Taking control of the customer conversation: Challenger Sales model

Yasser Said, vice president of Informatica’s global sales operations, describes how to roll out and support today’s highly effective Challenger Sales model.

“There needs to be a coordinated effort for an organization to successfully make the transition to the Challenger Sales model.”

—Yasser Said, vice president of global sales at Informatica

As consumers get savvier, sales professionals are looking for new ways to deliver insights about customers’ business needs. Fortunately, authors Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson of the Corporate Executive Board offer an excellent strategy in their book, The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation, which explains how to tailor sales messages to facilitate a more provocative sell.

To transition successfully to the Challenger Sales model, a sales organization must have the proper metrics and infrastructure in place. Only then can a sales organization provide truly clean and accurate data. And it’s precisely this data that’s needed to improve account segmentation, optimize territory alignment, measure account potential, and gauge performance.

Yasser Said, vice president of global sales at Informatica, sat down with Potential at Work to describe the Challenger Sales model. He also discusses how sales organizations can build and maintain a data infrastructure that supports this cutting-edge selling strategy.

How would you describe the Challenger Sales model? What are its benefits?

Said: The Challenger Sales model focuses on three key areas: First, it educates the customer by offering unique perspectives and open dialogue on core objectives and trends in the industry. Next, it provides tailored communication by understanding a customer’s value drivers and identifying economic drivers. And last, it guides the customer through the buying cycle—through engagement—and asks the tough questions during the process.

The benefits of this model are twofold: For one, customers’ levels of engagement increase as they begin to reap the benefits of the Challenger Sales model. This is done by gaining the broader understanding of what’s going on in the industry. In turn, as a company, we gain a better understanding of customer needs as they relate to our solutions.

The Challenger Sales model is based on using clean and accurate data. How can sales professionals leverage this data to suit customers’ specific needs?

Said: Understanding where a customer is in their buying cycle is critical. We need to have the right information, gathered through a variety of media, about what stage a customer is in. We can then provide the right solution assets to them as they are browsing the web, or through direct customer engagement. There are a lot of different tools out there. The key is to use them appropriately without overloading the customer in the process. Remember, the key items in the Challenger Sales model are to teach and tailor the engagement.

What are the organizational implications?

Said: The Challenger Sales approach requires support from across the organization. It ranges from marketing content that emphasizes a solution’s value to sales enablement and change management. There needs to be a coordinated effort for an organization to successfully make the transition to the Challenger Sales model.

How can this model drive greater customer loyalty?

Said: In a word, “insight.” Customers become fans of the model because of the value it delivers to them and their business. They notice the unique, valuable perspectives that a vendor is able to provide, whether it’s to help them navigate alternatives and avoid potential landmines or learn about new issues and outcomes. These key factors allow a vendor to become a trusted business partner that bolsters customer loyalty.

What steps is Informatica taking to embrace this model?

Said: First, we started by educating our internal groups about what it is and why it is important. We’re now starting to go through our management training content to revamp those tools for better enablement. We still have a lot to do but it is a journey—and an exciting one!

For more on Challenger Sales, check out the Corporate Executive Board.

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