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Everything You Need to Know About Challenger Sale Model in 2024

Explore the evolving Challenger Sale Model in 2024! Discover its key strategies, benefits, and why it remains important for sales success.
Written by
Harsh P
Published on
May 24, 2024

Introduction to the Challenger Sales Model

Introduction to the Challenger Sales Model

What is the Challenger Sales Model

The Challenger Sales Model is a sales strategy that emerged from the extensive research by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson of the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), which involved an analysis of thousands of sales representatives across multiple industries and locations.

This method is distinctly characterized by a sales approach that teaches, tailors, and takes control of sales conversations, as opposed to traditional methods that heavily rely on building relationships. It’s detailed in their 2011 book, "The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation.

Research underpinning the Challenger Sales Model involved a detailed analysis of 6,000 salespeople. The study found that Challengers represented about 40% of all high performers within complex sales environments. In contrast, only about 7% of top performers followed a relationship-building approach, which many companies had traditionally emphasized.

Core Principles of the Challenger Sales Model

The Challenger Sales Model is built around three key principles:

  1. Teaching for Differentiation: Challengers use their deep understanding of their customer’s business to educate them on new perspectives and insights that reframe the way customers think about their business and solutions.
  2. Tailoring for Resonance: This aspect involves customizing the sales message to resonate with different types of stakeholders within the customer’s organization, highlighting the specific benefits that matter most to each decision-maker.
  3. Taking Control of the Sale: Challengers assertively control the sales process without being aggressive. They are comfortable discussing money, can push the customer out of their comfort zone, and are skilled at overcoming objections.

Types of Challenger Sales Reps

Types of Challenger Sales Reps

Here’s a breakdown of the commonly recognized types of sales reps, particularly highlighted by the research from the Corporate Executive Click (CEB) in their book

1. The Challenger

Challengers are defined by their deep knowledge of the customer’s business and their ability to push the conversation beyond the status quo. They are not afraid to challenge the preconceptions of their customers. Challengers are particularly effective in complex sales environments where the buying process involves multiple stakeholders and requires a change in customer business practices.

  • Strengths: Excellent at teaching, tailoring, and taking control; adept at negotiation.
  • Drawback: May sometimes be perceived as too aggressive or confrontational.

2. The Relationship Builder

This type of sales rep prioritizes building strong, personal connections with customers. They are generous with their time, strive to meet customers' needs, and typically avoid conflicts. While the Challenger Sale research suggests that Relationship Builders are less likely to be high performers in complex sales, they can be very effective in roles that require long-term account maintenance or service-focused selling.

  • Strengths: Good at maintaining long-term relationships, reliable, trusted by customers.
  • Drawback: May struggle with more assertive selling tactics or in challenging economic climates.

3. The Hard Worker

Hard Workers are always willing to go the extra mile. They show up early, stay late, and make more calls than anyone else on the team. They are very self-motivated and have a strong reaction to feedback and incentives.

  • Strengths: Persistent, high effort, doesn’t get easily discouraged.
  • Drawback: May lack the strategic mindset to prioritize and maximize impact efficiently.

4. The Lone Wolf

The Lone Wolf is typically very self-assured and independent. They follow their instincts, which often leads to success, despite sometimes contravening company policies. These reps are challenging to manage but can produce excellent results.

  • Strengths: Highly confident, delivers results, can operate effectively under minimal supervision.
  • Drawback: May cause management challenges, potentially disruptive.

5. The Problem Solver

This sales rep is detail-oriented and focuses on post-sale service to ensure complete customer satisfaction. They are meticulous in managing account details and resolving every issue.

  • Strengths: Excellent at ensuring customer satisfaction and follow-up.
  • Drawback: May spend too much time on post-sales issues rather than closing new sales.

6. The Reactive Problem Solver

Reactive Problem Solvers are highly reliable and detail-focused, ensuring all client issues are addressed timely and efficiently. They react to problems as they arise, often becoming the go-to person for client escalations.

  • Strengths: Dependable, great at service continuity and problem resolution.
  • Drawback: May not proactively seek new opportunities or push boundaries to expand business.

7. The Consultant

Consultant types excel at understanding complex product offerings and aligning those with customer needs. They thrive on providing detailed consultations and crafting customized solutions that address specific challenges faced by their clients.

