The Sales Hacker Podcast
The Sales Hacker Podcast

Episode · 3 years ago

37: The Fundamentals of Challenger Selling with Challenger Author, Brent Adamson

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

This week on the Sales Hacker podcast, we talk to Brent Adamson, who co-authored the foundational sales book, The Challenger Sale, and who has recently released The Challenger Customer: Selling to the Hidden Influencer Who Can Multiply Your Results.  Brent walks us through the key foundational elements of Challenger concepts and gives us the tools we need to get started with a new approach to sales.

One, two, one, three, three, hey everybody, welcome to the salesaccer podcast. It's your host, Sam Jacobs. I'm the founder of the revenue collective. We've now got chapters in Boston, Denver, Toronto, London, Amsterdam and New York. So we are becoming the largest global community for commercial executives at high growth companies in the world, and I'm also the chief for Hav an officer off behaveos. But today, as you know, I am hosting the PODCAST and we're focused on an interview with somebody that we all should know about. It's Brent Adamson. So Brent Adamson was the CO author of the Challenger Sale and also the newly released the Challenger customer, which the full title is the Challenger customer, selling to the hidden influencer who can multiply your results. Brent's a frequent contributor on sales topics at HBR, Harvard Business Review. He's been published in Bloomberg Business Week, Forbes and selling power. He's been at Gartner, originally corporate executive board, for fifteen years. And we are talking with literally the guy who wrote the book, one of the guys who wrote the book on the entire Challenger concepts, starting with the Challenger sale and two thousand and eight and now with the newly released challenger customer, which was a really important book that I've recently just finished reading and super important for sort of multi stakeholder complex enter price sales cycles, of which I am typically involved. Now, before we get started, we want to thank our sponsors, as always. The first is air call. Are All as a phone system designed for the modern sales team. They seamlessly integrate into your crm. They're eliminating data entry for your reps and they give you greater visibility into your teams for performance through advance reporting. When it's time to scale, you can add new lines and minutes and use in caall coaching to reduce Ram time. For you new reps, visit are call io forward sales hacker. That's are called dot io forward salesec or type that into computer right now. Buy something from them so that we can keep making the podcast and see why a bunch of other amazing companies all using are called. Our second sponsor is also outreach. Outreach Dot ioh is the leading sales engagement platform. Outreach triples the productivity of sales teams and empowers them to drive predictable and measurable revenue growth by prioritizing the right activities and scaling customer engagement with intelligent automation. Outreach makes customer facing teams more effective and improves visibility into what really drives results. So go over to outreach dot IO, forward sales hacker, where you can see how thousands of customers, including cloud are, glass door, Pandora Zillo, all rely on outreach to deliver. And finally, finally, want to thank some fans out there that have been emailing me and reaching out to me on Linkedin. Rachel Gray, Brent Gionia, I hope I pronounce his last name correctly, Laura Gara, Alice and Krieger, Walsh, Timothy Hartnett, Harrison Johnson, make Gujia, and then or in Freedman, who was emailing me back and forth. We were talking about podcast concepts and he said that he's hoping for something like an hour and a half of long, like Joe Rogan. If you guys are interested in something of that length, really going deep with the particular interview subject, drop me a line and Linkedin and let me know. So that's been a long preample. Let's get to the heart of the matter, which is an amazing conversation with Brent Adamson, the CO author of the Challenger Sale, the CO author of the Challenger customer and a really respected, an acclaimed author and speaker and facilitator from Gartner. So let's listen. Hey, everybody, it's Sam Jacobs, the host of the sales hacker podcast. I'm also the founder of the revenue collective and the chief of an officer a company called Behave Os. Today we are extremely excited. We're talking to one of the CO authors of not just a series of books, but really a methodology and a philosophy that has really transformed how people sell over the last fifteen, twenty years, and the first book, which I'll mention, had a big impact on me and then the second book, which actually just read, had an even bigger impact because I'm in the middle of a company who sells exactly the way that that this book describes. So, without further ado, let's talk about who were going to be talking to right now.

