The Definitive Guide to Creating a Sales Manual in 2022

Before we jump into a step-by-step outline on how to create a sales manual, let’s answer a few questions you might be asking.

What size of company or sales team needs a sales manual?

The short answer is that all teams need a sales manual. Even if you only have one rep with a few simple processes, you need a written handbook documenting those steps. For growing businesses and those with larger sales teams or more complex sales cycles, having a detailed sales training document is even more vital.

Yes, gathering information and documenting your processes can be time-consuming. But by equipping your sales team with the tools they need, you’re setting your business up for success.

What essentials should I include in my sales training materials?

Your sales manual should be a one-stop-shop collecting every detail a sales rep needs to know, from their team structure and responsibilities, to how commissions are calculated and when they can expect to get paid.

We go into much more detail in the next section, but every sales manual should include:

  • Information about your business, structure, and key people to know.
  • Product information and your competition.
  • A detailed description of your targeting, prospecting, and sales processes.
  • Rep responsibilities, behavior expectations, and legal requirements.
  • How account ownership and dispute resolution is managed.
  • Training resources: scripts, playbooks, and tech platform use (VOIP, CRM).

What are the benefits of having a sales manual?

A great sales manual will fill three key functions:

  1. Sales knowledge — A sales rep’s knowledge is a key indicator of sales team success. A sales manual is the primary reference and training for all four types of sales knowledge: product, industry, customer, and sales process knowledge.
  2. Management efficiency — Without a single source of information and training, reps are forced to constantly ask management for information. This is inefficient for both sales managers and sales reps. Instead of answering the same questions over and over in a single-use format like emails or Slack, you can direct reps to your sales manual as the single source of truth.
  3. Enforcement — If reps can’t find (or remember) your rules and policies, they won’t follow them. By clearly defining their responsibilities and expected activities, you can hold them accountable.

As you can see, a well-written sales manual plays an essential role in your sales team. Now that you know why you need one, let’s walk step by step through everything you need to know about creating your own sales manual.

The Only Sales Manual Outline You’ll Ever Need

When writing your own sales manual it can be difficult to know where to start.

The good news is that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. By filling out each of the sections listed below, you’ll end up with a working document that’s detailed, holds exactly the information your reps need, and is already organized and ready to share with your team.

Let’s get started.

Intro: The Basics

This introductory section of your sales manual should include the “how” and “why” of your business. At minimum this should include a brief company overview and history, and your product overview and pricing.

You may already have this information elsewhere. If it’s easy to read and nicely formatted you may be able to include the image files or document links directly in your sales manual. If this info is detailed in a business plan or a company website, you may be able to copy and paste. Just remember to edit so that the information you include is clear, concise, and relevant.

Also, be sure to either paste the information into your sales manual document, or link directly to the website page or online file. Avoid linking to a folder that they’ll have to sort through to find what they need. If your sales reps find your sales manual isn’t helpful (even just once or twice) they won’t use it.

Team Structure

When your sales reps have a comprehensive understanding of how your sales team functions and how it fits into your organization as a whole, it’s easier for them to collaborate and work together efficiently. That’s why detailing your sales team structure and people to know is an important part of your sales manual.

The Team Structure section should include:

  • A hierarchy chart of your sales team’s structure.
  • Each team member’s name, responsibility, and contact information.
  • Key people to know at your company and when/how to engage them.

It’s also important to include the roles and contact information of non-sales team members who your reps will need to interact with. Some examples include personnel in human resources, information technology, and accounting.

The Competition

The better sales reps can relate to their prospects, the easier it is to sell to them. Good sales reps help prospects make a successful buying decision – even if that means your company isn’t a good fit. To do this, reps need to understand the full range of options available to your prospects, and how your company fits in this lineup.

Depending on your business specifics, the info you cover in this section may include:

  • Your company’s value proposition, competitive advantages, and strengths and weaknesses compared to others in your industry.
  • Your competitor’s strengths, weaknesses, pricing, and positioning.
  • Relevant (and up-to-date) market conditions or industry trends.

