Build A Challenger Sale Commercial Teaching Presentation in 10 Steps

Challenger Sale book cover, for commercial teaching presentation blogIn their book, “The Challenger Sale,” Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson of the Corporate Executive Board discuss how Challenger sales reps use commercial teaching to out-perform their colleagues.  Commercial teaching accomplishes two goals.  First, it provides a valuable, new insight to the buyer that causes her to think about her business problem in a different way.  Second, it spurs the buyer to take action to advance the sales cycle in your organization’s favor.  That’s why it’s called “commercial teaching,” instead of just “teaching.”  The whole purpose is to close a deal.

Marketing must be laser focused on these goals when building Challenger Sale commercial teaching presentations, since most buyers will have already progressed through the awareness and consideration stages of the customer buying cycle by the time they meet with sales.  Throw out anything that doesn’t advance the commercial teaching goals.   Here are ten steps you can take.

1.  Get rid of the corporate overview slide.  Your company’s corporate headquarters,  annual spend on R&D, and number of employees don’t help your prospect solve their business problem.  Buyers will find this information themselves if they need it.

2.  Drop the customer logo slide.   Your competitors all have their own logo slides, so it doesn’t differentiate you.  Your prospect doesn’t care about logos unless they represent companies facing the same challenges, in the same business.   And it’s very difficult for your sales rep to discuss the specific challenges faced by all of the companies whose logos are represented.

3.  Ditch the thought leadership slides.  Controversial, but necessary.  Although thought leadership is meant to get buyers to consider the benefits of an alternative way of doing business, it is not as effective as commercial insight.   First, thought leadership is broader than your company’s solution.  Unlike commercial insight, it doesn’t lead to your company’s unique advantages, so it doesn’t help you beat the competition.   Second, it doesn’t focus on the specific problem and pain associated with the customer’s current way of doing business.   Third, research on loss aversion shows that people value potential gains less than they value reducing losses of similar size.   Since thought leadership focuses on future benefits, and commercial insight focuses on avoiding current costs, take advantage of this bias in your presentation.   The CEB’s Challenger™ Marketing eBook has a nice graphic that shows the difference between thought leadership and commercial insight.

4.  Postpone the product pitch.  Focus the front part of your deck on solving your customer’s problem.  Tout the benefits of your product only after the customer has acknowledged the urgency of solving the problem you’ve uncovered.  This is especially true since your deck will highlight the problems which your product is uniquely positioned to solve.

Align Commercial Teaching with Challenger Sale Choreography

Here’s an example to illustrate these next suggestions.


4.  Tailor your title slide to your audience, their specific problem, and the benefit that your solution provides.  This shows your audience that their time will be well spent.

5.  Go vertical on the “Warmer.”  Use two or three slides to address the goals and challenges faced by companies in the same situation as your prospect.   Be sure your terminology matches that used in your prospect’s vertical market.  Add specific customer stories, with real company names when you can, in the speaker’s notes, so your sales rep can demonstrate credibility and experience.   Ensure the slides are visually appealing to facilitate the conversation your rep will have to confirm her understanding of the customer’s needs.

6.  For the “Reframe” slide, use a visual depiction of the problem you are seeking to highlight, since pictures have more impact than words.   Done right, this slide will remain in your prospect’s memory long after the sales meeting is over.

7.  Use your best slide for “Rational Drowning”  to highlight the cost of the problem you’ve just uncovered.   Remember loss aversion?  This is the slide you use to quantify the pain.   Your sales rep will stay on this slide as they confirm the “Emotional Impact” and the buyer’s personal investment in solving this problem.

8.  Introduce the “New Way” with a simple, visually compelling, quantified business benefit, such as faster time to market, reduced operational costs,or increased profitability, to show the results your customers have achieved.   This slide, and the two previous, will form the justification your prospect will use with her colleagues to further advance the sales cycle.

9.  Provide an overview of your solution in one, easy to read slide that summarizes your key competitive advantages.   Don’t go into a full product discussion yet, just focus on the benefits.  Avoid buzz-words, since those dilute your message.

10.  Show one or two customer case study slides from your prospect’s vertical market.  Here’s where you spend more time talking about the benefits that other customers have achieved.  You’ll use more detail to explain the quantified business benefit.

Done right, the front part of a Challenger Sale Commercial Teaching Presentation shouldn’t be more than ten slides.   Distilling your content down to such a small number of slides is hard work.  Even Mark Twain struggled to keep his writing short, so keep at it.

What do you think?   What’s your experience in creating Challenger Sale commercial teaching presentations?  Please share your best examples.

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