Brent Adamson is a distinguished vice president at Gartner. He's the CO author of the Challenger Sale, taking control of the customer conversation and the newly released the Challenger customer selling to the hidden influencer who can multiply your results. In addition, Brent's a frequent contributor on sales topics on Harvard business reviews blog, as well as being published in Bloomberg Businessweke, Forbes and selling power. Brent's been at the company for fifteen years through the acquisition of Corporate Executive Board. That then became Ceb into Gartner, and then before that, many, many years ago, he was he was teaching German, I think, at Michigan State University and Lansing Michigan. So He's been doing this for fifteen years. been doing this for a long time. Welcome, Brent Tay Sam's great to be with you and everyone. It's a should be a fun conversation. Looking forward to it. I think we're. First of all, we're just honored to have you, but there's probably three people in the world but that aren't familiar with the Challenger sale at this point and so for their benefit, even though you know the rest of the eight billion, Ur walk us through that first critical, almost revolutionary you know it's a book but, as I mentioned, it's a philosophy, it's it's a way of life, and talk to us about what the central tenets of the Challenger sale are before we dive into the challenge or customer. But shares. AM absolutely. I be happy to do the I've never really thought of it as a way of life before, but I kind of like that. Yeah, for what it's worth, my perspective, what I really think of as more anything else, and for that matter the challenge of customer as well, is his research and and that's does the if you go back fifteen years in my weird background as an academic, you know I've essentially built a twenty, five, thirty year career of researching and teaching that kind of things, and for the last fifteen years it's been be tob sales and marketing. And so if you go back to about two thousand and eight, two thousand and nine, you're you remembered two thousand and eight. Say things were not so good if you were selling back in two thousand and eight because even if you were selling, nobody was buying right the economy was about to go off a cliff. Things were really dire and if you talk to heads of sales around the world as we did back then and we continue to. The one thing you heard over and over again, well, you here two things. One was we're not selling anything, and there was near I don't about panic, but a lot of concern, obviously, as just demand dried up. But the thing that was the second thing we heard was really intriguing to all of us, including heads of sales who were sharing it with us, was how is it that an arguably the single worst economy in recent memory, if not ever, I still have these one or two people in my team who are crushing their number, who are still at hunting. Everyone else is a forty percent agal and I got these two people at a hundred and forty percent agle. How is that even possible? And so that that led us on a journey, through a huge amount of research that continues on to this day in fact, to try to figure out what sets those very different and very fact of sales professionals apart from everyone else. And and in doing that work that's what led ultimately to the challenger sale and the premise and really the findings at the work is largely based on this idea that when we studied what originally was about six thousand sales reps is now well over a hundred units, somewhere between one and two hundred thousand Reps. last time I checked all over the world, across geographies, go to market models, channels, industries, you name it, and we tried to understand what sets the best part from everyone else and, low behold, not something we'd originally planned on studying. But it turned out, and we can come back to all the methodology Sim if you want, but just very briefly, it turns out virtually every sales professional is this tendency to fall into one of five distinct profiles. There's a relationship builder, a challenge or a hard worker, and so I know what was really interesting is when we step back and looked at these five profiles, and is that when and compare them to actual performance, we found one of the five was performing head and shoulders above the other for one of them was falling dramatically behind, and was prettically interesting, particularly back, you know, in two thousand and eight, when we show these results ahead of sales, they would tell you what. It's actually kind of hard to look at because we're placing our biggest bet on the profile least likely to win and so the profile most likely to win was a challenger. Up in the one least likely to win was, in fact, what we've ultimately come to relationship builder, and it's led us on this journey of trying to understand who are these challengers? What are they doing that is so different? What about these relationship builders? Do relationships not matter in sales? I think we'd all agree relationships absolutely do matter in sales, although even that is changing.

But it all comes back down to this verious, fundamental question, which is what is the relationship that you're seeking to establish with your your customers? What is it built on? Is it built on purely familiarity? Where is it built on something we've come to called insight, your ability to come to your customer and challenge their thinking, thus name challenger, teach them a new way to think, not about your company, but to think about their company, and a new way to make money, save money, mitigate risk and ways that they didn't even know where possible. And it's those sales professionals who can diplomatically, professionally, culturally correctly challenge the thinking of their customer to get that customer think differently about what they're doing. How they're running their business a new way to be more competitive that they hadn't fully appreciated. They're the ones that are most likely to win. So that the Challenger story is all about who are these individuals? How can we replicate those behaviors? What are the skills behind it? What does that insight look like? You name it, you know, one of the the things that I've noticed in the in my travels is that a lot of people haven't really read the book, but they see the name the challenger, and they say, Oh yeah, we do challenger, and what they mean is sort of like this aggressive, confrontational style, I like being adversarial with the customer, which is which is not what it means. What it means is what you just said, which is challenge the thinking and sort of bring commercial insight and commercial teaching into the conversation so that you can teach them how to think about a new a new way of thinking about their business. What was it in your research that? How do you do that, like, how do you figure out what are the insights that you should bring? I'm sure it's a conversation that could last hours, but what are some of the highlights in terms of developing the right tools so that a rep can can move from relationship builder to Challenger. It's interesting for by the way, I'd say real quickly the the thing that I think is funny is I even a little I'm a little concerned with people say, Oh, we do challenger, we did read a book, because there's so much we've learned since we wrote that book about the world and the world that we're all selling into and it much of it actually is in fact captured in book number two, the Challenger customer, which is at then the direct answer to your question, which is how do we go about challenging the customer in the way not that they think about us, but they think about their own business and and so actually raises really eating questions and which we explore and significant depth of book number two, which is if you're going to change the way your customer thinks about their business, and what's the first thing you got to understand? What do you think? What do I think? Well, I have to one of the things I need to help them understand is that the status quo is untenable. Yep, that's good. I like where you're starting with. Let me let me but there's a real specific answers. Questions a bit of a trick question to so it's a little unfair to putch on the spot. Wrong. Nobody laughing. Get it wrong. You got it right, but I'm going to back up a step and just think I'm in really boil it down to brass tacts, which is, if you're going to change the way a customer thinks about their business, what's the first thing you have to understand? And most people to answer that questions why I got to understand their business. And it's almost drape and not quite, which is it's not so much you have to understand their business, but if you can change away a customer thinks about their business, the first thing you have to understand is how they think about their business. You have to understand what we've come to call a mental model, and this is what we break down and get into a lot of detail of carts, couple chapters, and book number two is how does that customer, that perspective customer, that current customer, think about their business? What do they prioritize? What do they think is important? What are they currently running after? What are their priorities? What are their goals and a source of course, you know, in the old sort of classic solution selling approach we used to say, well, yeah, you have to understand the stuff is. Just go ask them all those questions. Be See what are you working on, what's keeping up and I what are your priorities? And nobody has the time or the patients to answer all those questions are being interrogated by a sales rap. But nonetheless that is the starting point. So there's a there's a lot of work. That mean note not just the individual level, what the organizational role. Where they supply our organization, you know, collaboratively, can sit down and say what do we know about a customer, not just discustomer, but a customer like this? How to, how to organizations like this typically operate? What do they typically consider to be important in working with other companies like that? What we found to be their key challenges? And then step back and it once you lay all that out. So the lay out that mental model. That's sort of step one. How does that customer think about their business? What do they think is important? And the step two is the do something really sort of contrarian, which is it back and say, okay, what they miss would they get wrong?...

