As a sales rep, you can speak with prospects day in and day out, but you probably won’t make any headway unless you’re able to connect with a champion -- a stakeholder at the buyer's company who helps you sell your product or service to their colleagues.
A champion’s power is derived from their expertise in a certain subject, or their political power within an organization. They have the ability to connect you to the decision maker, the person who controls the budget and wields the authority to make final purchasing decisions.
Best of all, champions not only want to buy your product -- they have the power to make it happen. Here are 10 ways a champion can be a stellar ally in account-based selling.
During the Sale
1) They help you get inside the decision maker’s head.
Champions not only have the power to get you on the decision maker’s calendar, they can also tell you what the decision maker is thinking. A champion understands why a decision maker wants to buy, why they’re considering buying now, and what they need from you to be convinced to buy.
2) They define purchasing criteria.
A champion has a hand in in formulating the decision criteria and process, and this is great news for you. Because the champion already believes your solution is the best one, they can tweak the purchase requirements to fit your product’s points of differentiation.
3) They can divulge the decision making process.
Champions can communicate their company’s decision-making process to you so you can prioritize getting buy-in from key stakeholders.
4) They participate in the evaluation scoring.
When it comes time for the decision team to assess your offering, a champion will emphasize the decision criteria that favor your product and act as your company’s last line of defense.
5) They help build the business case.
You might have a best-in-class product, but you could still lose the deal if you're unable to show how it will impact your prospect’s bottom line, or provide a business case with faulty figures.
Champions can help you avoid this pothole by providing internal metrics. With real numbers at hand, you can cost justify the potential purchase with a business case that adheres to reality.
6) They keep a lid on the competition.
One of your competitors may very well have an internal champion with a seat at the table as well, and while you won’t always be able to bring them into the fold, your champion will be able to help.
Your champion will have already advocated for evaluation criteria that favors your product. Throughout the rest of the sales process, they’ll be able to handle objections from the competition or alert you to concerns you should be addressing.
After the Sale
7) They smooth the implementation process.
Champions don’t blindly jump on bandwagons. They believe in your product -- maybe because they’ve used it before, maybe because they’ve done their research and know it well. This means they can act as the account manager’s counterpart within their organization by keeping their team on track in the early days of usage, when friction is most likely.
8) They act as a referral and bring in new leads.
Odds are, your champion customers know champions at companies you’re not working with yet. Once they’ve had a successful implementation and the purchase decision has been validated, they're usually willing to send new leads your way, and speak with potential champions at other accounts.
The knowledge that other business leaders use your service (and are pleased with it) acts as an endorsement of their own decision, strengthening a champion customer's position within their own organization. Referring others to your product is also beneficial, since the champion will have a growing network of fellow users with whom they can share best practices.
9) They track metrics for a follow-on sale.
A sales relationship doesn’t end after the first deal is closed. You should keep an eye out for opportunities to sell upgrades or extensions to your product.
Your champion will know key usage and performance metrics of your product better than anyone. If you maintain a relationship after the initial sale, your champion can provide them to bolster a business case supporting a follow-on sale.
10) They keep out the competition.
Champions didn’t gain their power by accident -- they became powerful by consistently making smart decisions beneficial to their company. If they’ve gone through the work to advocate for your product, they’ll do whatever is necessary to keep your competition out -- or risk losing credibility internally.
Champions and influencers in sales are extremely valuable allies throughout the sales process, so find one if you can. They’ll make your selling process much easier, and your relationship will pay dividends for years to come.
Originally published Jul 1, 2015 3:50:00 PM, updated June 28 2019