The one-sentence summary

The best sales people don’t just build relationships with customers – they challenge them.


  • The best sales people don’t just build relationships with customers – they challenge them.
  • Every sales rep in the world falls into one of five distinct profiles, and while all can deliver average performance, only the Challenger delivers consistently high performance.
  • Based on their study of 6,000 reps, the five types are the Hard Worker, the Challenger, the Relationship Builder, the Lone Wolf and the Reactive Problem Solver.
  • Instead of leading with information about their company and its solutions, Challengers provide customers with surprising insights about how they can save or make money.
  • They tailor their message to each customer, they are assertive (not aggressive), and push back where necessary to take control of the sale.
  • Challengers provided double the number of high performers in the study, and at least half of them are more likely to succeed in a high complexity sales environment.
  • They have three main skills:

1. Teaching for differentiation: delivering insight that reframes the way customers think.

2. Tailoring for resonance: communicating sales messages in the context of the customer.

3. Taking control of the sale: openly pursuing goals in a direct but non-aggressive way to overcome increased customer risk aversion.


  • Commercial teaching involves 6 stages:

1. Warmer: build credibility through empathy.

2. Reframe: shock the customer with the unknown.

3. Rational drowning: intensify the problem, then break it down.

4. Emotional impact: humanize the problem.

5. Value proposition: introduce a new way, building confidence back up.

6. Solution and implementation map: how to fix it in detail with your product.

  • The KPMG SAFE-BOLD framework allows you to score from 1-10 the scale, risk, innovativeness, and difficulty of issues.
  • SAFE = Small, Achievable, Following, Easy.
  • BOLD= Big, Outperforming, Leading edge, Difficult.
  • The sales experience contributes more customer loyalty (53%) than the brand (19%), product and service delivery (19%), and value-to-price ratio (9%) put together.
  • Hypothesis-based Selling involves leading with an hypothesis of the customer’s needs, informed by experience and research.
  • Having widespread support for suppliers across an organization is now vital – going straight to the decision maker no longer works.


  • Nothing. This is based on deep research and sheds a new light on selling.