Be as detailed as you need to be, but still aim to keep the information clear and easy to understand. If you overwhelm your reps with unnecessary information, they’ll be more likely to miss the important points.

Rep Responsibilities

This section of your sales manual should detail three types of rep responsibilities: duties, quotas, and targets. Duties explain what to do, quotas say how often you need to do specific duties, and targets are goals typically rewarded with bonuses.

Ideally, the key activities reps need to accomplish will be tracked within your CRM, and your sales manual should include details on how to do so. Regardless, if there is something you want or expect your sales reps to do, it needs to be clearly defined in your sales manual.

Compensation

Most good sales reps are in it for the money and really care about commission. Make sure you spend ample effort explaining commission terms as clearly as possible. It’s an important topic for sales reps, so you don’t want to be seen as brushing it aside or not explaining it well.

This section should be highly detailed, and should include:

  • How commissions are earned — For example, is it when a sale is made to a new customer, or once a new customer pays for a product?
  • When commissions are paid — Explain whether commission is paid monthly, on the 10th day of the month following the commission period, etc.
  • How commissions are calculated — For example, a 10% commission on total invoiced amount, 10% commission on net profit, etc., with an explanation of how overhead and “net” is calculated.
  • Example scenarios — Give several examples (with increasing complexity) that demonstrate how commission is earned, calculated, and paid.
  • Additional commission terms — When applicable, such as rollover clauses or commission adjustments.

Again, when it comes to compensation, it’s always best to be as specific as you can. Don’t fill this section with unnecessary fluff, but be sure to cover every single aspect that affects rep compensation. Transparency and specificity on this topic are extremely important.

Targeting

Sales reps need to understand the target demographic and how to find usable contact information. This section gives them the tools they need to do so effectively. As with many other sections in your sales manual, this is going to be highly specific to your business and targeting process.

At the very least, this section should include who to target, who to avoid targeting, and how to source leads. Depending on the complexity of your targeting process, you may also need to add information on how to use a targeting tool or lead source properly, prompts for reps to come up with targeting strategy improvements, and (if some qualified prospects are more valuable than others) an explanation of the different tiers of ideal customers.

Prospecting

Along with targeting, your reps should know how to engage targeted leads.

Your Prospecting section should detail your strategy and process for reaching leads, and it should include the lead statuses that define a lead’s position in the prospecting process.

If applicable, you may also need to cover:

  • Details for the inbound prospecting process – goals, targets, conversion process, as well as templates and snippets for responding to inbound leads.
  • Details for the outbound prospecting process – goals, targets, and cadence and sequence for outreach to leads.

If you want new sales reps to be able to sell effectively, they need to understand how prospecting works in your company, field, or industry. Don’t leave this part of their skill set to chance.

Qualifying

How will your reps know who is worth sinking their time into? By defining your qualifying criteria and process in your sales manual, you’ll be answering this question for your reps.

The Qualifying section should explain both aspects of qualifying:

  • Qualifying criteria — What makes an opportunity qualified.
  • Qualifying process — How to properly qualify an opportunity.

In addition to the criteria and process for qualification, you should also explain what to do with leads once they’ve been qualified or de-qualified. These are usually pretty straightforward, such as creating a deal in the CRM and passing the baton to an Account Executive. But no matter what, they need to be explained in writing.

Sales Process

A sales process is a step-by-step process for turning interested prospects into customers. This is essential to creating a good sales manual, and should be explained as clearly as possible. The sales process begins after a lead has been generated from prospecting, or in some cases, once they’ve been qualified. This lead becomes a prospect and now enters the sales pipeline. The sales pipeline is a series of steps (deal stages) that need to happen in order for the prospect to complete the buying process.

A simple sales pipeline will almost always include a variation of the following stages:

  1. Qualified
  2. Negotiation
  3. Closed Won (Sale Complete)
  4. Closed Lost (No Sale)

Your sales process may look similar to the above, or it may be significantly more complicated. The best sales processes are highly customized to their company. Typically you’ll need more deal stages and more sales calls for complex and expensive products, as well as for deals with multiple decision makers or complex decision-making processes.

From there, explain your sales process and how each stage works.

