There is a school of thought that holds necessity as the mother of invention so when the economic world went into meltdown five years ago the sales industry needed something to be created.
But while this ‘something’ saw the birth of a brand new sales methodology from The Challenger Sale book, we probably will never know what was lost to the industry at the same time.
Because CEB researcher and co-author of Challenger, Matthew Dixon, admits he really cannot remember what he had been working on when the need for a radical new approach to boost sales in a recession became the urgent priority.
Speaking exclusively to SI, Dixon admitted the methodology was almost an accidental discovery. He explained: “It wasn’t planned – what was planned, was the research activity. We are a membership-based organisation so we ask the heads of sales ‘hey, what are the things keeping you awake at night?’
“I remember, it was 2008 and we do our agenda poll in the Fall and I got the results back the day before Lehman Brothers collapsed! Then everything ‘went to hell in and hand-basket’ very quickly.
“In fact, we were all set to research a different topic, and I can’t even remember what it was, but over the next several weeks we started doing phone conversations with our members who were coming back saying, ‘all bets are off, we really need help’.”
He said it was imperative to isolate the issues standing in the way of effective sales in this new tough environment, especially when not all the sales professionals were suffering in the same way.
“The problem we heard over many conversations was that B2B is a very difficult market to sell in especially when none of the customers are buying,” Dixon said. “Our members asked us: ‘Why is it that most sales people in our organisation, and typically those who had been solid, average players, were all falling quite far behind? Yet there are some high performers in the team who are continuing to deliver the numbers and, in some cases, beyond the numbers! We are seeing this gulf develop between the two groups, so what is it that those best performers are doing that we can bottle and export back to get everyone else a little better?’
“That was the Genesis of the study so we went out focused on, initially, about 1,000 people rising to 6,000 when we published the book while now we have data on more than 20,000 sales people around the world.”
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