The One Kind of Sales Rep Who Does Best at B2B

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It’s natural for salespeople to want to be nice to their customers. But in business-to-business sales, where the stakes are high and customers are increasingly more sophisticated and risk-averse, being nice just doesn’t cut it. To be successful today, nice guys must challenge their customers out of their comfort zones and focus on delivering value.

To understand what makes top-performing sales representatives successful, Corporate Executive Board conducted a survey of more than 6,000 sales representatives across the globe and numerous industries. We identified five profile types that B2B sales reps fall into, based on the survey analysis:

  • The Hard Worker is always willing to go the extra mile, doesn’t give up easily, and is self-motivated.
  • The Problem Solver is detail-oriented, addresses service issues quickly, and places importance on post-sales follow through.
  • The Relationship Builder doesn’t want to appear pushy, focuses on customer needs, and is generous with his or her time.
  • The Lone Wolf is a salesperson who is self-assured, difficult to control, and follows his or her instincts.
  • The Challenger always has a different view of the world, understands the customer’s business, and loves to debate.

There is merit to each of these sales profiles, but only one is the clear winner in B2B complex-solutions selling: the Challenger. CEB research revealed that nearly 40% of all star-performing sales reps are Challengers. Sales professionals who strive to build personal relationships and diffuse tension with their clients came in dead last, representing only 7% of star performers. When you contrast transactional sales with complex-solution sales, the story becomes even more dramatic, with Challengers representing 54% of the star players and Relationship Builders falling off the map almost entirely.

Based on these findings, you probably wonder, what makes a Challenger rep so different? The Challenger is defined by the unique ability to use constructive tension throughout the sale and provide value to customers through a three-pillar approach of teaching, tailoring, and taking control.

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