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How To Identify A Champion In Sales?
To say a champion is crucial in the sales industry would be an understatement. Champions are there to help progress deals that can feel stuck, give you pivotal advice when you need it most, celebrate your wins, and potentially work on your deal weaknesses at the same time.
A strong champion or champions will help push deals through the doldrums and shine lights on areas that we couldn’t have previously seen before – the benefits they can have to a salesperson in the short and long term can be huge. The first crucial step is qualification – you need to identify your champion or champions before you can begin to work with them.
What Is The Composition Of A Champion?
A champion typically has three key defining characteristics that separate them from a coach: the possession of power and influence, the ability to act as an internal seller, and most of all, a commitment and vested interest in a salesperson succeeding. We can explore the characteristics of a champion in more detail:
Power And Influence
This is one of the most important characteristics of a champion – this does not mean they have to be senior or hold some position of power, it can also mean dependency. You can test your champion in regards to power and influence by reflecting on the information your Contact has given you. Is it instrumental? Was it something you’d never have known without them? Or is it readily available information that your competition is likely to have too?
Internal Selling Influence
A strong champion can sell for you. This can be done in several ways. Firstly, your champion could utilize their standing and position in the company to sell on your behalf. For example, if they are in regular meetings with other key stakeholders, they can sell for you in a subtle manner or a bold style.
A subtle manner would be personalizing the proposition to their company and the problem it solves, whereas a bold sell would see the champion put themselves on the line for your proposition, being direct in the money or value it can provide. A champion can also sell from within privately, done by helping defend you during the deal process. They will put forward a credible defense using the I and M from MEDDPICC to keep the deal in good standing when you aren’t there.
Finally, a champion can be a source of protection for your deal when competitor solutions emerge on the side. Competitors that aim to dismiss your offer, attack your proposition with FUD or traps and pitfalls for your solution to break down against. A strong champion will defend against all these, keeping the focus on the positives and values that only you can provide.
Belief And Attachment To Your Success
A key characteristic of a champion is to have some kind of alignment and interest in your success. The reasons can be varied, whether it is wanting to work with you to progress their career as they look for opportunities outside their company, or they could look to climb internally and receive a promotion or rise in rank. When you try to test a champion in sales, you should look at their motivations and find what is at the forefront of their focus. It could be promotions, bonuses, or just a desire to win a deal. Understanding this motivation is crucial.
Elite sellers can find ways to keep aligned with their champion’s motivations and desires, understanding how they work best without making them feel uneasy. You will inevitably need your champion to go out on a limb and put effort into your deal. Being in sync with your champion will give them that extra boost when this inevitability occurs.
How To Test Your Champion In Sales
A massive pitfall for sellers looking for champions is the lack of testing. It’s all well and good to seek out the characteristics of champions and get them onboard as you cultivate a relationship with them, but are they truly tried and tested? It’s quite simple – a champion that hasn’t earned their stripes or got their hands dirty is not a champion. Putting your deal on an untested champion would be a huge blunder.
When you look back at the characteristics of a champion, you can begin to work out the criteria of a champion by looking at a champion’s power/influence, the way they work as the internal seller for you, and the commitment and investment in your success they have. These characteristics of a champion need to be tested.
For testing a champion’s power and influence, you should pay close attention to certain responsibilities that they hold. No longer is it enough to make an assumption based on their role – you need to look at what they do, what they are measured on, who they report and remain accountable to, whether they are involved in the Decision Criteria process and what resources they have or control.
The easiest way to test your champion in sales in regards to whether they are selling internally for you is straightforward; asking them about the feedback they have been given internally can get you the most direct, honest, and important information. You will be able to work out whether you are competing against your competitor’s champion, what the drawbacks are to your proposal, and most importantly, whether your champion has your back. Another good test of a champion is to see how much they ask for your help, require documentation, or anything similar. This means they are working on your behalf, whereas if you never got any of these kinds of requests, you can infer that they are not.
To find out whether the success of the deal matters to your champion, you should be very frank and direct when asking them about plan B in case the deal fails. Their answer will help lead you in the correct direction, as if they express disappointment, you can lead on this to find out the impact it can have on their team and other metrics. Truly understanding your champion’s motivations and career goals will help you formulate the perfect question, whether it is asking about promotions or talking about that sales award they most desperately want to win. The answers to questions about negative outcomes, career goals, and awards will let you know how truly invested your champion is.