Developing internal champions – it’s important and it isn’t easy

Sales - leveraging internal champions

A lot of selling goes on in major accounts when you not there. Top sales performers know they need someone to “tell their story” when they’re not there – because they’re not there most of the time.  That’s why top sales performers develop internal champions.

Logical? Yes. So why doesn’t everyone leverage internal champions? First, it takes a lot of time to develop internal champions and not every sales rep concludes the investment is warranted. Second, some sales reps have had negative experiences with internal champions because the sales rep fell into the classic trap of spending time with people who are “willing” but are “not able” to tell their story.

There’s no clear path to developing internal champions, but some best practices are:

  • Don’t just focus on the first person you run into – meet multiple people at a company before “settling in” on whom to develop as an internal champion.
  • Find someone who really is interested in your product or service.
  • Make sure they have the access and are “able” to help.
  • Remember there can be more than one internal champion in an account.
  • Recognize that time must be spent rehearsing the internal champion.
  • Distinguish between a friend and an internal champion – a friend likes and supports everyone.
  • Consider that this is a two-way street – there must be something in it for the champion.

Developing internal champions is only one of the success factors in major accounts.  It is, however, one that deserves a little more attention.

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About Janet Spirer

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. Janet has followed two different, yet complimentary paths. First, as a B-School Professor she taught marketing, sales, and business strategy courses. She also managed a consulting practice focusing on sales productivity and marketing – working with a variety of clients ranging from Xerox to IBM. She translated those experiences into a book – “Parlez-Vous Business” – that helps sales people develop the business savvy to sell successfully. Since co-founding Sales Momentum® in 2000 with Richard Dr. Spirer received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, an M.P.A. from The University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. in Economics from Brooklyn College. She holds the appointment of Professor Emeritus at Marymount University.
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