So normally we ask those questions to find out what do you think? Okay, if that's what you think, here's how I can deliver help. But rather and step two in the Challenger world. Is Okay, if that's what you think. What do you overlook it? What did you miss? Where might your logic be faulty or incomplete? Again, not with a view towards correcting them or fixing them per se, but adding to their knowledge, helping them understand the world and from perspective they haven't fully appreciate it on their own. So so we think about in terms of building a mental model and then breaking a mental model. So build a model. How do they think about the world, and then break that model. How can how can we help them think about it in a more effective way than they're doing on their own right now? Do we have to read the books and sequence? Is it helpful? What are the key differences? Obviously, one ostensibly is about the rap and about the qualities of a proper sales cycle and the second is about understanding the customer better. But should we read them in sequence? And what are the key distinctions between the Challenger sale and the challenge or customer? Well, you know I think in many ways the book I'd read first is the book I'n't written yet, which is the third one which is up in my head. So it's not doing anybody any good right now. But the because I think all of the context within which all of this is happening is changing really fast and it's the context is not on the selling side, it's on the buying sides. We just see customers be to be customers engage in just radically different sets of buying behavior than the we're even on our radar screen when you first wrote the book. Either one of them. But that's not a very helpful answer. So because all that shows up in our articles and our blogs and things like that, in our meetings and that material now. But the place I start, I guess, would be when I I never read any book completely. So I guess I'd Skim Book One. I'd read the first couple chapters, maybe the first three chapters one. I'd skim them and then I dive into book number two. For what it's worth, if for my own personal belief, I think book number two is a better book. It is richer, it is more detailed and has its more practical and it also is just it's better only because we just knew so much more when we were book number two then when we wrote number one and where there's a quick review of the Challenger concepts and book number two, so the Challenger customer. But but I think, I think in many ways book number two is more interesting and where our research continues to push because it's not really about selling at all as much as we're talking about selling right now and the books are sensibilier about selling. Book Number Two the Challenger customers actually, as you know, Sam's more about buying and I'll tell you honestly, over the last about seven or eight years this is where we've turned almost all of our attention. That Gartner in the sales and marketing practice is not so much studying how can we sell more effectively or market more effectively, but how our customers buying today and what is that shifting buying behavior mean for how we need to sell going forward? And I think one of the reasons why that matters so much is because, you know, as I've traveled around the world and shared the ideas of Challenger and you know, big stages and small around the world, I find that, particularly when you were working with veterans, sell sales professionals, people have been selling for twenty, thirty years and be doing an incredibly successfully. They'll off and kind of sit in the back of the room where her arms crossed and that kind of gruff, angry look on their face is thetre to me, like WHO's this guy? Thinks he knows that he's do and right. German professor, like what does that mean? Where did that come so these a you know, who are you to stay on this stage and tell me how to sell differently when in fact I've got thirty year track record of doing amazing things. I've been to Cancun for the last, you know, twenty years in a row on the presence club trip. I got more loose sight trophies on my cred Denza than anyone else the company, saying I'm the top sales professional. And so what we find is that the only way to really have that conversation with that individual who's incredibly skeptical of anything new, is to come at it not from a you're selling wrong and I'm here to fix you perspective, which is completely nonproductive. This is the nonstarter, and that's really now I think about it anyway. Rather it to come at it from the perspective of irrespective of whether or not you've been successful in the past, the world that we are selling into today is just different. It is he customers are acting different, they're engaged in a different set of behaviors, they're operating in a different context, a context that you know, denominated in information and run by the Internet, and that changes everything. And so when you start thinking about it as a sort of let me show you what happens when you...

