Selling Innovation & The Challenger Sale

When you go to market with an innovative product the good news and bad news quickly become obvious. The good news is that, depending on how novel your product is, there’s generally little (if any) competition.

The bad news is that your buyer doesn’t need what you’re selling.

Your buyer has been running their business just fine without your product. They’re busy. They generally don’t want to think about something that isn’t already on their radar.

Trucking companies need tires. Building developers need concrete. Apartment buildings need insurance. Of course selling that stuff is never easy, but buyers have budgets, buying processes and an understood need for those products. If you do the things that good sellers do -- present well, build relationships, follow-up promptly, address concerns, be responsive -- by the end of the year you’ll sell some tires.

But when you’re selling innovation -- that is, selling something that your buyer has never bought and doesn't know they need -- you can do all of the things that good sellers do and still end up selling nothing. Literally nothing. Zero.

This is why the notion of the Challenger Sale is so important. To sell innovation the seller has to challenge the buyer.

  • Challenge what business they’re in
  • Challenge their buying process
  • Challenge their future state
  • Challenge their goals
  • Challenge their understanding of their own market and where their market is heading
  • Challenge how they think of themselves against the competition
  • Challenge who their customer is and what that customer wants

A buyer has a point of view on their work that satisfies them, that makes them comfortable. And that point of view, up until now, doesn't include your product. To win, you have to break that point of view and shift the context so that they see a future where your product is a must have. Successful innovation selling is a function of a seller's ability to change the context and point of view of the buyer.