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Why a “Challenger Sale” Sales Team Needs Content Marketing

57% of the purchase decision is made before a customer ever reaches out to your organization. CEB

How a Challenger Frames Conversations

1. Share Insight
2. Introduces Impact
3. Reveals Solution

The above stat shouldn’t come as a surprise to modern marketing and sales organizations. The way people gather and digest information has shifted radically, and you only need to think about your everyday life—your process for finding what you need—to understand why.

These days, we seek information through online channels—and so do your prospects when making professional purchase decisions. They’re reading trusted blogs, following relevant thought leaders on LinkedIn and Twitter, and using search engines to deliver content that answers their questions.

Basically, your prospects are consuming a ton of content, and, as the stat above shows, that content significantly impacts their purchase decisions.

This finding, along with the detailed research CEB conducted around top-performing sales reps, sparked a book and sales movement called “The Challenger Sale.” Matt Heinz provides a great (and quick) recap of the book here.

In short, authors Matt Dixon and Brent Adamson explain that Challenger reps set themselves apart by educating prospects and pushing them to think about their business in a new way. Challengers “teach, tailor, and take control.”

A key tactic is the way they frame their conversations. In every communication—be it an email, a phone call, or a product demo—the Challenger follows these three steps:

  1. Shares Insight
  2. Introduces Impact
  3. Reveals Solution

For example, a Challenger might organize a presentation in this way:

  1. Share Insight: “This major shift is happening in your industry and here is how it is directly affecting you/your company.”
  2. Introduce Impact:  “If you don’t measure up, here’s what will happen to you/your business.”
  3. Reveal Solution: “There is a solution, and our company is uniquely positioned to deliver it to you, to help you stay ahead.”

The right content provides sales with new insights and quantifies the impact for prospects. Here’s how.

Start with the Unique Solution

When framing a pitch, Challengers start by finding the most powerful way to present the unique solution provided by your organization’s products or services. What is it that separates your solution from the rest? What’s special about the way it solves the challenges facing the prospect?

Once they have the solution, they look for insights that supports the need for that unique solution. Insight transforms the sales conversation—the rep becomes a teacher, bringing new and valuable information to the table each time they engage with the prospect. The rep must push prospects to think differently about their industry, company, and challenges.

“Challengers aren’t so much world-class investigators as they are world-class teachers.” The Challenger Sale

Coming up with tailored insights is a lot of work. It requires a lot of research and time, something many sales reps don’t have enough of.

However, your marketing team is already putting in time and effort to identify the interests and concerns of your buyers and to address them with insight in the form of educational content. It is these exact insights that your sales team needs in their hands to be effective Challengers.

In fact, content marketers and Challenger sales organizations are operating under the very same understanding: the buyer’s journey has changed and the need for alignment, for marketers to provide sales teams with commercial insights, is more critical than ever.

Content Provides Insight

“Marketing must serve as the ‘insight generation machine’ that keeps reps well equipped with quality teaching material that customers will find compelling.” The Challenger Sale

Content is at the center of marketing, and successful assets educate prospects, challenge them to examine their industry in a new way, and set them up to see your products as the solution to overcoming challenges and taking their business to the next level.

And as The Challenger Sale points out, “there’s vastly greater value in insight that changes or builds on what they know in ways they couldn’t have discovered on their own.” Content makes those insights available and accessible to sales reps.

Challenger sales teams should be using content to identify relevant insights to share with their prospects. Take stats, concepts, and data from an eBook, blog post, infographic, article, etc; then back up those insights shared in a meeting, for example, by sending the prospect the full content piece.

This moves the rep from the dreaded world of “checking in” and “touching base” to having a real reason to reach out—one that is equally valuable for the prospect because the rep is sharing timely insight.

Content Quantifies the Impact

But content doesn’t stop at the insight step of a Challenger play. Think of data, surveys, and industry research, or case studies and testimonials. This content can prove things like: the scope of real concerns in an industry or business, or, on the flip side, the extent to which a product has had a positive impact on customers with similar challenges.

These content assets serve as support for sales. Making the customer think differently, while quantifying the impact, earns the rep trust and respect. Providing evidence that can’t be ignored may make a prospect feel a sense of “rational drowning,” but it is this exact state that must be reached for the prospect to be open and ready to listen to how you/your solution uniquely solves for their problem(s). 

The most successful reps are seen as thought leaders, teachers, and industry experts. Without commercial insight, without impact, your solution becomes a nice-to-have, not a need-to-have. Challenger sales reps are only effective with quality content to use in their sales cycle.

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