Traps in developing internal champions

Leveraging internal champions

In  major B2B sales where the sales cycle is long, competition is keen and multiple players are engaged in the decision, developing internal champions is one of the more effective best practices. Why? A lot of  discussions and decisions about the winner go on when you’re not there.  So if you have a champion in the room, it’s more likely you’ll have a better outcome.

But like many things that work really well, developing an internal champion is not easy.  As a matter a fact it requires substantial thought, time, and effort to get it right.  And the negative consequences can be telling – if you don’t get it right and your competition does, it could be the difference between winning and losing.

Because it’s an effective best practice, let’s explore some of the traps that sales people need to avoid when developing internal champions.

  • Confusing friends and champions. This is a case where the paragraph header says it all.  A major trap is failing to distinguish between someone who “likes you” and someone who is an internal champion. Most internal champions will probably like you but champions have the added feature that they are willing to “sell” for you when you are not there – big difference. This trap has the added negative that you may think you have a champion when you don’t.
  • Selecting the wrong person. To be effective an internal champion not only has to be willing to be your champion, they also have to be a player in the decision process.  People you develop as champions cannot be of much help if they are not one of the decision makers or key influencers.  In a complex sale this is an easy trap to fall into because it’s often difficult to determine the true decision making authority or influence power of the various players.  A wrong selection can be telling because it does take time and effort to develop a truly effective internal champion.
  • Failing to rehearse your champion. Let’s take the following scenario.  You have a champion that likes your solution, is willing to speak up for you in that upcoming key internal meeting, and is one of the key players in the decision process.  Nice picture.  The trap is the failure to leverage your advantage. The last step in a scenario such as the one presented is to rehearse your champion how best to “sell” for you in that upcoming meeting.  You’re the sales person – your champion isn’t – so help them to help you.

In summary, two points to consider:

  • Point 1 To win major account business you have to continuously get to the right person, at the right time, with the right message.  An internal champion can be of tremendous help in getting that done.

We’ve written three additional posts on internal champions which you might find interesting:

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©2012 Sales Horizons, LLC

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About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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