SAMPS was previously Association of Commercial Professionals for Life Sciences (ACP-LS)

Which Salespeople Perform the Best?

January 17, 2013

ChallengerWhat are the attitudes, skills, and behaviors that distinguish the best salespeople? Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, authors of The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation, describe five distinct profiles of B2B salespeople. The authors found that depending on the complexity of the sale, certain profiles would outperform or underperform others. When they shared their data with sales leaders around the world, most said that they were very worried because so many of their salespeople seemed to fit the underperforming profile.

I recently listened to a presentation by Brent Adamson, Managing Director, CEB (formerly Corporate Executive Board, which he gave at Dreamforce, the industry meeting. During the presentation he described how the CEB works with heads of sales and marketing from all over the world to document world-class sales and marketing practices in the B2B space.

In 2009 the CEB conducted a large research study of 6,000 salespeople to identify the characteristics that differentiated the best among them. The project is ongoing and now involves well over 20,000 salespeople. According to the CEB, every salesperson falls into one of five distinct profiles:

  • The Problem Solver
    • Reliabily responds
    • Ensures that all problems are solved
    • Detail oriented
  • The Relationship Builder
    • Builds strong customer advocates
    • Generous in giving time to help others
    • Gets along with everyone
  • The Lone Wolf
    • Follows own instincts
    • Self-assured
    • Independent
  • The Hard Worker
    • Always goes the extra mile
    • Doesn’t give up easily
    • Self-motivated
    • Interested in feedback and development
  • The Challenger
    • Always has a different view of the world
    • Understands the customer’s business
    • Loves to debate
    • Pushes the customer

Challengers excelled in high-complexity sales

As expected based on the book’s title, the Challenger profile outperformed the other profiles in high-complexity selling situations. What many sales leaders didn’t expect was that the Relationship Builder profile performed worst in these situations. According to the book’s website, “While most reps focus on building customer relationships, the best focus on pushing customers' thinking, introducing new solutions to their problems and illuminating problems customers overlook. Specifically, they: Teach, Tailor, and Take Control.”

Is the Challenger profile ideal for all products and services? Brent says absolutely not. For instance, the CEB data showed that the Hard Worker profile and the Lone Wolf outperformed the Challenger profile in low-complexity selling situations.


Source: Brent Adamson, Managing Director CEB from his Dreamforce 2012 presentation, The Challenger Sale: Driving Growth by Taking Control of the Customer Conversation found at

Client experience with the sales team drives customer loyalty

In the B2B space, the experience that the client has with the sales team was a major factor in driving customer loyalty. In fact, “sales experience” was more important in driving customer loyalty than all other factors combined—more important than brand, product/service delivery, and value-to-price ratio combined. Why? According to Brent the answer is simple: because the other factors are table stakes. Customers view the products and services of competitors to be far more similar than they are different. He goes on to explain that the biggest differentiator is not the product or service we sell, but the insights we provide.

Source: Brent Adamson, Managing Director CEB from his Dreamforce 2012 presentation, The Challenger Sale: Driving Growth by Taking Control of the Customer Conversation found at

Are you a Challenger?

Check out the CEB website for an online assessment to see if the Challenger Sales profile fits your business strategy and if your team has what it takes be a Challenger Sales rep. And check out YouTube for Brent’s Dreamforce presentation.


Chuck DruckerChuck Drucker

Chuck Drucker is a results-driven leader with over 20 years of experience in selling and marketing scientific products and services. In addition to his role as President of the Association of Commercial Professionals – Life Sciences (SAMPS), Mr. Drucker is Director of Client Facing Operations and Alliance Management for Quest Diagnostics Clinical Trials.

SAMPS, Sales And Marketing Professionals in Scientific research, is the first and only organization dedicated to sales and marketing professionals within the life sciences.

The association’s goal is to serve its members who work in commercial roles for life science products and services companies and associated businesses, globally.
SAMPS was previously named ACP-LS. We feel that SAMPS more clearly describes the membership, and will form a better foundation from which to expand this membership globally. 
© Copyright 2019 -SAMPS-serving Sales And Marketing Professionals in Scientific research 
All Rights Reserved
envelope-ocrossmenu linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram