Internal champions – remember you are Not there most of the time

Internal Champion

Internal Champion

Many things are important to be successful in B2B sales.  Some topics seem to be talked about a lot; others receive less attention.  One that doesn’t get a lot of attention is internal champions.

Travel back 10 years or so and you might argue that having an internal champion was a good idea to keep in mind but it was hardly a critical success factor.  Today it is much harder to be that cavalier.

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Sales is more challenging today.  With the rise of more committees, there are more people involved in making buying decisions, sellers are engaged later in the buying cycle, and, increasingly a lot of the selling is going on when you not there.  As a matter of fact in today’s market, you are not there most of the time.

So at this point developing an internal champion has moved from a nice-to-do to a must-do.

7 tips for developing the right internal champions

  1. Distinguish between account friends and internal champions – An account friend likes and supports everyone, an internal champion is an advocate for you.  An internal champion helps you plan and execute your strategy to win the business.
  2. Consider multiple people – Don’t just focus on the first person you run into – meet multiple people before “settling in” on whom to develop as an internal champion.
  3. Check access – Make sure they have access to key players.  One of the greatest traps is selecting someone; spending the time to develop them and then finding out they are “willing” but not “able” to help.
  4. Rehearse – Recognize that time must be spent rehearsing the internal champion to tell your story.  Although the internal champion knows their company, they don’t know your competitive advantages as well as you do.  Rehearsing is all about leveraging both bodies of knowledge so the internal champion can position you effectively.
  5. Check the interest in your product – Find someone who is interested in your product or service. It is difficult to have someone support you over time if they do not really believe in the message.  You can help people to tell a story; it’s harder to help them to believe a story.
  6. Consider having more than one – There are numerous reasons for having more than one internal champion in an account such as: different types of expertise or different levels of access.  The longer and more complex the buying cycle, the more important this notion becomes.
  7. Recognize the relationship must be a two-way street – There must be something in it for the internal champion.  Well within the limit of business ethics, there are numerous things you can do to help the internal champion as an individual and as a contributor to their company.

Because internal champions are a must-have, how you go about developing one should be a part of the account strategy for every salesperson in every major account.  In order to make that happen, front-line sales managers need to establish developing and managing internal champions as a sales coaching priority.  Developing internal champions is a sales skill like any other sales skill.  So sales coaching is as an important piece of the puzzle for getting it right.

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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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2 Responses to Internal champions – remember you are Not there most of the time

  1. Jack Malcolm says:

    Excellent article, Janet. I would add one more (although maybe it’s an elaboration of #5): find the problem owners. These are the people responsible for the results generated by solving the problems your product or service addresses. It’s easy to think that champions will help you because they like you, but in my experience they are always driven by their own personal interest as well.

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