Challenging the disruptive approach

21st September 2017 |   Deirdre Coleman

Almost six years on since the publication of The Challenger Sale by CEB authors, we consider the principles of the wider disruptive selling approach and discuss their application in the field and what the future holds for provocative selling.

In a 2012 Harvard Business Review article titled “The End of Solution Sales”, authors Brent Adamson and Matt Dixon identified a new way of selling being practiced by high-performing sales professionals, predominantly B2B salespeople attempting to land complex deals. The authors highlighted a small percentage engaged in what they termed “insight selling”. In contrast to the classic “solution sale”, during which salespeople engage with purchase agents to discover salient needs and align their solution with those needs, this rare breed of insight seller identifies needs that potential buyers may not yet be aware of – they identify opportunities in areas of flux, offer “provocative insights” about the customers and their business models, and become “buying coaches” for their clients.

To support this contention, CEB surveyed over 6,000 sales reps across geographies and industries. The research revealed that sales reps could be grouped into five profiles (Figure 1), but only one consistently outperforms the others: the Challenger. Meanwhile, The Challenger Sale controversially argued that classic relationship building alone is a losing approach, especially when it comes to selling complex, large-scale business-to-business solutions.

Content Director, MAPS, the Medical Affairs Professional Society | + posts

Deirdre Coleman is a regular contributor to the International Journal of Sales Transformation. She is Content Director, MAPS, the Medical Affairs Professional Society and previously worked as Editor, eyeforpharma.