Employer Insights

Want to increase sales? Here’s why you shouldn’t hire a ‘relationship builder’

Posted by Jonjo
min read

Want to increase sales? Here’s why you shouldn’t hire a ‘relationship builder’ Ok, so I’d like to start by saying that building relationships is obviously an integral part of any sales process. Depending upon the product or service you offer, length of sales’ cycle, prospect, and many other factors; the way your sales team build relationships may differ. Without these relationships, it would be very difficult or near impossible to generate sales’ revenue. The ability to build relationships should be a key capability of your next hire, however it shouldn’t be the most important. If you want to hire the best sales’ people, those who sit among the top 20% of their peers and those who consistently hit their sales’ quota, then there is another characteristic you should consider. 

Challenger Selling The challenger sale, as introduced by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson (and presented recently by Ross Clennett) draws upon global research conducted by the Sales Executive Council. The study, involving more than 6,000 sales’ reps across almost 100 companies, set out to identify what characteristics define the highest performing reps. Results identified five distinct profiles that sales people fall into.

  • Relationship Builders focus on developing strong personal and professional relationships and advocates across the customer organisation. They are generous with their time, strive to meet customers’ every need and work hard to resolve tensions in the commercial relationship.
  • Hard Workers
  • Lone Wolves
  • Reactive Problem Solvers
  • Challengers use their deep understanding of their customers’ businesses to push their thinking and take control of the sales’ conversation. They’re not afraid to share even potentially controversial views and are assertive — with both their customers and bosses.

Among average performers, they found a fairly even distribution of all five profiles. However, amongst the highest performer population, the challenger approach was highly dominant (close to 54% of the star performers fell into the challenger profile in solutions sales). When they looked at the relationship builder profile, they concluded that ‘the likelihood of relationship builders achieving star status if you’re selling complex solutions, falls to nearly zero’. 

Why you should hire a ‘Challenger’ salesperson

  1. They ‘teach’ prospects and customers. The challenger salesperson is focused on providing commercial teaching to the customer which challenges the customer’s assumptions. Instead of doing things the way they have always been done, challengers are asking customers to change their behaviour. Ultimately, they are then able to outperform competitors on the very things they have taught the customers to be important.
  2. They ‘tailor’ their approach. The challenger salesperson understands the customer’s unique value drivers and offers a different perspective or solution. These are the sales people who you would identify as being different to ‘everybody else’.
  3. They ‘take control’. They are comfortable in being a little bit unsettling with their customer approach and are confident in discussing money and price. They create momentum and push things along quickly, paying close attention to address customer concerns, as soon as they arise.

In my next blog (part 2) I will be discussing how to identify and interview for these characteristics.  

Ross Clennett (2016) Selling Skills for Recruiters
Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson (2011) Selling is not about relationships. Harvard Business Review
Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson (2013) The Challenger Sales: Taking control of the Customer Conversation
Mark Garbeletto (2013) The business of sales