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What is a Champion in Sales?

Sales Training
Chris Orlob
November 1, 2023

A sales champion is someone who believes in the value of your service or solution, and has the power to influence buying decisions within the company. Champions go out of their way to help you succeed because they have a personal stake in the business outcome. 

In an age where consensus and collaboration decides B2B purchasing outcomes, having a supporter in internal meetings means everything for salespeople. With a champion in your corner, you hold the leverage even without being in the room

But what makes champions so effective? The answer lies in the decision-making process. B2B sales are all about building trust, weighing up options, and convincing the right people. Champions have access to the decision-makers and they collaborate with salespeople to develop business cases, resolve doubts, and position the offer. Once you find and build a rapport with your champion, you can reach shared goals faster. 

The Role of a Sales Champion in B2B Sales

No two sales champions are the same — depending on their position, they may contribute to the buying process in different ways. 

Key Decision-Maker

An effective sales champion exhibits two traits: influence and interest. 

Ideally, your champion should have the authority to make or influence decisions, especially in B2B. With someone influential by your side, you can get insights into the org chart, buying process, usual bottlenecks, and competitors. 

If your champion is a key decision-maker, they will be able to influence their colleagues, push you through the hierarchy, and prepare you for potential objections. You cannot gain insider knowledge if your champion doesn't hold sway within the company. 

Stakeholder in the Sales Process

The most effective sales champions have personal stakes in your success. They'll go out of their way to share internal KPIs, introduce you to other key decision-makers and the economic buyer, train you to win people over in meetings, and help you differentiate from alternatives. Priming a champion on your offer and tying their success with yours is the best way to make sure you make moves within the company. 

An Economic Buyer vs. Sales Champion

An economic buyer is a decision-maker who can go against the consensus and change the course of a sales cycle. A sales champion can be the economic buyer in certain cases, but the stars need to align in your favor. 

In most cases, a champion helps you identify the economic buyer, such as the CFO, and sets you up for a favorable impression. While champions can influence colleagues and build a consensus, nothing is a guarantee, as they hold limited control over the economic buyer's motives who are authorized to release funds and sign off on deals. 

Building a Solid Business Case with a Sales Champion

Best sales champions are great collaborators, something you’d find in the discovery call itself. When two people try to reach shared goals, they help each other with whatever they can. Champions can provide you with internal data, recent challenges their company is facing, and the goals they're targeting in the next few quarters. These help you build ROI calculators, cost-benefit charts, risk analysis, identify alternatives, and create a set of questions to be answered. 

The more detailed a business case is the better the chances of it being forwarded to higher-ups and being considered. The sales champion’s ability to help you build a business case also allows you to figure out their deepest motivations and intentions. 

Spotting and Engaging Potential Sales Champions

The right sales champion can do wonders for your deals, but it's difficult to find the right one. As a salesperson, you can try a couple of methods to get in touch with them:

LinkedIn and Social Media

You can't ignore social media because 78% of salespeople who use social selling outpace competitors who don't. The best way to find people working at a company is to go through their LinkedIn. You can check out their current role, career trajectory, and social activity to see who they are as a person and if they hold influence over team members. It’s definitely a good idea to engage with their LinkedIn posts to stay top of mind throughout the sales cycle. 

Identifying Champions Through Pain Points

The first method was role and social media presence-based, but you can also look for champions through pain points. First, understand the pain points, then ask people from the org to define the metrics that are suffering because of that. Work with that person to quantify the losses incurred due to the pain points and ask them what they require to get over it. If they exhibit similar enthusiasm and a roadmap to achieve similar results as you, you've got your sales champion.

Referrals and Personal Networks

Sales reps swear by their social capital because it comes to their rescue in times like this. If you're trying to get an appointment with a potential champion, your network can help you with referrals. Reach out to your people and don't hesitate to ask for an intro with the higher-ups. 

How Sales Teams Can Work With Sales Champions

Once you find your sales champion, it's time to get to work. You can have multiple approaches to working with champions.

Nurturing Sales Champions

First, you have to build an understanding, a sort of camaraderie before you go into the meetings. Ask your champion to lay out the buying process and explain the decision-making styles, give them tasks to help with the business case,  and regularly communicate to build a personal relationship. As you invest more time and energy, you'll know if they prioritize your project, contribute in new ways, and help you work around the objections. 

The Role of Sales Managers in Champion Development

Sales managers are masters of influencing people and enacting behavioral changes to meet goals. And that's what managing sales champions is — influencing mindsets and behaviors. Sales managers and leaders may go through key points or observe meetings to find ways to get the most out of the champion. Of course, this is where sales coaching also comes into play. 

Leveraging Sales Enablement Software

Selling is an interpersonal skill but it's still driven by data. Before convincing the decision makers, you have to win over the champion with sales enablement content. Use tools such as Docebo to refine your skills, replicate strategies that worked previously, and serve relevant content so they buy into your project. 

