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Challenging vs. Adapting—A Winning Approach to Sales Enablement

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Sales enablement is at a crossroad. Research shows that the best reps don’t rely on one way to sell. Indeed, successful sales reps are situationally fluent, sensing the unique dynamics of deals. They pattern-match to past experiences and deploy the right sales plays for a given situation.

Sales plays are combinations of tactics and messages that improve a selling position, and they represent pivot points along the typical messy sales process. In the past, the sales process was more linear and predictable. Today, risk aversion, multiple influencers, and decision-making complexity derail too many deals. Top reps use different plays at different points to pivot their selling actions. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. Modern Sales Process

Modern Sales Process - Brevet Group

The need for adaptability is why so many companies experience disappointing results. The traditional sales model— based on Challenger Model research—no doubt works, but only in certain situations. It is simply one of many possible sales plays that need to be in a rep’s playbook.

In fact, it’s been nearly 10 years since the original Challenger research. Market dynamics have continued to evolve. Complexity is even greater for buyers. The number of pivot points has exploded for sellers. Adaptability is now the foundation of today’s sales success. Building your entire sales process around a single approach is a flawed strategy. The same can be said of any one “silver bullet” methodology.

Era of Challenger Research
Today's Reality

Prevailing Market Conditions

Economically distressed times; corporate budget constraints

Early days of SaaS – move from CapEx to OpEx spending

Broad capital availability

Investment community focus on growth metrics

Strong demand in key product-markets; low unemployment fueling need for services

High-Performer Model Profile

A "Challenger" – alternative to endless questioning "solution selling"


Highly adaptive, situationally fluent

Key Drivers of Success



Take Control

Situational awareness

Pattern matching

Sales play execution

Organizational Support

Individual capability supported by marketing-driven insights and messages

Organizational capability enabling reps to run the right plays in the right situation



Low to moderate adoption even after significant investments in training and marketing support

High adoption, especially by top performers
Faster close rates, lower discounting, larger overall deal sizes

The appeal of one-size methodologies can be strong. Sales managers hunger for more consistency and visibility into the behavior of their teams. But the sense of control promised by one-size sales methodologies is just an illusion. Don’t let the illusion derail your sales results.

High-performing sales organizations embrace adaptability. And they’re doing it in a way that also respects the need for process standardization. For instance, our adaptive approach involves building a custom methodology based on plays that match a company’s most common selling scenarios. The ideal trait for reps is no longer mastery of any one sales tactic. Instead, reps fine-tune their situational awareness and master specific pivot points in common deal types.

The Adaptive Model provides the parameters, structure, and guidance necessary for effective sales leadership. But it does it in a way that responds to today’s buying reality. The research finds the highest-performing reps are most likely to adopt an adaptive methodology. In contrast, this group is the least likely to use traditional methodologies.

Sales enablement has also evolved to support the adaptive model. Messaging, collateral, training, and coaching are changing to this adaptive approach. The real power comes as these areas reposition themselves to operationalize the adaptive methodology. The focus shifts from disconnected skill building, tools and marketing actions to an integrated operating platform.

Indeed, an adaptive approach to sales methodology is improving the sales performance for our clients. Beyond adoption, key metric improvements include faster close rates and higher average deal price. More strategically, the adaptive model better aligns sales and marketing. And it becomes the scalable system to drive more effective onboarding and field coaching.

Want to learn more? Join Dan Perry, partner of The Brevet Group, at the ATD 2018 International Conference & EXPO for the session: What Your Chief Sales Officer Expects From Sales Enablement. You will learn how to develop a series of strategies and tactics to gain alignment within the organization to execute a vision for sales enablement.

Editor’s note: This post is adapted from The Brevet Group website.

About the Author

Brian Williams, a partner with The Brevet Group, is a researcher, consultant, and sales leader. He uses a data-driven approach to drive sales effectiveness in leading companies across industries. Using insight from academics and management consulting, Brian helps senior leaders and sales enablement teams understand and succeed in today’s more demanding market. His sales research has been published in Harvard Business Review and other outlets.

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