Consultative – Challenger – or Trusted Advisor? Who is right?


In most B2B markets, multiple companies sell similar products or services at once. To outperform the competition, your company needs to differentiate itself from the others. But how? The sales industry has been through a range of selling methods. Who is right?

The term ‘consultative selling’ first appeared in the 1970s book Consultative Selling by Mack Hanan. It explores a selling technique in which the salesperson acts as an expert consultant for his or her prospects, asking questions to determine what the prospect needs. Later in 1988 Neil Rackham’s published his famous book SPIN®Selling where sellers are seen by their customers as consultants or problem solvers who are working in the customers’ best interest.

Propel ourselves to 2011 where Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson claim that consultative selling and relationship selling is no longer a successful sales method. Customers are changing how they buy so sales people must change how they sell. Sales Execs (Challengers) should push customers intellectually and come up with innovative, unforeseen solutions to their business problems. They take control of the sale at the very beginning of the sales process by creating a need for each particular buyer for which they have the only solution.

Being a trusted advisor is another approach. The motto is: Stop selling and start helping. The Trust-based Selling approach often sounds counter to traditional sales advice. It purposely is not about closing, being aggressive, or guaranteeing that you’ll meet a customer’s every need. Trust-based Selling teaches you how to listen, understand wants and needs and approach customers in an open, transparent way.

Confused? Key is to understand the fundamental objective that all sales methods have in common: Being insanely customer centric with a goal to help the customer being more successful. Not focusing on you winning the deal, but instead understand the customer’s situation and what they are trying to achieve in their business. If this is your mantra and you know your products and services can help them to differentiate from their competitors then you cannot go wrong. I

Is one sales method or process better than the other? I don’t believe so. Sure, you need to have some guidance in your approach in the form of a sales process but you win more deals and loyal customers if you have their success in mind when positioning your products and services. The answer to this may be in turning everything upside down: see your selling from a customer’s perspective.

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