MEDDIC: A Sales Methodology for Engaging Sales Champions

Most successful salespeople have one thing in common: they use the MEDDIC (or MEDDPICC) method to sell more and sell fast. It's a five-step process of knowledge acquisition that includes deal metrics, economic buyer, decision criteria, decision process, implicating pain points, and champion.

Defining Metrics and Decision Criteria

First, you have to prepare the numbers around your project. This can be previous sales and ROI numbers, what KPIs the prospect may value most in the future, and how you can differentiate yourself with quantifiable factors. This not only acts as social proof but brings more clarity to the discovery phase. 

Next, understand the conditions that need to be met for the deal to move ahead. The decision criteria can be technical aspects of using your tool/service every day, the ROI and financial risk involved with it, and how they value your relationship and potential going forward. If the stakeholders don't have a decision criteria you can suggest and influence them towards that. 

Pinpointing the Economic Buyer through MEDDIC

We've discussed this early in the article and the idea of an economic buyer really stems from the MEDDIC framework. The economic buyer holds the biggest sway in how your offer is perceived so it's important to engage them. Here are some easy ways you can find the economic buyer among stakeholders:

  • The economic buyer is independent of the sale champion's consensus. 
  • They think and talk along the lines of corporate interests (P&L statement, annual report, etc)
  • They can create a budget of their own and veto other decisions

The more you nurture your champion and understand the internal processes, the easier it'll be to find and target the economic buyer. 

Utilizing Sales Tools and Automation

Despite being invented in 1996, MEDDIC has stood the test of time and even expanded today because it's based on gathering knowledge and working on a fundamental strategy instead of being salesy. What helps MEDDIC today are tools and automations that have allowed salespeople to listen, analyze, and deduce insights from calls, interviews, sales enablement content, and case studies. 

CRM Integrations

A CRM will track communications, organize data sheets, and analyze KPIs to give you an overview of the sales process. This is particularly important since touchpoints and data channels are all over the place today. With more interaction metrics and sales enablement content to pick from, you will be better prepared to go on discovery calls with potential champions. 

Pro Tip: track job changes in your CRM to identify when your champions are on the move, flowing into new roles at new companies. 

Templates and Follow-Ups

Since communication is the backbone of effective champion nurturing, it helps when you have templates and follow-ups ready. Templates can include discovery call agenda briefing, sharing SOPs and files, and building business cases. Chilli Piper and Navattic ran the numbers and found that 35% of sales reps don't follow up at all and among those who do, few take 6 days or longer to follow up. To maintain an informal communication channel and track discussions you can use follow-up templates that can be set up in advance and triggered according to action items. Make sure you customize the templates enough so they don't come across as impersonal or generic.

Streamlining the Sales Process with Automation

Automation can simplify B2B sales processes and enrich dashboards with real-time data. For example, if you use Jira or Confluence for meeting notes you can integrate calendars and ESPs to add next events and send notes once a meeting finishes. From discovery calls and schedules to CRM tools and follow-ups — you can just about automate everything that doesn't require human touch and where unadulterated data is preferred.

Leveraging Your Track Record to Secure Deals

Before committing to your project, sales champions will go over you and the company's track record to understand what they're dealing with. Oftentimes your reputation matters the most because numbers speak for themselves. 

The Influence of Metrics and Case Studies

There's a reason the metric comes at the very beginning of the MEDDIC framework — you cannot go anywhere without raw data. 

As you sell more, use sales intelligence tools and CRMs to document performance and communicate with buyers to understand the impacts. Sum up all the insights into quantifiable data and build success stories for the next champion. A lot of B2B champions would look at the numbers before they agree to promote your offer. 

Building Trust with Testimonials and Referrals

As a salesperson, you already know how important your network is. But who you may have yet to think of as part of your network are previous sales champions who are now customers. You should ask for testimonials from them, preferably highlighting the metrics and factors that differentiate you from other sales reps. You should also ask them for referrals as you look for new prospects. Rinse and repeat this process and you'll have a prospect acquisition channel based solely on trust and authority.

Continuous Learning Through Sales Podcasts and Courses

It's okay to feel on top of the world after a deal's signed off but remember the best salespeople are always improving and evolving. That's where sales training and learning content come into the picture.

Sales Podcasts

Sales podcasts are neatly packaged nuggets of insights that keep your sales IQ sharp and up-to-date. Podcasts like Getting to Club, Sell or Die, Saastr, B2B Revenue Vitals, and Make It Happen Mondays are great ways to listen to sales leaders talking about concepts, new developments, and strategy deep dives.

Sales Courses

Podcasts offer a passive flow of knowledge and work great if you need small tweaks in your sales game. But if you feel the quarters are falling short of targets or the team has been lacking energy lately, you should look into B2B sales training courses to readjust your perceptions and add new strategies under your fold. 

Sales courses like The Final Stretch or Nate Nasralla’s Selling With Champions are some of the best training materials out there right now. Give it a shot, and start mobilizing champions within your sales process today.

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