The Challenger Customer

The Challenger Customer

You may have read our blog piece on The Challenger Sale (see here Well, CEB, The Corporate Executive Board are at it again but this time from the perspective of the buyer. CEBs latest study and subsequent book is The Challenger Customer.

Remember this number, 5.4, because it’s very important! On average 5.4 individuals, all with varying agendas and perspectives have an influence on a buying decision in a B2B, complex or consultative selling situation.

Bear in mind we’ve touched on this area before (see here while describing the Miller Heimen Model.

So, The Challenger Customer is very much about customer buying behaviour and it’s based on CEB’s extensive research, not something pulled from mid-air.

Now I’m sure we’ve all realised that more and more people are getting involved or are having an influence on the decision to buy? Since the global recession this has increased, as perhaps people are becoming more risk adverse? Or perhaps the world is becoming more complex? Or perhaps expectations are higher?

CEB’s research has divided these ‘stake holders’; types of individuals that have an influence on a buying decision, into 7 different types:

The Go Getter

The Go-Getter

– An advocate for good ideas who delivers results. The GoGetter that will take care of the internal selling of your proposition and is comparable to the ‘coach’ in Miller Heiman but let’s be cautious about making too close a comparison.



The Sceptic

The Sceptic

– A cynic who requires proof to support change but is open to new ideas. Don’t be put off here, the Sceptic is really pushing back on the idea because they’re exploring it! Not because they don’t like it or are planning to sabotage it.



The Friend

The Friend

– An ally willing to meet and discuss ideas





The Teacher


The Teacher

– A person trusted by other executives and are visionaries who like to coach.



The GuideThe Guide

– An insider who provides information typically unavailable to suppliers





The Climber

The Climber

– Is more interested in personal gain rather than that of the company




The Blolcker

The Blocker

– Are interested in one thing, the status-quo remaining as it is






During the buying process stakeholders must agree at three critical decision points:

  1. Problem Definition
  2. Solution Identification
  3. Supplier Selection

Depressingly, according to CEB’s research, supplier selection doesn’t even begin until a potential customer is on average, 57% of the way through the buying process. According to CEB, the highest probability for the buying process to break down is 37% of the way through the procedure. Bear in mind this is at a point well before the seller walks through the door!


The Mobilizer

The Mobilizer

However, help is at hand. CEB have identified a person who can help, known as the Mobilizer™. The Mobilizer™ is the term that CEB use to describe the individual that will fight for you and your solution, acting as an internal champion, helping you to navigate the stake holders who have an influence on the decision.




Whereas Miller Heimen pay attention to the role or title, CEB put the emphasis on the person’s ability to build a consensus and willingness to drive change. The Mobilizer can be one of the 3 types:

  • The Go-Getter
  • The Teacher
  • The Sceptic

Key Takeaway

  1. Engage mobilizers with commercial insight, not thought leadership
  2. Equip mobilizers to coach customers toward change collectively

See here for more information on the Challenger Series More on Challenger Customer


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David Doyle

David has spent 30 years in sales successfully building business from zero to acquisition. Having studied Electronics and Computer Science at DIT and Enterprise Ireland's Export Sales Development Programme, he has spent most of his time in selling technology. He is founder and Managing Director of B2B Sell and leads a small team of experienced business and technology trained sales professionals.

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