Internal champions – all your eggs in one basket

Internal champions

Internal champions

Most people agree that in major accounts developing internal champions is a strategic imperative because a lot of the selling is going on when you not there.  Everyone also knows the selecting and developing internal champions takes a lot of time and effort.

When we talk with sales reps about internal champions, it’s clear from their comments that in many cases once they’ve developed an internal champion inside a major account, they sort of mentally “check off the box” and move on to other things.

Is one enough?  Like most questions of this sort the answer is – yes sometimes one is enough.  On the other hand sometimes the answer is no you need more than one and when you make a misjudgment the consequences can be significant.  So the question is worth asking.  Let’s take a look at why more than one might be worth the time and effort.

In major accounts the buying process is complex.  There are a lot of players involved, the buying process is long, consensus is often lacking and there are a lot of tricky situations to be handled.  Hence at different points in the buying cycle you may different internal champions to tell your story.  The difference may be a matter of factors such as: expertise, access, internal credibility or personal relationships.

The second reason why more than one might be the right answer relates to that ever-haunting issue of “unpredictability.”  Raise your hand if you have ever been in a major sale and one day you woke up and found out that your internal champion was gone – left – took a job with another company.

While as we just argued the “all the eggs in one basket” strategy can on occasion be flawed, it is also true that simply “collecting” internal champions is not an answer.  Internal champions must be both “willing” and “able” to provide you help in securing the business.  There are not many folks available for that mission.  If you have 12, you probably have 2 internal champions and 10 institutional friends.


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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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