  • Strengths: Deeply knowledgeable, good at aligning solutions with complex needs.
  • Drawback: Might need a highly technical or specialized environment to shine, less effective in transaction-based sales.

How Can a Business be Benefited from Challenger Selling

How Can a Business be Benefited from Challenger Selling

Challenger selling has gained significant traction among sales organizations for its effectiveness in complex and competitive environments. The Challenger Sale model, based on a deep understanding of customer needs and a proactive approach in sales conversations, offers substantial benefits to businesses.

Here’s an in-depth look at these benefits supported by statistics that illustrate the effectiveness of the Challenger Sales method.

1. Increased Sales Performance

Challenger sales reps are known for their ability to drive higher sales performance. According to the original research by CEB (now Gartner), Challengers represent approximately 40% of the top performers in complex sales environments.

This is particularly significant in B2B settings where solutions are complex and decision-making involves multiple stakeholders.

2. Enhanced Customer Engagement

Challengers engage customers by bringing new insights into their business challenges. This proactive approach not only differentiates the salesperson from competitors but also deepens customer relationships by adding value beyond the product or service being sold.

Engaged customers are more likely to consider a vendor as a trusted advisor, which is crucial for long-term business relationships.

3. Improved Customer Loyalty and Retention

The Challenger approach helps businesses build stronger, more resilient customer relationships. By challenging customers to think differently and guiding them towards better solutions, Challengers position themselves as indispensable partners.

According to a survey by CEB, Challenger sellers are able to achieve greater customer loyalty and a 50% higher rate of return customers compared to other types of sales reps.

4. Greater Adaptability in Complex Sales Environments

In environments where the sales process is complex and the buying cycles are long, Challengers excel by using their deep understanding of the customer’s business to navigate objections and pushbacks effectively.

Their skill in taking control of the sale and maintaining progress toward a close is particularly valuable.

Statistics Supporting the Effectiveness of Challenger Selling

1. 70% of Challenger sales reps are likely to be high performers in the most complex sales environments, as they excel at leveraging organizational politics and understanding the economic drivers of the business.

2. Challengers dominate the top-performer landscape in complex sales, making up nearly 54% of all star sales representatives in complex selling environments according to CEB's global study.

3. Organizations that have adopted the Challenger selling model report up to a 30% increase in sales over traditional relationship-based selling approaches.

4. Businesses using Challenger sales techniques see a 17% increase in customer advocacy scores, indicating that customers are more likely to perceive the salesperson as a trusted advisor rather than just another vendor.

Challenger Sales Methodology

Challenger Sales Methodology

The Challenger Sales Methodology reshapes traditional selling tactics by focusing on teaching, tailoring, and taking control. This approach helps sales professionals break through the noise and make a significant impact in competitive markets. Below, we detail the steps that make up the Challenger Sales Methodology, which can be adapted to various sales environments.

1. Teaching for Insight

The first step involves teaching the customer something new and valuable about how their company can compete more effectively. This goes beyond just understanding the client's needs; it involves reshaping their thinking to appreciate solutions they hadn't considered before.

  • Identify unique insights: Develop unique insights about the market that your customers may not be aware of but could greatly impact their business.
  • Challenge preconceptions: Use these insights to challenge customers' current practices or beliefs, positioning your product or service as a solution to problems they might not have recognized.

2. Tailoring the Message

After teaching the customer, the next step is to tailor the communication to resonate with various stakeholders within the customer's organization. This involves understanding the unique business pains and goals of each decision-maker or influencer involved in the buying process.

  • Segment stakeholders: Identify different stakeholder groups within the customer's organization and understand their unique priorities and concerns.
  • Customize the message: Adapt your message to address the specific needs and roles of each stakeholder, ensuring that it speaks directly to their priorities and how your solution can help achieve their individual and collective goals.

3. Taking Control of the Sale

Challenger salespeople excel in taking control of the sales process. This doesn't mean being pushy or aggressive; instead, it involves confidently leading the customer towards the sale, even when it means pushing them out of their comfort zone.