  • Stage definition – Explanation of what it means for a deal to be in this stage. This may be as simple as repeating the stage name. For example: A contract has been sent to the prospect.
  • Stage activities – What tasks do we perform while a deal is in this stage? For example: Follow up with the prospect to remind them to sign the contract.
  • Goals – Every stage has a primary goal. Most have a secondary goal, and some have a tertiary goal. List these goals for each stage. For example: Receive a signed contract; Get prospect to commit to signing the contract by a specific date; Determine obstacle that’s preventing the contract from being signed.
  • Next action – After we’ve completed the Stage Activities above, what’s our next action? For example: Hand deal over to the customer success team once the contract has been signed.
  • Duration (optional) – How long should a deal remain in this stage? For example: A contract must be signed within 30 days.

Unless you already have a detailed sales process, this will probably be the most time-intensive part of creating your sales manual. But even if you need to adjust your sales pipeline and deal stages later on, defining your sales process in writing is a beneficial (and necessary) step.

Workflows and SOPs

Efficient and scalable businesses have efficient and scalable processes. The more these processes are automated, the better. But whenever a human (sales rep) is involved, the process needs to be written and easily accessible.

Here are some examples of processes to include in this section:

  • How to get set up on the required tech stack.
  • How to quote customers.
  • How to process an order.
  • How to update the CRM.
  • How to fill out forms or documents.
  • How to create an invoice or other documents.
  • How to explain our contract.
  • How to request PTO.

If these processes all have their own forms or documents then you don’t need to recreate them. List them all in this section with direct links to each file.

As you document each process, consider including:

  • Step-by-step instructions — Numeric, sequential instructions are much easier to follow than paragraphs of text.
  • Screenshots — Especially when describing how to use software or an app.
  • Flowcharts — For processes that differ depending on the situation or other variables.
  • Links — Rather than just mentioning the name of documents or forms and explaining where to find them, link directly to them.
  • Videos — For more complex processes, especially in apps or software, do a screen-record video showing the process step by step.

As a bonus, documenting your processes for your sales manual often leads to immediate improvements. Once processes are written down, problems and bottlenecks are often clear and impossible to ignore.

Account Ownership

These are rules that govern which sales rep can call on which accounts. In many organizations, only one sales rep may sell to each customer or account. These rules can be complex depending on the nature of your business, but most newer sales teams just need some basic, written rules.

Teams with multiple competing reps need Account Ownership rules in order to keep reps from stepping on each other’s toes, and to keep them from annoying customers with calls or emails from multiple reps.

Account ownership rules need to cover:

  • How reps gain ownership of accounts.
  • How reps lose ownership of accounts.

Again, these are going to vary widely depending on your business model. Be as detailed as you need to be to get the information across, but don’t make account ownership rules that you aren’t willing to actively enforce.

(Optional) Sales Methodology

A sales methodology is a set of guidelines or principles for interacting with prospects or customers. Methodologies are fairly complex and require dedicated training to experience the full benefit and really “follow” the methodology, but you can still learn many new skills from reviewing them.

If your organization has chosen to use a formal sales methodology such as the Challenger Model, Solution Selling, or Sandler Method then you’ll want to dedicate this section to explaining that methodology and how it works.

Objection Handling & Value Selling

This section should include information on common objections and how to overcome them, along with specific ways to provide value to your customers.

Objection Handling When building this section, you’ll want to take every objection and concern you can think of and highlight them here. For each of them you’ll want to include:

  1. The objection.
  2. An example response.
  3. An explanation for why the example response is an ideal response.
  4. (Optional) Background on the objection.

Try to explain each objection in as much detail as possible. The more context the sales reps understand behind the objection, the better they’ll be able to handle them on the fly and come from a place of mutual understanding when speaking to the prospect about that concern.

Value Selling

While objection handling is more about responding to objections properly, value selling is hearing customer pain points or buying criteria then matching them to features of your product and end-benefits to customers. Proper objection handling keeps you from losing deals whereas well-trained value selling enables you to win deals.