...take the old world is selling and run it into the teeth of the new world of buying and show you how things fall apart. This is a more productive way to think about it and that's where you won't catch much of that in the original book, the Challenger Sale, because we just weren't thinking about that at the time. But I think the challenge your customer kind of picks up, at least it begins to pick up on a lot of those teams of just how buying is different and what it means for all of us before we dive into the challenge or customer, because it again to the point I just read it and I've got tons of questions. Yeah, it's great to have you on the thought if you're a relationship builder, if you're somebody that has been identified as sort of, you know, a rep or our profile or a set of attributes or behaviors that is ill equipped to handle the modern selling environment, is it that your research tell you that it's possible to change? Can you become a challenger, or are these patterns sort of ingrained in some way that makes it very difficult to evolve? It's actually the former, so, which is to say we believe that anyone can adopt the set of behaviors. In fact, that the entire research project, from beginning in and continuing on today, is always built around behaviors, as opposed to say talents or, you know the great work that Gallop has done over the years, for example, of the just the innate traits that were all sort of born with. where the be charisma or something like that. Well, we find that stuff really interesting. We didn't want to study it only because we didn't want to land on a story that you could do nothing about. It's like, well, I guess you're there's no hope for you. Is it's not a very, you know, helpful or optimistic sort of idea. So so what we studied was behavior, skills and knowledge, attitudes, all of which can be changed through training, through coaching, through just MoD off, you know, just best studying practice. And so what we find is that ninny given organization, anywhere between. We're finding is most heads of sales have gone down this journey and there's been many, many, many sales organizations are the world of invested pretty heavily in the stuff these ideas over the years. And what we find just it's anecdotal, but on average heads of sales will tell us somewhere between twenty, two thirty percent of their sales force either cannot or will not go on the Challenger journey, no matter how much help you give them to mine, how much training you provide, how much coaching you you support them with, they just don't seem to be cut out for that. But if you flipped out on its head, Sam, that means, you know, seventy eighty percent of sales force can in fact and does get there. And and what I what I often find is that the bigger challenge is not skill but in fact will. It's goes back to the you know, I think I know we're doing. Just get out of my way, let me do my job. Or while you want me to kind of challenge the customers thinking that feels a little provocative, that feels a little tough, and I just I just kind of want to be everybody's friend. And that's not to say that challengers are unfriendly, because in fact they can be incredibly friendly. I think. I think if you to you, in fact, I'll tell you something. I'm you was interesting when you dig into the Daty. Know what? The second best thing that most world class challengers are great at. They're great relationship building, so that there's nothing to say that these two things have to be exclusive. Infect is the opposite. I'd say that most great challengers are in fact fantastic at relationships. It's just they're basing that relationship not so much unfamiliarity, oh my kids went to that same college, that's awesome right, but rather they're basing that conversation interaction on on insights and ideas, which is what your customers ultimate are looking for anyway. Yeah, well, I mean it's encouraging to hear that it's possible to evolve so let's dive into the Challenger customer. So what I wanted to do is I wanted to sort of like articulate the stereotypical or the Classic Enterprise Cell Cycle and then have you just tear it to shreds based on their recherch that you've done. So you know typically what we see right, what we're taught, and maybe this is going even further back when it really wasn't so much multi stakeholder. But first of all you use bant or some kind of qualification methodology that tells you, do they have budget US or authority? Need timing, and authority is a key one, right. So what you're taught in an enterprice sale cycles need to get above the power line, you need to speak to power and you need to be dealing with the people that ultimately sign the checks and those are the only people that make decisions. And so the sales process is about, as you mentioned before, you have like a medic or medical or Med pick cars or you know some acronym that basically is a checklist for the rep yeah, cross off in terms of what they need to get, questions they need answered, and they take that list probably as high as they can get it to the chief something or other officer that they're selling to and they fill...

...out all the information and then, you know, at some point they move through percurement, etcetera, etc. But so walk us through why that doesn't really work anymore and walk us through the key concepts that we should be familiar with as it relates to the challenge or customer. Well, so, you know, over the years is as virtually every large bee, tob or and, as suppose, small for that matter, or sales organizations move towards the posture of selling some kind of what's called solution. Right. So, whether you sell an individual product and individual service, largely you've added more capabilities, more services, more products around that one original package to ultimately form what we've all kind of collectively come to call a solution, and we're all trying to sell these broader solutions, which add more value to the custom organization, at a higher price point, at a you know, a bigger margin. And of course we're doing this not just because it's better price point, better margin, but also because it allows us to differentiate ourselves from the competition. Right, if you're selling an individual product that's easily replicable it's very quickly commoditizable at the same time. So the the way you escape that come out of desation trap, of course, as you are for you know, broader solution that offers more value to more people across the custom organization. Now, the thinking originally in solution selling, and probably was a right at some point, I guess, but was if you're going to sell this bigger, broader solution with a wider footprint and arguably the higher price point, then the only way to really get that sold into an organization is that you got to get high up in that organization. You got to claw your way to the corner office, you got to get into the sea sweet, you got to sell the Veedo, whether it is that. You got to find that really important person has the altitude, the scope, the authority to look down across that broader solution and say absolutely, let's go. And so that that's been the you know, there's kind of too sort of marching orders we've all received over the years and selling these kinds of solutions is number one, get as high as you can and number two, you got to find a champion, right, so a senior so the ultimate Unicorn is like that. Senior advocate right, that senior executive who's going to take your flag and champion you across the customer organization and say you, we gotta buy. These guys are awesome. What we found is that, for many different ways and for many the reasons, that person first of all doesn't exist. But more importantly, and here's why I think, well, there's a couple of reasons why, but I think the thing that's especially important to acknowledge now is that even if you were to find that person, that very senior CSUITE officer who loves your solution and wants to integrate that it technology or that new hrm solution or that you know that that consulting engagement, whatever it is, Cross your organization, we're finding even those senior individuals are our own willing to buy that solution on their own. And frankly, they're smart not to be willing to buy that on their own because they know, they've come to realize, that these solutions have become big enough and broad enough and and integrated enough into other parts of the organization that lots of different people have to sign off on this. And so, as in many ways the heart and soul of the sort of the launching pad of the Challenger customer was this very specific data point which we discovered in studying how these solutions actually get purchased and and when we studied thousands and thousands of individual individuals, stakeholders, all involved in some purchase of a large complex solution, we simbly asked all these individuals, how many people in your organization are typically involved in the officially in this purchase and have to ultimately sign off on its on its on its purchase and implementation? And then number came back at five point four. So that entire book the Challenger customers all written about the five point four, the five point four, the five point four individual stakeholders across an organization who all ultimately have to sign off on a deal to get it done. Now a couple things about that. Sam. That's interesting that that five point four number is since that book came out, and this is why I talked about a more recent research, is since we first did the research that sits in in that book the Challenger customer. We've rerun that research every year. We continue to ask every year. You know, somewhere between two and four thousand individual stakeholders all involvement of complex purchase of would be tob solution. How many people are involved in the purchase? The the next year went the next year we got the data back. One from five point four up to six point eight. From it went from six point eight up to seven points something. This year we got the data back. It's over nine. So it's a huge, huge number and I think it actually it might be worth...