  • Focus on the end goal: Keep the conversation forward-moving by focusing on the end benefits of your solution.
  • Address objections proactively: Anticipate and address objections before they are raised by the customer, which helps in maintaining the momentum of the sales discussion.
  • Discuss money early: Bring up pricing and cost considerations early in the conversation to anchor the value of the solution and avoid last-minute objections.

4. Driving Consensus

In complex sales, especially in B2B environments, reaching a consensus among all decision-makers is crucial. The Challenger approach involves facilitating this consensus by aligning the interests of different stakeholders around the proposed solution.

  • Facilitate stakeholder meetings: Arrange meetings with key stakeholders to discuss their concerns and how the solution can meet the collective needs of the organization.
  • Highlight collective benefits: Emphasize how the solution can address the diverse needs of various stakeholders, thereby helping the organization achieve a unified goal.

5. Closing the Sale

Finally, Challengers close the sale by reinforcing the unique benefits of their solution and the cost of inaction. This involves summarizing the key points discussed and the unique insights provided, ensuring that the value proposition is clear.

  • Summarize the key benefits: Recap the conversations and insights that have resonated with the customer during previous interactions.
  • Highlight the urgency: Discuss what the customer stands to lose by not acting and the gains from proceeding with the solution.

The Challenger Sales Methodology is about transforming the way sales professionals think about interacting with potential customers.

It requires a shift from merely responding to customer needs to actively driving the customer's decision-making process with compelling insights and tailored solutions. This proactive approach not only sets the stage for more effective selling but also for deeper, more strategic customer relationships.

Techniques for Challenger Sales Method

Techniques for Challenger Sales Method

The Challenger Sales Model, renowned for its effectiveness in complex selling environments, emphasizes a proactive approach that challenges traditional customer interactions.

Sales reps employing this model not only respond to needs but actively drive the sales conversation, often teaching customers about unknown needs and guiding them toward solutions. Here are some key Challenger Sales model techniques that sales reps can use to increase sales:

1. Develop a Deep Understanding of Customer's Business

Before a sales rep can effectively challenge a customer's thinking, they must deeply understand the customer's industry, business, and specific challenges. This foundational knowledge is critical to position oneself as a trusted advisor rather than just another salesperson.

  • Conduct thorough research: Understand industry trends, challenges, and the specific strategic goals of the customer's business.
  • Identify improvement areas: Look for inefficiencies or challenges in the customer's current processes that your product or service can address.

2. Teach Customers Something New

The core of the Challenger Sales model is to teach customers something insightful about their own business that they may not have realized. This involves offering unique perspectives that reframe problems and solutions in ways that favor your offering.

  • Offer novel insights: Share data or case studies that reveal new opportunities or risks in the customer's business environment.
  • Challenge assumptions: Encourage customers to think differently about their problems or the solutions they believe are best for them.

3. Tailor the Message to Different Stakeholders

In most B2B sales, multiple decision-makers are involved, each with distinct concerns and objectives. Tailoring your message to address the specific interests of each stakeholder can significantly increase the effectiveness of your sales pitch.

  • Segment stakeholders: Classify key figures within the customer's organization according to their roles and influence.
  • Customize communications: Develop tailored messages that resonate with the specific business priorities and personal goals of each stakeholder.

4. Take Control of the Sales Process

Challenger sales reps excel at maintaining control over the sales conversation. This includes managing the pacing, leading discussions about pricing and terms early, and not shying away from discussing money.

  • Be assertive but respectful: Lead the conversation confidently, but remain attuned to the customer’s responses and needs.
  • Address objections proactively: Anticipate potential objections and address them before they are raised.

5. Build Constructive Tension

Unlike traditional relationship-building approaches, the Challenger model often involves creating a constructive tension by pushing the customer out of their comfort zone. This can motivate the customer to act rather than maintaining the status quo.

  • Ask tough questions: Pose challenging questions that make customers critically assess their current situation and how your offering can provide a distinct advantage.
  • Highlight the cost of inaction: Clearly articulate what the customer stands to lose by not making a decision or by sticking with their current course.

6. Drive Commitment to Action

A successful Challenger approach should lead the customer to a clear course of action. Sales reps should focus on building a strong case for why their solution is not only different but better, and why the decision needs to be made promptly.

