Challenger Sale Commercial Insight is a team pursuit

Challenger Sale Commercial Insight: A Team Pursuit

Over the past year, my organization has implemented the Challenger Sale  in our business.   As the solo marketer on the team, it has been my job to create the sales enablement content for our target use cases.   Building the Challenger Sale commercial insight has been the hardest part, and we’ve learned that it takes a team to do it.   Just like cycling teams competing in a team time trial, our success depended on the coordinated efforts of specialists within our group.  Here’s how we finally crossed the line.

At first blush, the definition of a Challenger Sale commercial insight seems pretty easy:  “A compelling, defensible perspective from a supplier that materially impacts  a customer’s performance and directly leads back to their unique capabilities.”  The commercial insight is the key to the “Reframe” point in the Challenger Sale choreography.   It’s the content, based on your product’s unique advantages,  that sales uses to uncover a previously unknown problem in the current way the customer does business.   The commercial insight disrupts how the customer thinks about her business,  and ultimately leads to your product as the unique solution to the problem.

At first, building the Challenger Sale commercial teaching presentation seemed simple.  Our product, CA AppLogic Cloud Platform, has unique advantages, and we have dozens of customers using it to launch profitable new services.   But we struggled with articulating the commercial insight, as if we were playing a game of hot potato.  Sales looked to me to deliver it, but I needed them for their understanding of how customers were solving problems.  The sales guys didn’t have a detailed understanding of the specific ways customers were using the product, so we turned to our technical sales staff.   Technical sales teams understood that, but they didn’t know how to quantify the business benefits the product delivered.   For that, we needed the customer.  No one group by itself could deliver the Challenger Sale commercial insight.  It took a team.

This cooperation is like that of a cycling team’s in a team time trial.  For a team of nine riders, the time trial finishing time is determined when the fifth rider crosses the line.  Therefore, the individual riders work together.   Each rider takes a turn riding hard at the front of a pace line, while their teammates follow inches behind, taking advantage of the slipstream.  After a turn of twenty seconds or so, the front rider steers off to the side and joins the back of the group to recover and prepare for the next pull at the front.  Teams succeed by synchronizing the efforts of the individual riders.

Challenger Sale Commercial Insight: Team Roles

Here’s how the riders in our pace line synchronized efforts to build our commercial insight.

Product Management:   We knew our commercial insight would be based on the unique way our cloud platform helps customers reduce costs and launch cloud services quickly.  Capital expenditures are lowered by virtualizing not just servers, but also networking and storage.  Operational expenditures are lowered by tightly coupling applications to the underlying infrastructure necessary to run them, and treating them as a single entity.   There’s less complexity, so it takes less effort, skill, and time to build, launch, and run services in the cloud.

Marketing:  Since our target customer was the revenue owner at a service provider charged with delivering profitable cloud services, we needed a Challenger Sale commercial insight that would reframe the problem in terms of revenue, profit, and fast time to market.   By studying the market, we knew that service providers measure the health of their business in terms of revenue and profit per data center square foot.   We needed to translate the unique product capabilities into a financial benefit in these terms, which the customer could then modify based on her own launch plan.

Sales:  In order to help the customer quantify the top line revenue projection, we needed examples of pricing, packaging, and take-up rate from other service providers in the market.  Luckily, many service providers publish this information publicly.  Our sales team provided public information from existing customers that was useful in building these projections.

Technical sales:  Our Challenger Sale commercial insight depended on the quantification of the capital expense, labor, power consumption, and other expenses necessary to run cloud service on our platform.  Our technical sales team had the experience to provide this information based on the product functionality and real-world implementations.

The customer:   Our customers showed us the the business model format that they used to make investment decisions in their company.  We built a model which aligned to their desired format, but helped the business owner tailor it to their particular plans.  The result was a quantified commercial insight that the customer “owned,” and presented as their justification for the investment in our product.

Here’s a snapshot of the overall P&L that results from this work.  P and L Summary Picture

As Forbes has written, implementing a Challenger Sale approach requires new marketing skills.   Through this team experience we got a good start, but there’s more to learn.  Please let me know about your experience.

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