...while to talk about why that number is so high. But just anecdotally it's really interesting. I did a meeting of chief sales officers back in June and Chicago and I was sharing our latest date on that number. There's out of sales are it's, you know, look just is because it's honestly, it's gone up so fast and so much Sam that we actually had as a research organization have begun to doubt our methodology. It's like, how could this number be so high? How could the exact same methodology return such a dramatically and rapidly increasing number? And we actually had a big meeting here in our office, Isnar linked the regime, about whether or not we still trust the number and we should report it publicly. And it's now we reported as a range of six to ten, but ahead of sales in Chicago. So, that said, one of a chief sales off from meetings. Is Funny you say it, because I think you're right. You should doubt that number, not because it's too high, but because it's too low. These are the all I'm not. I'm not doubting and I'm depressed about it. Right, you know, he said they recently went out and did a closing call and there was a multimillion dollar deal and they've been the thing had been in the pipeline for like eighteen months. Right, it's not like they didn't know what's going on. And they had they had the champion, they had that senior advocate who wanted their solution. They were, in fact, they were so sure that this deal is going to close that they flew up the senior leadership of their company on the corporate jet with the contract in the hand and the Mole Bla all pain and ready to sign the contract. Was All excited and there their best suits and their cuff links and ready to go, ready to go, and they they walk in the door of the customer organization and, I kid you not, there's literally sixteen different people sitting around the conference table, all waiting for that meeting and and they thought it was gonna be like one guy who's going to sign off on the deal and everyone's going to be happy. And instead that meeting started with those sixteen individuals all introducing themselves to each other. Right, oh, your brother, brockure, but I've never been so great to put a name with a face. We've only met on email, you say, and which has led us to, by the way, it conclude the single rule of sales. Today, as you know, you're not going to close a deal on the meeting. The custom meeting begins with customers introducing themselves to each other. But this is what happens in the world that we're in it and again, this is evolved even rapidly since the customer, the challenge a customer, came out, which is if you think about why are there's so many people involved in the purchase of a solution, it's the very few part of is the very thing that I started this response with, which is as we seek to expand the scope and the value that of the solution that we deliver so that it touches more people inside the customer organization and delivers more value for more people. It stands reason all those people are want to have to say in what actually gets purchased. But but I think particularly in the last two years, the thing that's really been driving this number of people problem is data and and data security. So GDP are, for example, more recently, is just introduced a whole host of regulations that customers hey before, you will say, before we buy this system, now we need to understand how does it integrate with our ITT platform, whether it's I t driven or not? How does you know? Who owns the data? Does the Datas in the cloud? How is it secure? WHO's responsible? So there's lawyers involved, there's, course, procurement involved, there's in user communityisers, it departments, there's is like hurting cats and and so to think that somehow you could claw your way into a corner office and find that one senior decision makers willing to sign off on this and his or her own, even if they own the budget, is a pipe dream. Honestly, this is not going to happen today. It's just because that's not how customers buy. Do you think that part of trying to make this extremely tactical? Of the numbers nine or five point four or seven? Do you think part of the framework of trying to process ties or operationalizes this is, Hey, you've only spoken, we only have contact with for people and research shows at six to ten. So we have to score the deal lower than we would if you had engagement with seven right people, even if we didn't confirm that all of the seven eight people were exactly the right people that needed to chime in. I think at the very least, if you're talking to one or two people, that that deal should be suspect at best. Right so, because, because what will happen is that person, if you're talking to them, the reason you're talking to is because they because they're talking to you right, they're willing to have that conversation and that they'll take the meeting and they'll share information and every conversation feels fantastic. But but unless they're willing to go fight the good fight inside their own organization of hurting those cats and building that consensus, we've found that those conversations are having with that one individual can in fact...