Value selling is easiest to create in a simple table with the following three columns:

  1. Pain point / buying criteria — A potential customer’s issue, need, or goal that can be solved with our product.
  2. Features — Our product features that solve this issue, fulfill this need, or reach this goal.
  3. Benefit — The end-benefit to customers who use this feature to resolve this point point or buying criteria.

When working on your value selling table, keep in mind the differences between capabilities, features, and benefits. For example, if your laptop has a fingerprint scanner, it saves you the trouble of needing to type in your password when you log in. The feature here is the fingerprint scanner, the capability is unlocking your computer, and the benefit is the few seconds that the fingerprint scanner saves you versus typing in your password manually.

Of course, if you haven’t already worked through value selling or objection handling, creating this section of your sales manual is going to be somewhat time-intensive but very beneficial in the long run.

Resources

The purpose of this section is to make this manual the one-and-only document sales reps need. Inevitably your reps are going to need to use other software, reference personal documents such as contracts, and more. If you can use this section to link to every other resource your reps will ever need, you’ll have made your sales manual a very usable single source of truth.

Some common resources to link to include:

  • Sales & marketing collateral (stored in CRM, Drive, Dropbox, etc.).
  • Personal documents (employee contract, commission reports, etc.).
  • HR platform.
  • Websites for CRM, targeting, or prospecting tools.
  • Industry publications or blogs.

Basically, if it’s something your reps are going to need to reference or access, link to it under Resources.

How to format your sales manual

Don’t use multiple documents in multiple locations with multiple versions. If helpful information is difficult to find, or in numerous locations, reps will spend unnecessary time looking for them (or won’t look at all). Your sales manual should be housed in one company-wide document with links to sales-relevant external docs, URLs, etc.

Use these sections as a foundation for creating your sales manual:

  • Basics — Introduction to the role and company.
  • Team Structure — Your current sales team and key people to know.
  • Competition — Where you stand among your competitors.
  • Responsibilities — Expectations and quotas for your sales reps.
  • Compensation — How commission is earned and paid.
  • Targeting – Your target demographic and how to find their contact information.
  • Prospecting — How to find leads and engage them.
  • Qualifying — Criteria and process for ensuring an opportunity is worth your time.
  • Sales Process — The stages and processes for turning prospects into customers.
  • Workflows & SOPs — Processes and guidelines reps need to follow on a daily basis.
  • Account Ownership Rules — Rules of the hunt.
  • Methodology — How to approach selling.
  • Value Selling & Objection Handling — Tips for overcoming objections and providing value.
  • Resources — Links to anything else reps may need.

Your sales manual is a dynamic document and should be updated regularly. For this reason we don’t recommend printing your sales manual or creating it as a static PDF file. Both Notion and Google Docs are easy to update, and offer sharing options that are simple and straightforward, but there are other software platforms that have similar capabilities. Online documents are also searchable using Cmd+F or Ctrl+F, making the information even more easily accessible for your team.

Whatever platform you use to store your sales manual, it’s important to keep it organized, accessible, and a dynamic single source of information for your sales team.

In Conclusion

Creating your own sales manual takes time, but in the long run it will make your job easier. By following the steps in this detailed outline, you’ll be able to write a sales manual that accurately reflects the sales practices and policies specific to your business. By keeping this document accessible and up to date, you’ll equip your sales team to work and sell effectively.

What Skills do You Need to be a Sales Manager?

Revenue growth and customer satisfaction objectives are especially valued by companies, and sales managers who can achieve these goals while still keeping the company inventive and competitive are highly regarded by employers.

What Is a Sales Manager?

It’s the sales manager’s job to establish and manage a sales team for a business.

Sales managers are responsible for a wide range of key responsibilities in most companies. For example, these include:

  • Setting sales goals.
  • Proactive experimentation to enhance the execution of a sales strategy.
  • Keeping an eye on critical deals.
  • Overseeing the company’s sales training program.
  • Maintaining sales quotas for individuals and teams.
  • Keeping tabs on progress and evaluating data in real time.
  • Sales team management and support.

Those are a few of the many critical responsibilities related to a sales manager’s role in the company.