  • Use evidence and testimonials: Leverage data, testimonials, and case studies to build credibility and demonstrate the effectiveness of your solution.
  • Summarize the value proposition: Clearly recap how your solution aligns with the customer’s needs and how it will benefit them in the long run.

7. Continuous Learning and Adaptation

Challenger sales require continuous learning and adaptation based on sales experiences and customer feedback. Staying informed about industry changes and evolving customer expectations can sustain sales effectiveness.

  • Seek feedback: Regularly ask for feedback from customers and colleagues on how well your sales techniques are working.
  • Adapt strategies: Be willing to refine your approach based on what you learn from each interaction.

How to Implement Challenger Sales Methodology

How to Implement Challenger Sales Methodology

Implementing the Challenger Sales Methodology involves a series of strategic steps designed to shift how sales reps engage with potential clients, aiming to provide deeper insights and lead the sales conversation more effectively.

Step 1: The Warm-Up

The initial phase of the Challenger Sales Methodology, the Warm-Up, is crucial for establishing rapport and setting the stage for a more insightful and challenging conversation. This step is not about small talk; it's about beginning to understand and diagnose the client's current situation and perceptions.


  • Establish credibility and trust quickly.
  • Gain a clear understanding of the customer’s business context and challenges.
  • Start to lay the groundwork for challenging the customer’s thinking by gently probing their current assumptions.

How to Execute:

  • Research: Before meeting with the customer, conduct thorough research on the customer’s industry, company, and role within the company. Use this information to tailor your approach and demonstrate your understanding of their specific challenges and needs.
  • Tailored Opening: Begin the conversation by acknowledging what you have learned about their business and some of the challenges you believe they might be facing. This shows preparedness and immediate value to the customer.
  • Engage with Insightful Questions: Start with open-ended questions that encourage the customer to talk about their business. The goal here is to gather as much context as possible and to get the customer thinking and talking about their status quo. These questions should be insightful, demonstrating your deep understanding of their industry and potential unstated needs.
  • Listen Actively: Pay close attention to the customer’s responses. Active listening helps you gather key pieces of information that will be crucial for the next step of the Challenger method. Show engagement and understanding through verbal affirmations and follow-up questions that dig deeper into their statements.

Step 2: Reframe the Conversation

Once you’ve warmed up the conversation and gathered sufficient context, the next step is to begin shifting the customer’s thinking. This step is pivotal in the Challenger Sales Methodology as it sets Challengers apart from other types of sales reps.


  • Introduce a new perspective that challenges the customer’s current understanding or approach.
  • Highlight gaps or misconceptions in the customer’s current thinking.
  • Begin to pivot the conversation towards solutions that align with the redefined problem or opportunity.

How to Execute:

  • Introduce the Reframe: Based on the insights gained during the Warm-Up and your own research, introduce an idea or perspective that the customer has overlooked or undervalued. This should be a compelling insight that challenges their current way of thinking but is clearly beneficial to their goals.
  • Use Data and Examples: Support your reframe with concrete data, case studies, or analogies that make the new perspective undeniable and compelling. This could involve showing the financial impact of the current approach versus the proposed one, or highlighting a case study where a similar challenge was met with a different strategy.
  • Connect the Dots: Make it clear how this new perspective ties back to the customer’s expressed challenges and goals. The reframe should not feel like a detour but rather a deeper exploration of their needs.
  • Check for Engagement: After presenting the reframe, gauge the customer’s response. This can involve asking them what they think about the new information or if the perspective makes sense. Their response will guide how you proceed—whether you need to defend your reframe further or you can move on to proposing solutions.

Step 3: Use Emotions

This step in the Challenger Sales Methodology, crucial for sales teams, focuses on connecting with the client on an emotional level to drive home the urgency and importance of the insights and reframe provided earlier. Emotions are a powerful tool in sales as they can help to crystallize the need for change and motivate the client to act.


  • Make the potential impact of the problem or solution real and personal for the client.
  • Increase the perceived urgency and importance of addressing the issue.
  • Strengthen the client’s emotional investment in the solution.