...be symptomatic of well, well, nothing really, that of no progress whatsoever. We call those individuals who talk a lot to you but don't actually aren't very good inside of driving change inside their own organization. We call them talkers and this is what the really the challenge your custom book is all about as talkers versus what we call mobilizers, and we can come to back to mobilizers here in a second if you'd like. But the you know, the talker is a really tough stakeholder to encounter as a sales rep, because it feels so good right they'll they'll take the meeting, they'll take the next meeting, they'll dish the dirt, they'll share what's going on, they'll they'll tell you who they think is involved. But unless either you are able or they are willing to go to those other people and connect them and get them excited equally excited about that solution, nothing's going to happen. And what we ultimately find, is particularly in our latest data, is that you, as a sales rep, have in decreasing amounts of access to those other people, that customers are spending less and less time talking to sales reps as part of a purchase, and so ultimately it becomes incredibly important to find that. You know, we used to say find an advocate for your solution, but what we are all only have to find is not so much an advocate for your solution but in a mobilizer for change, because at the end of the day, good, yeah, why don't you tell us? I mean the mobilizers. There's a couple key insights and obviously finding the mobilizer and there's three types of mobilizer. So just walk us through. First of all, there's not one kind of mobilizer. Explain to us all the different flavors of mobilizer. And then, I think the most, one of the most critical insights from the book for me was you're not connecting to all of these people. You are using mobilizer to connect themselves to each other, as you sort of alluded to, and the first part. So look us through that construct. So a couple thoughts on this. So the the the book opens up the challenge a customer and in chapter one this really intriguing and frankly, when we first saw a terrifying piece of data, which was only because it seems to run directly in a face of everything we'd found in the past and everything that seems so logical, and that piece of data simply is this that at a high level. The more effective you are personalizing your pitch or positioning your value to each individual stakeholder in the customer organization, what he or she cares about, the less likely you are to win what we call a high quality sale. So the better and better you get it tailoring or positioning your offer to each one of those individual stakeholders and what they care about as an individual, the less likely you are to win a high quality sale. And that that made no sense to us when we first saw it, until we and when. So we reran the numbers about eight different times and re rent and reworked although data. We couldn't make that finding go away and and ultimately say I'm just cut to the end of the chase. That The punch line of the story is. What we found is that it's not just a numbers problem with again where there's five or six or ten or sixteen. What we really have inside the customer organization as a challenge is what I would call a diversity problem in this sense, in the sense that each one of those individual stakeholders represents a different function at different level, of different geography, a different set of priorities agenda inside their organizations. Some from procurement, someone from HR, someone from my tea, somewhet from the end user community, some from the Germany office, whatever it might be and is. Each one of them has a different set of priorities of what they're trying to accomplish on behalf of their company. They just their mental models don't ultimately overlap very much. And so what happens when that group comes together to make a collective decision? What they find is that they tend to fall back on what they agree on. We call this the lowest common denominator purchase, and that the lowest common denominator purchase more likely than not, as the things are going to agree on. We things like let's study this more, let's avoid disruption, let's mitigate or or minimize risk, let's reduce cost. And so if you're selling into this environment, what we're finding is that it's the more you personalize your pitch to each one of those stakeholders and the more they are already disconnected, you actually exacerbate that disconnect rather than overcome it. So so many ways. What we've got to figure out, and selling into this world of multiple purchase stakeholders is not doing a better job of connecting those individual stakeholders to us, but doing a better job of connecting those individual stakeholders to each other. And so that that's part one. So how do we do that? How do we connect those individual who stakeholders to each other so they can coalesser on a much broader common vision than simply do...

...nothing? Study it more, payless, because the bad to be on the, you know, the receiving it of that kind of purchase process. And what we found is that in that kind of world, what we're looking for is not someone who's senior or someone who is a champion of your solution, but rather, and we can go back and unroll the methodology behind this, feed like to, but what we found is that when we study, start performing sales reps and now some what are the attributes that you're really looking for in a customer stakeholder? Low behold. They were looking for two things. They were looking for stakeholders that were able to dry, I've change, and build consensus and and so, which is a really interesting thing. Find No one, it would trained them to do this. By the way, these going to figure this out on their own. So things like seniority, tidal decisionmaking, authority, budget ownership. None of that stuff turned out the matter to star our performers when we study them. It was just these two things, the ability to drive change and and build consensus. So why build consensus? Well, for the very reason we just talked about that. At the end of the day, if you can't get that broader buying group, that diverse, that large buying group, to coalesce around a common vision that's greater than simply do nothing, no one's buying anything, certainly not at a at a high margin. So that's the building consensus part, which totally makes sense. Drive change in the other end is especially interesting because the reason why that pops is what we ultimately have come to realize in all of our work is, at the end of the day, no matter what kind of company you are, no matter what you're selling was a product, whether it's a service, whether it's MED device consulting, manufacturing, tool and diet, doesn't matter. We all sell ultimately the same thing. What we ultimately sell Sam is we sell change. Every one of us were trying to get our customers to change. Your behavior either stop buying that, start buying this, stopping from competition, start buying from us. Stop buying the small amount, start buying the big amount. Stop doing yourself outsourced us. In one way another, every one of us is trying to get our customers to change their bait at their behavior and that and I in fact, I told our sales are see the other day. Look, you guys are in end the product selling. This is you're in the behavior changing business, and that's how you need to think about it and that's how you get to solve for the today's biggest sales challenges. So, ultimately, what we're looking for is individuals inside the customer. We are going to Zation that we can connect to, that are able to drive change, a build consensus. We have a name for those individuals. We ultimately call them mobilizers, because that's who they are. There, the mobilizers of action, that the mobilizers of an idea. And what these mobilizers ultimately want, by the way, is is that they're not looking for a solution or a product or a service or a supplier. What mobilizers are looking for is an idea, in insight, something that's going to help their company compete more effectively. It's the mirror image of the Challenger world. It's that same kernel of insight, which is why we call mobilizers the or challenger customer, because of the Challenger inside the customer organization. And and you're right, there's three flavors, or's what we call a teacher, a go getter and a skeptic. Teacher is someone who's is particularly open to big ideas and is good about motivating others around those big ideas. A go getter as someone is open to new ideas, but it's particularly good at project planning and making action happen around those ideas. And a skeptic, by the way, the particularly interesting one to me is that someone will actually, when presented with a new idea or new insight, will tear that thing apart piece by piece. And if you're not ready for that, if you're a traditional sales are up looking to build relationships, talk about where your kids went to college, that's going to feel really uncomfortable, because that's skeptics. I can take your idea, if you've delivered one at all, and pull it apart and look at it from every angle. And what we've come to appreciate in all their work, though, is that that's not a bad thing. That's actually a good thing, because that's your customer just trying to understand that idea and it's applicability in your in their organization. And and although what we've what we found, is if you can win a skeptic over, they become an incredibly powerful mobilizer, because they're not mobilizing for you, they're mobilizing for this idea, this insight that they've just become convinced is could potentially have a powerful impact on their business. So so that's what the challenge your customers all about. Is, who are these mobilizers? How do I find them? What is this insight that we call the insight that the mobilizer dog whistle, right, it's a thing that only mobilizers can hear. So what does that you know? How do I build that insight? This with a mental model. Stuff comes in. How do I deliver it a you name? So how let's see if we can, you know, get a few high level anecdotes before we encourage people to buy the book, which is which is one of the things we...