Sales Rep vs Sales Manager

Generally sales managers come out of the top percentage of salespeople. They are initially promoted for their ability to close deals and drive revenue. However, being great at sales and being a great sales manager require completely different skill sets.

Having excellent sales skills doesn’t necessarily make you a great sales manager. Learning to transition from one role to the other can be bumpy. But once you understand what your sales team, and company, need from you as a leader you can then focus on which skills to develop.

What Makes a Great Sales Manager?

Being a good sales manager, or learning to become a better one, is usually dependent on knowing what the sales team needs from you.

Your sales representatives need a mentor who will keep them responsible, evaluate their work, and provide feedback on how they can improve. They may also need you to be someone who celebrates their successes or advocates for them within the company.

Sales management skills and an eagerness to understand the techniques are essential for a sales manager to succeed. The best sales managers are constantly looking for ways to improve.

An organization’s revenue-generating operations are directly influenced by the sales manager’s skills. A sales manager is in the unique position of having to support individuals separately and the organization as a whole.

Having experience as a sales manager can improve your job performance and allow you to move up the corporate ladder.

This article will explain the skills a sales manager needs to be successful.

10 Essential Sales Management Skills

The following 10 sales management skills are necessary for every sales manager:

1. COMMUNICATION AND INTERPERSONAL SKILLS

As a sales manager, you’ll spend a large portion of your time meeting and conversing with your sales team.

Because of this, understanding how to deal with them is critical. Great communication skills are an asset. It helps guarantee that you’re communicating the right information to the sales personnel and other employees in a timely way, through the appropriate media, and in the right tone for the specific rep you’re speaking with.

A sales manager’s job is to make sure everyone understands their responsibilities and what they need to accomplish for the team to succeed. It’s also their role to make sure each rep has bought into the vision of the team.

2. COACHING AND MENTORING

To assist your sales staff, it’s crucial to give sales training and guidance. Sales training frequently comprises sales tactics and product knowledge. However, sales coaching can foster habits that will drive your team members to meet their long-term performance and sales goals.

When you have good coaching abilities, you’re better equipped to assist each member of your team to improve as a salesperson.

When it comes to managing a sales team, the sales manager needs to keep tabs on both the little details of each day and the broader picture of the company’s overall objectives. And they have to know how to apply that information to their team.

You can improve the quality of a salesperson by providing them with coaching, advice, and support, and the sales manager must take an active role in this process.

However, a good sales manager knows that if they micromanage too much, they will crush their team’s sales performance. They also know that if they don’t pay attention to what their team is doing, they may stop performing at optimal levels.

Sales teams work like high school baseball teams. A sales manager acts as the coach, building up the team and their skills. Over time the best performers will eventually leave to develop their own careers. This should be the goal, that the sales manager is developing their best performers to be independent.

The benefit of this is that your “seniors” are helping develop the “freshmen” before graduating and starting their own coaching careers.

While a sales manager is teaching their senior reps to mentor others, they should be mentoring a fellow member of their management team who may need a little extra help. Arrange activities that get your coworkers moving. Don’t sit around and wait for top-down changes to be made your way. Instead, try out new ideas for driving good change in your team.

3. CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT (CRM)

This skill helps you manage the connections and interactions between your current and potential clients. It gives you information on how well each member of your team is doing. It also helps you better manage your connections, sales, and relationships with customers.

A good sales manager should know the ins and outs of the CRM they are using. A tool is only good if the person working with it knows how to use it.

Dig into your CRM. Learn how to scan dashboards and reports, or better yet create your own. Learn everything you can about the contacts, companies, and deals within the system. Learn how to use the tools your sales reps use within the system so that you can better coach them on their use. This can be as simple as learning how to create email templates or meeting links to make outreach more effective.

Once you know how to use the CRM, you may find that your hours of management become minutes, or at least more effective.

4. ANALYSIS SKILLS

A sales manager is responsible for looking through the data, determining what information is pertinent, and making meaningful judgments.

A large part of a sales manager’s job is checking data on spreadsheets or CRM dashboards and being able to make quick decisions about what actions to take. They are responsible for performing in-depth analyses of the market and the clients to find potential opportunities and collaborations, which is a significant component of their work.

