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Thursday, 5 April 2012

Putting Challenger Selling to Work–One


Top Performer Challenger Salespeople BEHAVE differently from Average (or Core) Challenger Salespeople. What is it that Challengers DO which either holds them back or makes them more successful?

One of the differences is in HOW they Challenge the Customer!


winner and second


I have just reviewed a quantity of recorded sales calls.
I was running Behavioural Analysis on BOTH the Customer and the Salesperson.
Running the recordings both Forwards and Backwards

i.e. WHAT did the Sales person say to CAUSE the Customers response and

HOW did the Customer Response ENABLE the Challenger Process.

Let me share with you an Insight gathered from the recordings.

Some of the BEST Customer responses, which enable a Challenger Process,

Teach, Tailor, and Take Control were questions 
prefixed by the Salesperson with the word “HOW” in their question.


How” is a very challenging question!

  • HOW do you do that currently...HOW would you like it to do it in the future?
  • HOW does that work...HOW should it work?
  • HOW could it add more value?

Some of the WORST Customer responses were to Sales Questions prefixed with WHY.

  • WHY do you do it that way?
  • WHY have you not considered making Changes?
  • And “any Customer Statement” then the Sales person responded WHY?

WHY, seems to put Customers into a defensiveJustification” mode,
explaining WHY they do things.

HOW, seems to put Customers into an openExplanation” mode,
HOW things are (or How things work)

The Power of “HOW” was published in 1987 by Miller & Heiman in:
“Conceptual Selling” (P. 119), in a slightly different context.


Sales Challengers should be aware of HOW

it can increase their effectiveness.

Fall at the hurdle

Sales Challengers should be aware of WHY

they might struggle!



  1. Brian - this correlates with experience I have of counselling/coaching where the use of questions starting with "Why" is advised against for exactly the same reasons that you advocate above - it puts the other person in a defensive frame of mind, which when you are trying to coach or counsel them, is not where you want them to be.

    1. Thanks, Janet.

      The power of HOW, is well used in Coaching/Counselling which can be seen here
      Thanks again

  2. Nice bite sized article that gets to the quick of it. In training I make clear the damage of asking 'why' questions and to rephrase them prefixed with 'what' or ask a quality 'how' question. Good sales professionals have a natural ability to ask questions that we see in the meta model from NLP. I would be interested to see studies as to what the prospect had said before the question was asked. i.e. what feedback/communication/content did the sales person pick up on that prompted them to ask the question they selected.

    Nice blog and I am now subscribed to the feed :)

  3. I come frome the Behavioural modification approach (Cognitive Approaches), while ofcourse Salespeople are influenced by Customer Content, they should be "Controlling the Customer" ie a Challenger Sales approach.

    So, the salesperson can prepare, but NOT script the call. The most likely Customer behaviour which "provokes" a question from Salespeople is "Giving Information" Interactive Skills (Peter Honey and Neil Rackham)