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Book Review: The Challenger Sale

July 30th, 2014

The Challenger Sale, Dixon and Adamson.2011. Penguin.

The Challenger Sale evokes reactions and disturbs conventional thinking. The authors want to encourage organizations, groups and sales people to “push the customer’s thinking and teach them something new” p 21. It is not surprising then that the reader is given a challenge to think about sales in different ways. Even the introduction by Neil Rackham stirs up controversy:

“How you sell has become more important than what you sell. An effective sales force is a more sustainable competitive advantage than a great product stream.” p XVI

Many believe that you are only as good as the product you sell (this was the first thing anyone ever said to me about sales). In social media discussions, my research found that many analysts, leaders and sales managers disagree with The Challenger Sale. However, I believe that is exactly what the authors want. By disturbing conventional thought, readers will think “I never thought of it that way’ or “I wonder if that is true?” This pattern of disturbance is a theme in the book leading the reader to question traditional views. For example, the authors defy the notion that sales is all about relationships. This one point has been the subject of multiple discussions with thought leaders, educators and fellow sales professionals. This makes The Challenger Sale valuable to me and worth the price of the book.

You will also find skills and perspective. Three behaviors that sales people can integrate into their profession are Teaching, Tailoring and Taking Control. p33 There are many positive aspects to these actions. Teaching helps customers learn, think and feel in new ways. Personally, I have an educational style and totally agree with this approach to selling. Tailoring is adjusting the message to the audience (visit or search “The Persuasion Equation” on YouTube for tip). My favorite phrase from this book is “solution selling is customization in the moment” page 78. Taking control (another deliciously disturbing idea) is to push sales people to maintain momentum across the entire sales process. I believe the use of questions creates momentum in all phases of the sales process (search “The Art of the Q: Build Your Business with Questions” by Charlie Van Hecke on Google,, i-tunes or B& for more information).

The best way to summarize is to confess that I have bought two copies of The Sales Challenger and one copy of The IT Sales Challenger (by Neil MacArthur which applies concepts to my industry). It makes me slightly upset, causes a rethinking of long held views and well, challenges me! In future reviews, we will visit the IT Sales Challenger and dig deeper into the question: ” What can leaders who seek sales excellence learn from The Sales Challenger?



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