A sales manager needs to be able to glance at the data and see who is performing or not, and what adjustments need to be made on sales strategy. They also need to be able to discuss that information in a meaningful way with people at all levels of the company.

To do this, you need to have excellent analytical abilities and the capacity to make conclusions that are relevant and useful for the business.

These kinds of data are essential in projecting sales and defining sales targets that are aligned with the company’s overall objectives. This also serves as the foundation for developing sales strategies, which the sales manager will put into action.

5. STRATEGIC THINKING AND PLANNING

Planning is a vital step that must be taken to ensure the expansion of a sales department and, ultimately, the scalability of a firm. First, the sales manager must gather all of the relevant data and insights needed to build a plan. The next step in the process is to design a strategy for the course of action that will actualize the sales plan.

This includes implementing, monitoring, and modifying the plan from the beginning through to the finish to guarantee that the plan will be successfully implemented.

In addition, it requires gathering the complete team under a single roof to work toward a unified common goal to enhance workflow management. To do this, a sales manager has to be able to:

  1. Identify the sales objectives.
  2. Record the procedure so everybody can follow it.
  3. Offer the required training and support to ensure that the whole sales force is efficient continuously.

6. DELEGATION OF RESPONSIBILITIES

To assist their team in reaching its full potential, sales managers need to know when it’s appropriate to delegate certain responsibilities. Sales managers are human too, and no matter how good they are, they can only do so much.

To effectively allocate your personnel, you need a solid understanding of the strengths and shortcomings of each salesperson. When you allocate tasks to them in the appropriate manner, your employees will have the chance to:

  • Push themselves.
  • Learn new abilities.
  • Improve the overall performance of the sales team.

The degree to which a sales manager is successful can be measured by how efficiently they utilize the sales department to advance the objectives of the firm. This is also a great way to develop your sales team’s skills and prepare them for advancement in their careers.

To be successful in this endeavor, a sales manager has to be aware of when and how to assign duties to other employees to boost the overall productivity of the business.

7. TIME MANAGEMENT SKILLS

Because sales managers are responsible for a variety of tasks, they need to have effective time management skills. Solid time management skills will allow you to:

  • Prioritize activities.
  • Maintain limits.
  • Set aside time for certain tasks.
  • Property plan out days.

If you can effectively manage your time, you will be able to maintain your productivity. Not only will organizing your day provide you with more time to get things done, but it will also make it easier for you to collaborate with other members of your team and increase the overall effectiveness of your operations.

Often a mark of a successful sales manager is running out of things to do on a daily basis. If you delegate, prioritize tasks, and organize your day well, you may find you have some extra time every day.

8. PROBLEM SOLVING SKILLS

As a sales manager, one of the most crucial skills is the ability to problem-solve when issues crop up. When difficulties are solved effectively, the sales team can carry out their duties without unnecessary difficulties.

Many sales reps are so focused on the sale that they are unable to find ways around certain obstacles or objections. All they see is a wall blocking the sale. A good sales manager will help them see that the wall is actually a boulder, and that there are ways around the issue. It’s your job as the sales manager to point out positive actions the reps can take in these situations.

Additionally, problem solving helps enhance the overall efficiency of the team as you manage to resolve the conflict.

9. MOTIVATION AND LEADERSHIP SKILLS

It’s essential to keep the team motivated toward the objectives they have set for themselves. You can do this by planning meetings, events, and team-building exercises that push individuals outside of their comfort zones.

In addition to this, encourage openness and transparency to help them recognize the difficulties and constraints associated with sales operations.

Each rep is going to respond best to a different type of motivation or tone. Knowing what motivates each rep, and knowing how to speak to them, can be the difference in developing a successful team.

Managing and guiding the sales team requires not only great leadership abilities but also an understanding of your function as a leader. To be an effective leader, you must motivate your team and give them better techniques and support. The ability to lead effectively also involves understanding your employees’ strengths and weaknesses.

10. RESILIENCE

A sales manager needs to have a resilient mindset when confronted with obstacles. If you have this ability, you will be able to look at every failure as a lesson or a chance to improve your skills.