How to Execute:

  • Highlight the Impact: Discuss the personal and emotional impacts of the current challenges or potential solutions on the client and their business. This could involve pointing out the stress, risks, or potential failures they could face if no action is taken.
  • Tell Compelling Stories: Use stories or anecdotes that resonate emotionally, showing scenarios where similar challenges were either disastrously ignored or successfully navigated with your help, perhaps during sales training sessions.
  • Visualize Success and Failure: Help them visualize both the negative consequences of inaction and the positive outcomes of taking the recommended steps. Use vivid language to paint a picture of both scenarios.
  • Ask Impactful Questions: Pose questions that make the client think about the implications of their choices on a personal level, such as “How will it impact your team if this issue persists?” or “What would it mean for you personally to overcome this hurdle successfully?”

Step 4: The Value Proposition

After effectively using emotional leverage, it’s crucial for sales leaders and their teams to articulate a clear, compelling value proposition. This is where you make it clear how your solution specifically addresses the issues and opportunities identified during the Reframe and emotional engagement steps, embodying the best practices of the Challenger sales approach.


  • Clearly define what your solution offers and why it is superior to other options.
  • Align your solution’s benefits directly with the client’s business goals and personal motivators.
  • Ensure the client understands the tangible outcomes and returns they can expect from your solution.

How to Execute:

  • Summarize Key Benefits: Clearly articulate the primary benefits of your solution, focusing on how it solves the problems or capitalizes on the opportunities identified earlier. Highlight how these benefits align with both the business's and the individual decision-maker’s objectives.
  • Differentiate Your Offering: Identify and communicate what makes your solution unique and better compared to others in the market. Emphasize aspects like superior technology, cost-effectiveness, better ROI, support, and scalability that are relevant to the client’s needs.
  • Use Data and Testimonials: Support your value proposition with quantitative data, customer testimonials, or case study examples that demonstrate the effectiveness and value of your solution in real-world applications.
  • Create a Value Statement: Craft a concise statement or a series of statements that encapsulate the value of your solution. This should be memorable and persuasive, summarizing the emotional and rational reasons why the client should choose your solution.

Step 5: The Product

Once the value proposition is clearly articulated, the next step is to discuss the product in detail. This is where the sales team transitions from selling a concept to selling a solution. It’s vital that this transition feels natural and is intrinsically linked to the value proposition.


  • Seamlessly integrate the product discussion as a natural solution to the challenges and needs previously identified.
  • Detail the product’s features, but always link them back to real-world applications that solve the client’s specific problems.
  • Address potential objections by preemptively highlighting aspects of the product designed to overcome common hurdles.

How to Execute:

  • Feature-to-Benefit Conversion: When discussing the product, always convert features into benefits. For example, rather than simply stating a technical specification, explain how this feature will solve a specific problem or enhance the client’s business operation.
  • Interactive Demonstration: Whenever possible, show the product in action. An interactive demonstration can be much more effective than a theoretical discussion, as it allows the client to see firsthand how the product works and its potential impact on their operations.
  • Address Custom Needs: Highlight how the product can be customized or adapted to meet the specific needs of the client’s business. This personalization can make the solution more appealing and can help mitigate concerns about the suitability of the product.
  • Handle Objections Gracefully: Equip your challenger sales rep with the training and tools to anticipate and address objections during the product discussion. This proactive approach in handling concerns demonstrates confidence and a deep understanding of the client’s perspective.

Pros and Cons of Challenger Selling Methodology

Pros of Challenger Selling Cons of Challenger Selling
Drives Higher Sales Performance Requires Intensive Training
Enhances Customer Engagement Can Be Perceived as Aggressive
Effective in Complex Sales Less Effective in Simple or Transactional Sales
Encourages Proactive Problem Solving High Dependency on Sales Rep Skills
Builds Long-term Customer Relationships Initial Resistance from Sales Teams
Improves Market Competitiveness Requires Strong Customer and Market Knowledge

Concluding Thoughts

It's clear that this methodology is not just about selling, but about changing the sales paradigm. By focusing on teaching, tailoring, and taking control, the Challenger Sale Model offers a robust framework for dealing effectively with the complex and often nuanced B2B selling environment. Sales teams that embrace this model can expect not only to see an increase in sales effectiveness but also to build deeper, more meaningful relationships with their customers. Whether you are a seasoned sales leader or a new sales rep, mastering the Challenger Sale Model could very well be the key to your success in the evolving market landscape of 2024.

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