...want them to do. How do you find a mobilizer? What are the tests you can use or the you know, what are the frameworks to help you identify a mobilizer within an organization and also one't follow question. Yeah, if if you're in a sale cycle and you haven't found what you you use a test or using some framework and you haven't found a mobilizer, I would assume that your advice is keep going until you find one, maybe, unless is going to take you, you know, months or even years. But yeah, I at the very least I think whether or not you've connected to a mobilizer becomes a really interesting and, I think, effective opportunity qualification tool. Right or score. So to what degree is this person a mobilizer? So how do you find them? The our best take on how to find a mobilizer right now is through that which a mobilizer result while looking for remember a mobilizers not looking for a supplier. A mobilizers looking for an idea, and that becomes a really important thing to understand, because if you approach a mobilizer with your value proposition or your capabilities or your solution, then ultimately is going to help very much because that's not what they're looking for. What they're looking for is a story, not about your company but about their company. And again we call this insight or even more technically, commercial insight, because it's ideally insight you can that you can monetize on the back end, so you're not just the free consulting business, and we go through a lot of that the book about how to figure all that out. But the an insight or a commercial insight, a monetizable insight, is an insight that about the customers company or organization that helps them understand a risk that they're exposed to, that they've underappreciated, an opportunity they've overlooked that could help them make money ways they had appreciated in the past, a cost that they're exposed to, that that they didn't calculate effectively in the past and in doing so and helping them understand that their current behavior is exposing them to cost or risk, what you're the idea is that you were opening their mind to change. Remembers for all in the same business, Rar in the business of selling change, the one thing you want to do is get your customer to be open to changing their behavior, which is think about it, it's actually really hard because it's one thing your customer doesn't want to do at all costs, probably change right. It's it's nobody ever tell me about it. Right. So it's it's expensive, it's eruptive, it's hard, it's unknown. There's a I don't want to change. So which, by the way, is why selling solutions is so hard. Right, you put it together, it's like the one thing we're selling is one thing your customers don't want to be buying, and I think that's why all this stuff is so is so darned difficult. Right. But what we found is is that insight is really an idea. In fact, friends at ATP dealer services, which is a divisions been since been spun off from ATP and to its own company, but they developed a phrase for this as they adopt a challenge and organization. They said, you know, if customers don't want to change, they want to stay the same, then what we need to do with our insight is teach our customers that the pain of same is greater than the pain of change. That's really what commercial insight is all about, is teaching your customers that the pain is same is actually greater than the pain of change. And and if you can approach your customer with a story like that, which you're looking for is how do they how does that individual that you're sharing that story with, whether, by the way, somebody touched on days am is, whether you're talking to them in person or you're approaching them with that story through digital channels, online, through content. But we can park that and come back to some other time perhaps, but nonetheless, how does your customer react to that story of change versus same? How do they react to that insight? Are they excited about it? Do they engage with it that they ask questions about it? To they tear it apart? That's a skeptic. That's good because you're looking for engagement, engagement on idea. If their reactions like, Oh, this is really interesting, yeah, this really fine. Love you guys. You have smart things to say and nothing ever happens, that's probably a talker. And there's a third category we haven't mentioned yet, which is if they don't even engage with you. They they're just absolutely not interested in talk to you whatsoever. You know, they're in year two of a three year implementation plan or there and you know that's the I love that one, by the way. Hear that a lot. We often refer to that person as a blocker. A blocker is and by the way, blocker isn't blocking you. It's not like they don't like you. It's not personal. What a blocker is block is change, and so it becomes really interesting. So is this person open to change and clearly willing and able to drive it and build consensus around it, or...