Sales can be a rollercoaster. The team may close a lot of sales one day, and the next day everyone seems to have forgotten how to sell. A sales manager needs to be able to remain calm and focused through the ups and downs of the sales cycle.

In addition to this, being resilient helps you:

  • Discover new approaches to enhance the sales procedure.
  • Effectively allocate your resources.
  • Inspire your team.
  • Learn from your experience.
  • Put what you’ve learned into practice.

Conclusion

The role of a sales manager comes with a broad variety of obligations. The most important of these is to motivate everyone in the department to cooperate effectively and contribute to the organization’s objectives.

The Challanger Sale — How to Navigate Complex Sales Conversations

Read it here: AmazonAudibleBookshop

Whether you’re looking for a quick overview to get started, or have already read it and need a refresher, this summary of The Challenger Sale is designed to give you the key highlights of this proven sales methodology.

The Five Types of Sales Reps, According to The Challenger Sale

In the Challenger sales model, all sales reps fall into five categories. These categories are not static – a rep can belong to one category while sharing characteristics with other categories. Also, because many of these are skill-based, by growing their skill set, a rep’s type can change over time.

The five types of sales reps listed in The Challenger Sale are:

  1. Hard Worker – The sales reps who believe that simply by putting in more hours than anyone else they will pull in more deals or revenue.
  2. Lone Wolf – These are the reps that pull in huge numbers, often out of instinct rather than any methodology. They don’t like to be managed, and typically don’t play well with others, but are tolerated because they constantly outperform their peers.
  3. Reactive Problem Solver – These reps are excellent problem solvers, but they tend to focus more on providing excellent customer service than generating new sales.
  4. Relationship Builder – These sales reps are focused on building strong networks of relationships with their clients, but because they tend to avoid conflict or debate, they don’t sell as much as they could.
  5. Challenger– Challenger reps are assertive debaters who develop a deep understanding of customer needs.

Each of these types can be low achievers, but many sales managers would be surprised to learn that Challenger Reps typically lead the pack in terms of performance while Relationship Builders tend to be some of the lowest performing reps overall. That’s one of the main reasons we recommend the Challenger methodology to clients dealing with complex sales.

So how do you find (or become!) a Challenger Rep? The good news is — anyone can be taught to be a Challenger — these types of reps are made, not born. The Challenger sales model is based on demonstrated behaviors. It’s not about who you are but what you do.

Essential Skills for Becoming a Challenger Rep

There are three key things that Challenger Reps do well:

  • They teach prospects something new and valuable about how to compete in their market.
  • They tailor their sales pitch to resonate with each stakeholder’s hot-button issues.
  • They take control of the sales process by creating constructive tension and a sense of urgency.

Teaching

While most sales reps start the conversation talking about their own product and company, Challenger Reps focus on teaching the prospect something new and valuable about a problem or opportunity their business is facing.

After fully understanding the prospect’s situation, a Challenger Rep provides an expert perspective gained from their broader view of the industry.

6 Steps of a Teaching Conversation

There are six steps to a teaching conversation in the Challenger sales method:

  1. Warmer – After the initial introductions, a Challenger Rep lays out the challenges they’re seeing and hearing from other companies in the prospect’s industry, setting themselves up as the expert who is already knowledgeable about the prospect’s business.
  2. Reframe – This is the core of the conversation. Challenger Reps offer insights into the prospect’s company to make them aware of a new problem or opportunity at hand.
  3. Rational Drowning – In this step, a Challenger Rep provides data to support the identified problem or opportunity. This step is meant to be uncomfortable for the prospect, as they realize the full scope of what they’re facing.
  4. Emotional Impact – To really bring the issue home, Challenger Reps tell a story that is so relatable that the prospect can see themselves in it. This is the gut punch. At this point, the prospect should feel almost physically ill as they worry about the problem that was brought to life by storytelling.
  5. New Way – After driving the issue home, the Challenger Rep starts to alleviate the prospect’s concern by delivering a solution. This is still not about the rep’s company; it’s strictly about the range of solutions available to the prospect.
  6. Your Solution – Now and only now do Challenger Reps mention their company and their specific solution. This is where they say “Here is how we can fix the problem.”

