ASLAN vs. Challenger Sales Training

The marketplace is changing. Due to the glut of information, customers are less dependent on reps when evaluating solutions. And most sales reps are still struggling to sell virtually.

Customers have autonomy, and they want to keep it. In fact, the number of customers willing to talk with a sales rep when evaluating a solution has declined 120% in the past 3 years.

Receptivity has plummeted, and it calls into question “the way we’ve done things before.”

What’s at risk if companies don’t adapt to new ways of selling?

Everything. And by that, we mean revenue. 


Sellers need a sales model and training program that works now, in today’s markets and in response to today’s customers. 

One method that’s been a go-to for a long time is the Challenger sales model.

Let’s take a look at the differences (and similarities) of the Challenger sales model and ASLAN’s Other-Centered selling model.


The Challenger Sales Model

Challenger research suggests sellers fall into five distinct profiles

  1. The hard worker
  2. The relationship builder
  3. The lone wolf
  4. The problem solver
  5. And (you guessed it) the challenger


The central point of their ground research is that the most successful sellers are “challenger reps,” those reps that “teach, tailor, and take control.” Challenger reps don’t react to the customer’s stated need, they take control of the sales process, even forcing the customer out of a comfort zone to push through the “indecision inertia.” 


The Challenger Sales Model only works on a certain type of customer 

This approach can work. There’s just one requirement for success:

The customer must be receptive. 

In my new book, UnReceptive: A Better Way to Sell, Lead, and Influence, I unpack the receptivity crisis that sellers currently face and the importance of cultivating receptivity with a customer before attempting to sell. 


When receptivity is low, the Challenger approach not only doesn’t work, it can actually backfire.

Every time a seller attempts to set up a meeting or influence, the customer is in one of two emotional states. They are either open, receptive, or they are closed (i.e. unreceptive). Here’s why that matters when applying the challenger model or any sales methodology. 

When the customer is closed, the more you try to sell them, the more closed they become. Simply put, you can only “teach, tailor, and take control” to someone who is asking you to lead.  

And the number of customers who fall into that category is in steep decline.


The Challenger Sales Model only works for a certain type of rep

The Challenger methodology is not only dependent on working with receptive customers, it’s also dependent on a particular type of rep. Challenger reps have a certain DNA. They are wired to be aggressive, thrive in conflict, and motivated by a challenge. 

Is it realistic for a relationship builder to instantly change their stripes? Can a reactive problem solver learn to take control? Bottom line, this approach only resonates with a small population of sellers. 

Remember, the world is currently full of unreceptive customers. There is danger in banking on sellers who use aggression to “take control” and win the sale. They are limited to working with already receptive (emotionally open) customers, a declining percentage of the market. 

Relying solely on this approach is a risk you can’t afford to take.

ASLAN’s approach to teaching sellers to lead the customer works for every type of rep and every type of customer – open or closed.  How? 

ASLAN sellers employ a concept called Drop the Rope. It addresses the tension that naturally exists between buyer and seller. Reducing that tension is a key driver to receptivity

Think of it this way:

There is an invisible tug-o-war happening between every customer and sales rep. 

When a customer feels pressure (seller “pulling the rope”), they will instinctively pull back. Instead of attempting to lead by force, sellers should simply “drop the rope.”

We can do this in a number of ways. Use phrasing like “might,” “maybe,” “could,” “it may be helpful to consider…” or even “I may not have the best solution for your business.”

Because when you release tension, the focus shifts from the tension to the truth. 

Dropping the rope is a way for reactive reps to be proactive and provides a way for “Challenger” reps to effectively lead unreceptive customers. 


There’s more to selling than “teach, tailor, take control”

There is a lot more to selling than what the Challenger “teach, tailor, and take control” model equips reps to handle. 

In reality, there are eight capabilities a seller must master to hit their number. From getting a meeting to discovering the decision-making team, in order to succeed a seller must develop all the capabilities required to fill the funnel, strategically manage their time, and beat the competition.

Customers do the research. They’re smart. They don’t want a sales rep to come in and “show up and throw up,” i.e. regurgitate a whole bunch of features and benefits they already Googled. In this respect, ASLAN and Challenger agree: qualified sales reps should take the reins and lead the decision-making process. 

But it’s how sellers should go about doing this that the ASLAN and Challenger ideologies differ. 

ASLAN’s Other-Centered selling model starts with cultivating customer receptivity. 

Our sales philosophy hinges on the idea that your customer’s receptivity is more important than your message. 


The right starting point for sales: the soil and the seed

The best way to explain this is through an analogy: think about a farmer trying to grow a healthy crop. There are two elements to be considered: the seed and the soil. If the soil is not fertile, the quality of the seed doesn’t matter – it will not grow. 

The same idea applies in sales: if the customer is not receptive, your message doesn’t matter. They will not hear you. First focus on creating receptivity, then sell. 

In this way, ASLAN’s Other-Centered Selling model addresses open and closed customers alike. It provides sellers with a new mindset, skill set, and strategies to address the five receptivity barriers sellers now face everyday. 

This is the approach to sales training that companies need to appeal to the average customer in every context. 


ASLAN: Other-Centered Selling

If you need to convert more unreceptive prospects, customers, (and yes, sellers too)… connect with us to learn more. ASLAN’s Other-Centered Selling program may be  the right fit for your team.  

As Co-founder and CEO, Tom’s primary role is to create content that helps people live, sell, and serve more effectively. Find him on LinkedIn

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