Best Practices for Incorporating Intent Data into Challenger Sales (Part 1)

Aug 13, 2019 | Author Ed Marsh

TL;DR - The Challenger Sales model works once an AE has a meeting. It’s also effective when it’s incorporated into outbound sales which seek to set those meetings. However, executing challenger-style outbound sales approach takes a combination of the right intent data sources, rigorous preparation, and precise execution. Part 1 of this article explains the background and provides actionable tips. Stay tuned for Part 2!

What’s More Important - Who to Call or How to Call?

Contact-Level™ Intent Data focuses on business development reps (BDRs) on active prospects for outbound prospecting and sales.

Operationalizing the data requires carefully matching the outbound methodology to the prospect’s intent, including templates and scripts to optimize the value.

Too often this important step is overlooked, and these carefully curated leads complete with lots of nuanced, granular detail are simply dumped into existing outbound sequences.

That clumsy treatment diminishes the results. Nobody wins. Intent data providers don’t impress sales operations folks to the extent we should. BDRs don’t see as significant of a bump in KPIs as they should. And prospects don’t actually get the value they would from the right, helpful info that speaks directly to them.

Having the right data is critically important in today’s hyper-competitive outbound sales environment. But targeting the right message in the right way to those active buyers is equally important.

Let’s revisit the classic book The Challenger Sale to explore how applying this methodology to third-party intent data leads can provide a substantial demand generation lift.

Review of the Challenger Sale Methodology

The first five people (fine print) who book 30 minutes with me to talk about using intent data for their demand gen will get a free copy of The Challenger Sale. Schedule your meeting here.

CEB Directors Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson set out to understand why some reps performed while others didn’t. What they discovered was that top-performing reps had certain behaviors in common — and that as sales becomes more complex, the core of sales teams is falling further behind.

What did they find the top sales performers had in common? Six key attributes:

  • Offers the customer unique perspectives (that apply not to “products and solutions, but to how the customer can compete more effectively in their market.”)
  • Has strong two-way communication skills
  • Knows the individual customer's value drivers
  • Can identify economic drivers of the customer’s business
  • Is comfortable discussing money
  • Can pressure the customer

That combination of skills allows practitioners of the Challenger approach to:

  • Teach for differentiation
  • Tailor for resonance (“crafting the message to resonate with the buyer’s specific priorities”)
  • Take control of the sale

The really good news for organizations is that Dixon and Adamson found that “Challengers” can be trained, they’re not uniquely imbued with innate attributes that can’t be developed. But, they note, that means the “organization also bears the responsibility for identifying which teaching messages will resonate.”

Only a small minority of salespeople will instinctively stumble into the right approach. Companies have to structure buyer enablement content and sales processes to actually follow the methodology.

When done right, 53% of “customer loyalty is attributable to your (reps) ability to outperform the competition in the sales experience itself...not what you sell but how you sell.” Buyers measure that by the insights they receive around topics like possible alternatives, potential land mines and new issues and outcomes.

I suggest you read (or reread) the book. Focus particularly on Chapter 5 which begins Part 2 with a deep dive into teaching for differentiation. Quickly recapping for context here, they found that your “story” must engage both emotional and rational perspectives. It must:

  1. Establish credibility by leading with a “hypotheses of customers’ needs, informed by your own experience and research.”
  2. Reframe the issue to make the prospect curious and willing to hear more
  3. Quantify the hidden cost of the problem they’d overlooked (make them squirm a bit)
  4. Frame the story they can easily visualize themselves/their company in a similar, and uncomfortable position
  5. Show them what they would need in a potential solution which would help forestall the unpleasant outcome
  6. Illustrate how your solution actually matches that requirement (first time you talk about you/your company/your product or service!)

We'll get to the matter of hand in Part 2: How does intent data intersect with the challenger sale methodology to get the conversion? Subscribe to the blog to get Part 2 delivered right to your inbox.

The fine print - Pretty simple. You must have budget authority in marketing or sales and work for a tech or software company with at least 100 employees, and which is not a current, Inc. customer. And then you have to show up for the meeting.



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