Using the ‘Challenger Sales Model’ in real estate: Anton Babkov

Couple with salesperson

It’s long been conventional wisdom that the key to sales success is building strong relationships with customers, while waiting patiently in the wings for them to call you when they think the time is right.

To a degree this is what everyone has aspired to – the holy grail of what’s known as ‘relationship selling’. 

But a Gartner study of sales reps during the GFC turned this idea on its head by studying the habits of top performers across many sales industries. 

During the recession business dried up for a lot of people, yet those who succeeded in selling despite the downturn demonstrated significantly different characteristics than the ‘relationship sellers.’

These sales people responded to their customers in a new way – and the term ‘Challenger Sales Model’ was coined in 2011 with the release of a book of the same name by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson.

At Rexlabs, we’re constantly challenging the way we do business, looking at new ways to assist and engage our clientele.

The concept of the Challenger Sale piqued our interest as something we could share with agents due to its ability to translate into more effective customer conversations.

So, what is the Challenger Sales Model?

The ‘Challenger Sales Model is a strategy used by sales people who are able to constructively challenge a customer’s ‘world view’. 

Today, it’s rare for a vendor to come to an agent with zero knowledge of the sales process or where their property sits in the market. 

Similarly, when buyers first meet a real estate agent, they’ve already done many hours of research and usually know what type of property they want, where they wish to live and how much they’ve got to spend.

Everyone is an armchair property expert.

But there are still things the consumer does not know.

And it’s this ‘gap’ between what consumers know and what they don’t … and perhaps even more importantly what they don’t know they don’t know that gives you as a sales professional a unique opportunity to position yourself as an expert.

In practice that means delivering important information and expertise the customer needs and cannot get anywhere else. 

What do customers really want?

The same Gartner study shows the most important thing to customers is not the product, service or price, but the actual sales experience.

That is, customers actually enjoy being challenged if they learn something that is new and valuable to them.

How can I become a ‘challenger’?

Given that becoming a challenger is about skill, market knowledge and communication – there are three key skills that define ‘challengers’.

1. Be an educator

To be an educator you need to first have a critical piece of knowledge (or multiple points of knowledge) you can share with your overly well-informed customers.  

Ideally these pieces of knowledge demonstrate a USP which challenges the customer’s assumptions.

This could include highlighting a problem the customer didn’t know they had or the shortcomings of other approaches. 

It could also include things like:

  • Teaching sellers about the value of digital marketing for demand generation
  • Showing marketing expertise beyond the portals, backed by personal data analysis
  • Teaching sellers about the segments of each class of buyer in the local market and they might position their property to one or more of those segments
  • Showing expertise in a particular type of sale – like ‘off-market’ sales – and teaching the seller about the cost or benefit of doing this in both current and future market conditions.
  • Sharing data around prices achieved at auctions – and teaching the value of promotion, building up to a big day event and price competition.

2. Tailoring

The way to reach a ‘challenger’ consensus with your buyer or seller is to tailor your teaching message so that it resonates and sticks with them. 

To do this successfully, you are going to need to understand their position – perhaps including their financial position – significantly better than they do themselves.

This means a deep dive into the outcomes the person cares most about, the result they need delivered to get them on the next stage of their journey, and a big picture of what their true economic drivers are.

Then combine these with your unique skills and knowledge in the conversation to create that experience where you are demonstrating your value and the customer is learning something they didn’t already know.

3. Taking Control

Just as you can’t be an effective teacher without pushing your students, you can’t really teach customers without pushing them to think and act differently.

So the third and final behaviour Gartner found in challengers is they are assertive and not afraid to take control.

That doesn’t give you a licence to be irritating or aggressive, but it does mean standing firm when the customer pushes back. 

This is especially important when it comes to the topic of money; for example, a challenger won’t give in to a request for a 10 per cent discount on fees, they will instead refocus the conversation on the value they provide and what the next step might be.

There are a lot of messages out there about the need for real estate sales people to have the talent to accommodate every customer they come across in every way known to mankind. 

But I don’t believe this is altogether true.

By all means build relationships – but don’t forget to challenge your clients with a set of clearly differentiated facts that your competition is not providing.

If you can be really clear about a handful of things you are truly expert in, everyone wins.

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