Challenger Reps reveal the problem, then provide insight and a solution that eventually leads back to the unique strengths that the rep’s product or company has to offer.

To increase urgency, the Challenger Rep then drives home the cost of INaction. At no point in the conversation is a rep justifying the cost of their product. Instead, the focus is on what will happen if the prospect does not do anything.

Every part of the conversation is focused on driving the prospect to take action.

To recap teaching:

  • Identify the problem the prospect doesn’t know about.
  • Identify the solution that leads to your company’s unique strengths.
  • Explain the cost of INaction.

Tailoring

Being a Challenger Rep is about more than just teaching. To truly resonate with their prospect, Challenger Reps tailor their message to the individual in front of them. Their sales pitch is tailored to each person they speak with, and that person’s unique priorities as it relates to their position in the prospect’s company.

In complex sales, it’s unusual to get a direct line to the top decision maker. Challenger Reps overcome this by tailoring their message to each individual stakeholder in the decision-making chain.

While the main content doesn’t change, the rep will highlight different features or tell different stories to connect individually with each stakeholder. While this might seem like too much work, it pays off in the long term as it makes each team member feel heard and valued.

Since team buy-in is often a key factor for top level decision makers, taking the time to make sure their entire team is on board makes them much more likely to pull the trigger when it’s time to purchase.

To recap tailoring:

  • Complex sales often require selling to multiple people in the decision-making chain.
  • Focus on the goals and needs of the individual in front of you, and use these to tailor your pitch and storytelling.
  • Remember that team buy-in is an important factor for top-level decision makers.

Taking Control

Teaching and tailoring are valuable, but taking control is the step that makes Challenger Reps rise above the rest.

While many sales reps avoid taking control – either from their own lack of self-confidence or a desire to please the prospect, Challenger Reps sell with confidence because they know they’re adding value to the conversation. Taking control isn’t about being aggressive. It’s about being assertive and knowing how to stand your ground when a prospect pushes back.

Challenger Reps are comfortable pushing to the next stage of the deal. By taking the lead in the conversation, they’re equipped to challenge their prospect’s thinking, helping prospects focus on the areas of value offered without landing in the weeds of indecision or over-emphasis on the bottom line. Challenger Sales Reps are comfortable talking about money, and aren’t afraid to push.

To recap taking control:

  • Be confident in the value you provide to the prospect.
  • Own the conversation – don’t be afraid to take the lead and ask hard questions.
  • Help the prospect move toward action by creating a sense of urgency.

4 Key Principles of Challenger Sales

1. Challengers Are Made, Not Just Born

While some reps may lean naturally toward this style of selling, many will not. The good news is that the Challenger sales method can be taught, and reps can learn how to leverage constructive tension to move prospects into action.

2. It’s the Combination of Skills That Matters

Of the three challenger attributes — teaching, tailoring, and taking control — the power lies in the combination more than any particular part. If you teach without tailoring, you become irrelevant. If you tailor but don’t teach, you won’t really stand out from the competition. And if you take control without offering value, you’ll come off as bossy and unhelpful.

3. Challenging Is About Organizational Capability, Not Just Skills

In order to ensure a consistent message, the content of the teaching pitch needs to come from the organizational level, not just individual reps. By using a high-level view to categorize customer needs and insights, companies can equip their reps with resources tailored to each specific customer type, empowering reps to effectively take control of the sales interaction.

4. Building a Challenger Sales Force Won’t Happen Overnight

The Challenger sales method is an entirely different way of approaching sales, and the changes required won’t happen overnight. Moving to a Challenger model is a commercial transformation that takes time to get it right.

Conclusion

In this summary of The Challenger Sale, we’ve covered how to teach, tailor, and take control in complex sales conversations. You’ve learned the six steps of a teaching conversation, and how to tailor your pitch to encourage buy-in from the entire decision-making team. Of course, if you haven’t already, we highly recommend reading the book – find it on AmazonAudible, and Bookshop.