The Challenger Sale

Dec 5, 2023

The Challenger Sales Model is a sales approach outlined in the book "The Challenger Sale" by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson. Based on an extensive study of thousands of sales reps across multiple industries and geographies, the model challenges the conventional wisdom of relationship-building in sales. Instead, it emphasizes the importance of teaching, tailoring, and taking control in the sales process.

Here’s an overview of the key components of the Challenger Sales Model:

1. Types of Sales Reps

The authors identified five profiles of sales reps:

  • The Hard Worker: Always goes the extra mile, doesn’t give up easily.

  • The Relationship Builder: Builds strong customer advocates, generous in giving time to help others.

  • The Lone Wolf: Follows own instincts, self-assured.

  • The Reactive Problem Solver: Detail-oriented, addresses service issues quickly.

  • The Challenger: Always has a different view of the world, understands the customer’s business, loves to debate and push the customer.

Of these, the Challenger was found to be the most effective, especially in complex sales environments.

2. The Challenger Approach

Challengers are characterized by their ability to do three things effectively:

a. Teach

  • Challengers teach their customers. They use their knowledge of their customer’s business to challenge preconceived notions and bring new ideas to the table.

b. Tailor

  • They tailor their sales message to the customer. They understand the customer’s values and identify economic drivers of the customer's business.

c. Take Control

  • Challengers take control of the sales conversation. They are not afraid to push back on the customer and are comfortable discussing money. They focus on maintaining customer respect and not just customer satisfaction.

3. The Sales Process

The Challenger Sales Model can be integrated into the sales process through:

  • Discovery: Understanding the customer’s business and unique challenges.

  • Solution Crafting: Leveraging insights to challenge the customer’s thinking and propose unique solutions.

  • Objection Handling: Preparing for and addressing objections confidently.

  • Closing: Guiding the customer towards a decision, often with a clear rationale and sense of urgency.

4. Commercial Teaching

A key aspect of the Challenger approach is 'commercial teaching,' which is about teaching the customer something new and valuable about how to compete in their market.


The Challenger Sales Model is particularly effective in complex sales environments where the buying process is typically longer, and decisions involve multiple stakeholders. It shifts the focus from relationship-building to challenging customers’ thinking, providing insights, and driving decisions. This model requires a deep understanding of customer businesses, market trends, and the economic landscape, making it a more sophisticated approach to sales.

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