Blog

by Michael Idinopulos
on October 31, 2014

How to Use Social for the Challenger Sale

The Corporate Executive Board (CEB) held its annual Sales and Marketing Summit in Las Vegas last week, and the PeopleLinx colors were flying. We sponsored our signature photo booth (always a favorite) and talked with dozens of senior execs about sales methodology.

Being at CEB gave us an opportunity to think more deeply about the relationship between social selling and CEB’s now-iconic sales methodology, the Challenger Sale.

If you’re not familiar with the Challenger Sale, the thesis (backed up by tons of research) is that the most successful salespeople are the ones who challenge their customers. In contrast to the Relationship Seller, Hard Worker, Problem Solver, or Lone Wolf, the Challenger closes deals through an ability to lead, teach, and push the buyer. Challengers know their buyers’ industries better than the buyers themselves. They take control of the sales conversation, rather than reacting to the buyer’s agenda.

Challengers outperform all the other seller profiles: according to CEB’s research, 40% of top performers are Challengers.

Social fits perfectly with the Challenger Sale.

According to CEB, the average buyer completes 60% of the decision-making process before contacting sales. Armed with the Internet and social media, today’s buyers are engaging with bloggers, analysts, peers, and your competitors long before they’re in a formal buying process.

Social networking lets you take control of the conversation even outside of the formal buying process. That drives higher close rates and more inbound inquiries from qualified prospects who are already receptive to your Challenger Sale.

Successful salespeople achieve this through a three-step process of online influence:

Establish your authority as a Challenger. The Challenger Sale works when buyers respects the salesperson as an authority. Effective salespeople use their social profiles to showcase their credentials. Work experience, education, certifications, association memberships, nonprofit board affiliations all tell your buyers that you know your stuff.

Build an influence channel. Successful salespeople cultivate their social networks as a strategic asset. They connect relentlessly with prospects, customers, partners, and other stakeholders. That creates an ongoing communication channel through which they spread their influence.

Teach continuously. Social-savvy salespeople use online networks as a vehicle for teaching. They continuously share news articles, white papers, blog posts, and other perspectives that support their framing of the market dynamics. It’s a powerful way to influence existing buyers, and it drives inbound demand from new buyers who are receptive to your messaging.

Social networks are gaining in influence, at the expense of the traditional sit-down sales meeting. You can turn that trend to your advantage by making the Challenger Sale social.