is authentic. You leave an impression and you create a strong association with your brand or solutions you are providing. Although they try to act rationally and detach themselves from what you say, you need to take control by driving them from their comfort zone.

That is why you need to gradually intensify the seriousness of the problem as it is all about hard data. This means you take them out of an emotional state to a rational one.

Use visual metaphors to represent information in a prominent way: Bring proofs, use numbers (statistics, case studies), present graphs to illustrate true facts to make customers squirm a bit but simultaneously keep it rational to build their trust. And remember at this level, your prospect tries to remain as rational as possible. They try to be outside the story and act as an observer and see things factually without being emotionally attached.

No matter what, don’t jump to your solution yet, because your prospect need to be prepped with what will resolve their issue.

Cutting the Challenger process will lead you to fail becoming a challenger. So:

  • don’t focus on yourself to build credibility
  • don’t try to focus

So, don’t repeat many sales rep’s mistakes: as they tend to focus on themselves to build credibility, trust and you progress prematurely to talk about solution and selling rather than challenging your prospects main problems and need.

Unfortunately, you as a sale do not want to end up leading with solution but rather build a strong case where you will lead to sturdy, effective and operational solutions.

Actually, what happens in most cases is that 2/3 of prospects remain with the status quo because they see no compelling reason for change while sales reps push faster towards the buying cycle without getting bogged down to the main root. 

4. A New Way and Your Solution:

Once you have taken control, you will feel a release of tension within your prospects. Your audience are convinced of “your story” or what you provided as proofs. All you need to do at this moment is:

  1. To be quite careful not to wrap up yet.
  2. You have provided them with an unhappy story, now it’s time to provide the other positive side of the story.
  3. Direct them into a better future if they decide to take action and go with your offer.
  4. Show them the other side of life if they opt for your own solution. You are still not selling them your solution, you are just laying it out!

Last, provide your solution with the fact that it provides the new way and the new future of the company. For consistently better and better outcome, think that you sell the prospect on solving the right problem. To succeed in it, you need to LEAD your prospect TO your solution and not just present it on a golden plate.

The purpose from your commercial teaching is you go in with your old experiences and future expectations: Make a differentiation, to think distinctively and to challenge the status quo.  Do offer your prospects new perspectives.

Insight is about teaching customers to think differently, challenging the status quo or the way it has always been done before. Challenger reps leverage the collective knowledge of their organizations so that they can offer customers new perspectives. These new perspectives are aligned with the customer’s financial success in a compelling, assertive manner that both resonates and is a catalyst for changing behavior.

To learn how to perform according to the Challenger concept is not easy. Yet, trying, starting and aiming for a greater performance is certainly a worthwhile pick up!

It is not easy to think differently, challenging the status quo, respecting consensus and taking time to think and rethink the whole meeting. But, one thing you need to be sure of: Your prospects recognize their problem, they ask for “a solution”. But, this is not what they have to hear. They need to understand the consequences and that your solution is uniquely designed to solve their problem.


Aim higher, to get higher!

Well, have you tried this method or coached your sales reps using this technique of commercial teaching? how hard or easy it is to perform this way? Could you keep yourself within the frame of your performance in your meetings or have you changed during your meeting? Share with us your thought and experience?!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *