Nowadays closing large and complex deals in B2B is getting harder and harder for sales staff. Large firms in order to guarantee the best deal in important purchases are creating robust procurement teams, hiring well prepared professionals from specialized industries (e.g. from logistics service providers), and using consulting firms support. Today large companies are well-prepared and define their own solutions. Thus the time in which the relationship building approach used to fit much better than other tactics to close sales deals looks to be ending.

CEB Consultancy (Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson’s) study has performed a massive study in order to understand much better the key success factors of high performance sales staff. They have found that we have five main sales profiles, although some salespeople could have characteristics of more than one style:

  • Relationship Builders are focused on building rapport and nurturing long term relationships.
  • Problem Solvers used to be well prepared to manage post sales issues. They are detailed and reliable people who solve problems. We are likely in front of the right profile for Key Account Managers.
  • Hard Workers enjoy with their job. So they are self-motivated and are able to work hard for closing sales. They are constantly interested in comments regarding the sale.
  • Lone Wolf is self-confident salespeople who follow their own instincts rather than the rules.
  • Challengers have a deep knowledge of the customer business, their industry and products/services. They love to debate and approach customers challenging their assumptions and trying to move from their comfort zone bringing up new ideas that generate massive value for customers. Being at ease to discuss money.

This study concludes that after analyzing the five styles (core performers) sample the higher performers are: Challenger (39% of high performers relative to core performers) and Lone Wolf (25%). Under performers used to be the styles: Relationship Builder (7%), Problem Solver (12%) and Hard Worker (17%).

From the turnaround point of view is essential to mention that many companies spent massive amounts of money on training and other initiatives in Relationship Builders. However, many of those companies do not underperform maintaining accounts, or having loyal customers. The big issue use to be getting new deals and especially new customers. So sales turnaround in those firms should likely move resources from Relationship Builders to Challengers.

Sales Rep Pofiles from CEB Consultancy

CEB consultancy studies brings us a new sales paradigm. While Relationship Builders say to customers what they already know in order to build advocates within the customer firm, Challengers make customers think and bring new creative and worthy ideas increasing the deal closing probability. Important companies purchasing decisions are being based on bottom line impact rather than in rapport.

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