...do they talk a good game but frankly can't follow through? Or are they just against change all together? So the mobilizer, talker and blocker, and that becomes, I think, a really effective way to begin to think about whom I talking to in this opportunity. Because, again to your earlier question, say, I don't know they need to talk to all ten or seventeen people, but at the very least you need to find one who can go do that talking on, I guess, technically in your behalf, although it's really on behalf of the insight that you're sharing, and that's that's where the stuff gets really, really powerful. So, Brent, this has been amazing. So we're just about out of time, but the high level outline again is sort of identify, if we're in a again a complex enter price sale, the challenge or customer teaches us find a mobilizer, arm them with commercial insight. But what are the steps if we are just sort of taking notes at home and making a bullet a list that we can dive into with greater detail later? Well, I you know, in some ways, just to hint it, where our work is right now is, so find the mobile so so build the insight. Step one, deploy the insight, I supposed up to whether it's in person or through digital channels, and then watch four reactions. And so find the mobilizer and equip them with that insight. And then I think the thing that's really interesting, and we only just touched on at the back of the book, as we're thinking really is now, is that just because someone wants to be a mobilizer, Sam where is open or willing or able to be mobilizer, doesn't necessarily mean they're going to know how to be a mobilizer. And what we've come to really appreciate is that particularly is by and continues to change and continues to change rapidly again, with regulations, GDP, are different stakeholders, data, the role of data, all these questions of customers have and their overwhelmed it too much information and you know in the Internet, from the Internet today, that many times customers are just they just get stuck. Even a mobilizer can get stuck. And what what customers really need more than anything else, honestly, and when it comes to buying something, is just help. They just need someone to kind of effectively take them by the hand and guide them through the purchase process. So so if Challenger commercial insides all the teaching customers to think differently about their business. This where we're at right now. is now you got to teach your customers literally how to buy. Who should be involved, because often times when a deal blows up, it blows up because someone inside the customer organization came out of the woodwork at the last minute and blew everything up with a bunch of questions and the customers like, Oh, I didn't see that coming, and you're on the saleside say Oh, I totally saw that. Comings. Happened to me three times this year. And so that the idea here is we could actually take a much more proactive role in coaching our customers through the purchase essentially taking them by the hand and becoming the buying Serpa. So imagine not just finding a mobilizer, but becoming your mobilizers buying coach by helping them understand things like, by the way, you probably want to get procurement involved, and when you want to get them involved as probably earlier than you thought. When you get them involved, are a going to be here. They're going to these three questions and here's the here's the best way to answer those three questions. Here's the two objections are going to have. Here how to overcome those objections. By the way, put all this together in a power point that freights already annotated, ready to go, and your mobilizers are going to say, wow, you just made my life so much easier, and this poor work is right now, SAM is this idea that, in a world where we believe, and have a huge amount of data to back it up, that be to be buying has become incredibly difficult, that one of the best things you could do is just find ways to make buying easier. And that's what adds to the last step. There's IT's a design. Finding a mobilizer is coaching. That mobilizer makes a lot of sense. Brent, this has been fantastic. So obviously the full title of the most recent book is the challenger Customer Selling to the hidden influencer who can multiplier results. The link will be in the show notes. If folks want to reach out to you, engage with you or engage gardener in some way, what's the preferred mechanism for them to learn more about the challenger customer in particular and potentially adopt it for their business? They can reach out to me personally. Probably the easiest thing to do is over linkedin. However, I'm also a Brent Dot Adams in a gartnercom where they can just go to our website, gartnercom, and there you'll you'll of course, you won't go right into the sales practice. You there's because gardener, of course, is a huge company with practices across every seat and around the board room. But one where another. I think we can get you where you need to go and there's just a huge amount...

...of help that we can provide companies and thinking about all of this work and I think for me personally, what's most interesting is what we continue to find now and all of the how this research continues to update itself year after year, because the world keeps changing. And so that's where joining or becoming part of the gardener sales practice becomes, I think, a really powerful thing to do. That sounds fantastic, Brent. Thanks so much for your time. I'm and thanks for appearing on the SALESACER podcast. Absolutely SAM is great to be with you today and I look forward to doing it again soon. Everybody, it's Sam again, another great interview. Brent is so eloquent. He obviously is so passionate about the subject. If you haven't read the Challenger Sale, I think you should, and if you haven't read the Challenger customer and you're in B tob enterprise sales, I really think you should. They are too fantastic books and they helped codify this this really important insight, which is that your job as a salesperson is not to just show up and talk about the features, the speeds and the feeds of your product. Your job is to understand the life and the mental model of your customer and to help them change. And what you're selling is change. You are not selling a specific product. What you're selling is the concept of change, in the concept that the status quote is untenable and the only way to fix the status quote is to change. That is a, I think, a critical insight from the challenger methodology. Also, just to reiterate, because so many people have talked about challenger sales without really reading the book so that they think it means being an asshole. Just to be clear, it does not mean being an asshole. That's not the point of the Challenger Sale. It's not to be aggressive and rude. It's to bring commercial insight into the conversation. Commercial insight is to teach somebody something about their business that they did not know beforehand, and and that is the concept of in the Challenger Sale. They call it teach, Taylor, take control. The whole concept is teach them something about their business that they didn't know beforehand. And what you're looking for when you're involved in this kind of sale. You're not looking for wow, you're so insightful or while you're a really good salesperson, that is usually the kiss of death. If somebody says that you're losing the deal. What you're looking for them to say is, Huh, never thought about it that way. When you present a new, unique commercial insight into a sales conversation and you teach them something about their business and their industry that they didn't know, you position yourself as a thought leader you position yourself as expert and you help them understand why you should be credible when it comes to presenting the conversation in the right way. So this has been Sam's corner. Before we go, we want to thank our sponsors. Are Call Your advanced call center software, complete business phone and contact center, one hundred percent natively integrated into any crum and outreach, a customer engagement platform that helps efficiently and effectively engage prospects to drive pipeline and close more deals. If you want to reach out to me, you can find me on twitter at Sam f Jacobs or on Linkedin at linkedincom. The word in Ie en slash Sam f Jacobs, and a lots of folks have been reaching out to me. Please do so. Please tell your friends about the podcast, please share some of the content and if you have great ideas for guests, please let us know that as well. I will talk to you next time.

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