5 min read

MSP Game Changer Sales Ideas From The Book - "The Challenger Sale".

Aug 13, 2014

I have been dancing around the intention to read a book called "The Challenger Sale" but kept not having the chance. There’s no shortage of titles to choose from regarding sales, and it can be know where to put one’s limited reading time, but last week Steve Rutkovitz a peer MSP CEO, said that this is a must read. He’s a smart guy and I gave it a try....
To be honest, that was one of the greatest books I have ever read in years especially in B2B sales. It was so refreshing, straight to the point, and so aligned with what we’re trying to do. So I decided to share my takeaways from the book by implementing them into the MSP sales process.
This book is not just ideas, concepts, or opinions. These are battle-tested facts supported thorough research with 6,500 samples. So enough of my accolades - let’s check out some thought-provoking concepts - in three big things:

1. "How you sell has become more important than what you sell"

Generally speaking, loyalty of the customer depends on the service quality and service delivery. Research has found that 53% of the overall loyalty is about the purchase experience. The factors influencing it are:

  • Offers unique and valuable perspectives on the market
  • Helps me navigate alternatives
  • Provides ongoing advice or consultation
  • Helps me avoid potential landmines
  • Educates me on new issues and outcomes
  • Supplier is easy to buy from
  • Supplier has widespread support across my organization

So when thinking about your process for selling your MSP services, how do you measure yourself?

2. "There are five types of sales personalities. 54% of sales in highly complex sales environments are done by Challengers"

Although it’s commonly assumed that the "relationship builder" is the best profile for B2B sales personnel, research has shown that they are in fact almost the worst performers. They have a good relationship with the clients, but they just don’t produce the results, responsible for only 4% of the sales in high complexity environments. Selling MSP services is complex.
On the other hand, a profile called "Challenger" is by far the most successful of all of them. Check out what sets them apart:

  • Offers the customer unique perspectives
  • Has strong two-way communication skills
  • Knows the individual customer's value drivers
  • Can identify economic drivers of the customer's business
  • Is comfortable discussing money
  • Can persuade the customer

Compare the influences of customer loyalty with these sales attributes and you can see why it is so successful.

"If you are not building or hiring Challenger reps, chances are you are going to come up well short as your deals become more complex."

My bet is your sales job as an MSP is not going to be simpler in the future...


3. "The Challenger is defined by the ability to do three things: teach, tailor, and take control"

- Teach for differentiation:

"Challenger reps deliver insight that reframes the way customers think about their business and their needs."

Selling features is no longer working, but selling through teaching & education makes you a thought leader and a trusted advisor, and creates the best sales experience possible.

"The thing that really sets "Challenger" reps apart is their ability to teach customers something new and valuable about how to compete in their market. Teaching is all about offering customers unique perspectives on their business and communicating those perspectives with passion and precision in a way that draws the customer into the conversation. These new perspectives apply not to your products and solutions, but how the customer can compete more effectively in their market. It's insight they can use to free up operating expenses, penetrate new markets, or reduce risk".

- Tailor for resonance

"Challenger reps communicate sales messages in the context of the customer."

The idea here is to switch the talk from our frame of reference (our services, service offering) to the client's frame of reference (business issues, opportunities, challenges). That creates the resonance and chemistry which is needed to understand the problems and structure the solutions.

"If a Challenger rep is sitting across the table from the head of marketing, he understands how to craft his message to resonate with specific priorities. When he's meeting with someone in operations, he knows how to modify the message accordingly. But this isn't just a measure of business acumen, it's a measure of agility - the rep's ability to tailor the story to the individual stakeholder's business environment. What specially do they care about? How is their performance measured? How do they fit into the overall customer organization?"

This is about communicating in their language.

- Take control of the Sale

"Challenger reps openly pursue goals in a direct but non-aggressive way to overcome increased customer risk aversion."

Having a clear process for sales is crucial - as opposed to having coffee and a chat and building a relationship in a general way. It is a well-defined and a purpose-driven process to understand your clients - to get aligned and, if we’re able to deliver value, close the deal.

"The Challenger's assertiveness takes two forms. First, Challengers are able to assert control over the discussion of pricing and money more generally. The Challenger rep doesn't give in to the request for a 10 percent discount, but brings the conversation back to the overall solution - pushing for agreement on value, rather than price. Second, Challengers are also able to challenge customers' thinking and pressure the customer's decision making cycle both to reach a decision more quickly as well as to overcome that "indecision inertia" that can cause deals to stall indefinitely."

This is about getting alignment and clearing the road of obstacles that could postpone starting the business..


These are only couple of ideas from the book. However, if you are read between the lines, this is 100% aligned on how we sell in our MSP and how we developed the Reframing sales process. It resonates with everything we do, as the questionnaire, scoring, reports, workshops, action plans are helping sales reps to teach, tailor, and take control.

If you want to learn more, buy the book on Amazon.


Written by Denes Purnhauser

Denes has grown his MSP from a 5-persons staff to a 20-persons staff in less than a year by implementing business problem focused sales processes with vCIOs. As a result, he has transformed the client engagement processes for hundreds of MSPs.

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