A Champion is a person who has power, influence, and, subsequently, credibility within the customer’s organization.
People always ask whether you can have more than one Champion, and the answer is very clearly yes, as long as they are qualified. One qualified Champion is better than ten unqualified Champions.
“A Champion without Power and Influence is just a Coach.”
What if you have a helpful stakeholder who is missing one of the above criteria? Should you not engage further with them?
Absolutely you should! This person is referred to as a Coach. They can still be useful. Most typically, Coaches lack the power and influence to be a Champion, but they can still give you helpful insight to your customer as well as sell internally for you, albeit they tend to have less impact due to their lack of influence.
Trust is a critical element in building a Champion. A Champion who trusts the seller will always work harder for you. They’ll go into bat harder for you and be happier to give you information, good, bad, or ugly.
Building Trust with a Champion takes time and comes from being consistent, reliable, and honest.
While you want to be friendly with your Champion, you don’t necessarily want to be friends. Your relationship needs to be outcome-driven, where you both mutually benefit from each other’s success. We have seen sellers become so close with their Champions that they become afraid to call them to the task which negates the purpose of having a Champion.
Your marketing teams can help support you in building your Champions, we've seen success from the following practices;
- Champion Building Event
- Champion Letter
- Introductions to your network
- Invite them to Speak/Write for you
- Sponsor them into trade publications/events
If you have a Champion, the chances are that your competition does too.
Understanding who your Counter Champion is and whether they have more power and authority than your Champion is crucial.
We've lost count of the number of times we've heard sellers reference their Champion only for it to become immediately evident that the Champion is neither qualified nor tested. Put simply; an untested Champion isn’t a Champion.
You can find more details on how to test your Champion in MEDDICC - The Book or in our MEDDPICC Masterclass.
Building your Champion is a vital part of MEDDPICC. At a high level, your focus for building your Champion falls into two parts: Solution and Political.
Both of these parts require different strategies, and you must get it right to maximize your Champion’s potential.
Our favourite strategy is The Three Why's - having a Champion able to answer these three questions, articulately will make them a beneficial internal seller.
When we meet a contact inside of a new opportunity, we usually don’t have enough information to tell whether the Contact will be anything more than a Contact. The salesperson’s job is to identify whether the individual is a Contact, Coach, or Champion.
No customer goes into an engagement with a vendor with an aim to become a Coach or Champion. Therefore, it is down to the salesperson’s skill to evolve the Contact into a Coach or a Champion. While it is generally always possible to develop a Contact into becoming a Coach, it isn’t always possible to develop a Coach into a Champion.
Why all Coaches can’t become Champion’s;
As we know, a Champion is someone with power, influence who sells internally for you and, importantly, has a vested interest in your success.
In contrast, a Coach does not fulfill these three qualifying criteria of a Champion. It could be that they are missing one of the criteria, or perhaps even two of the three qualifying criteria of a Champion.
A skilled salesperson can develop a Coach to sell internally for you or to have a mutual interest in your success. However, it isn’t generally within the salesperson’s ability to develop the Coach into power and influence. This is because there are so many long-standing and deeper factors that dictate power and influence that it is challenging for a salesperson to impact it.
Therefore in answer to the question: ‘In MEDDIC can Coaches become Champions?’ The answer is: Sometimes, as long as they have power and influence.
For salespeople, it is essential to identify as early as possible whether you have a Contact, a Coach, or a Champion.
Ask yourself how much the person is affected by the driving factor for your engagement or the business-oriented problems you are trying to solve. If it impacts them in a big way, then this is favorable to them being Champion material.
Ask your Contact about the last time they bought a solution like yours. Have they seen a project through to its fruition? What was their role, and who owned the outcomes? This is one of our favorite discovery questions to ask a Champion to uncover the Decision Process.
Do you get the impression your Contact is the go-to for the executives at the top of the company’s hierarchy? This reflects on their power and influence, and if they have connections to senior executives, it will help obtain access to them.
How do they talk about rules within their organization? Champions tend to be ‘doers’ and see rules as guidelines and something they can work around when they need to.
How do they share information with you? Do they see information as something that is better shared with you? Or do they keep their cards close to their chest? Champions generally share information freely and tend to hold more helpful information than a Coach will.
Reflect on the information your Contact has given you. Is it instrumental? Was it something you’d never have known without them? Or is it readily available information that your competition is likely to have too?
Building on this...
Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, it isn’t usually possible for a salesperson to build a Coach into having power and influence.
A method to counteract this challenge is to underpin your Coach with rock-solid and bulletproof Metrics that can help them ‘influence’ other stakeholders into supporting your solution.
When it comes to your Contact selling on your behalf, can they distinguish the strengths of your solution? More importantly, are they willing to when it is most important, when you are not there.
Are they able to minimize the competition because your competition is their competition?
Do they guide you through the decision-making process regarding how best to approach a client and then eventually close the deal?
Are they helping you identify pain and working with you towards indicating and implicating it?
Are they bought into working through the Decision Process with you? Are they actively working out timeframes, dependencies, and actions? Are they happy to work with you on a Go Live Plan?
Building on this...
The basis of building your Coach into having a vested interest in your success lies in the salesperson performing effective discovery to uncover the Contact’s goals and challenges and aligning your solution to be able to help.
Usually, a vested interest means that the Contact stands to get recognition, a promotion, a bonus, or a new skill from your success. Therefore, if you can tap into your Contact’s ambition and focus on it, you can gain their trust.
Do they recognize and act like any win for you is a win for them? Do they appear to share good news for you as if it is their own too? I.e., Champion: “I heard from the Economic Buyer today, and he approved our deal; things are looking really good!”.
Do they have the same urgency that you do? A Champion with a vested interest in your success knows that deals don’t just get themselves done, and urgency is vital. Whereas a Coach often tends to have a more laid-back ‘it’ll be OK' rhetoric.
Building on this...
To get a Coach to sell internally for you effectively, they usually need to have a vested interest in your success. Therefore, this process relies on the salesperson communicating two things to the Coach:
A good Champion can help you out with Procurement. Not just by helping you with the engagement itself, but they can help set you up for how best to work with their Procurement team, helping you prepare accordingly.
It is the same story with your customer’s lawyers. Your Champion can set you up for success there too.
Of all the stakeholders you will work with on a deal, your Champion is the one that you can align with most closely on MEDDPICC. We wouldn’t hesitate to take a qualified Champion through MEDDPICC, why you use it, and see them as your Champion.
What is the worst that can happen? You’ll be called out for running an efficient and value-focused sales process? Good!
Summary Snapshot of in the sales process:
Early: Should I be in this deal? Are you my Champion?
Mid: My Champion and I are working side by side to win this deal.
Late: My Champion is guiding me through the close, step by step.
Once you have closed the deal, an elite move is to stay close to the Champion and the project to ensure it becomes as successful as you promised. If your solution has a renewal element or you have further opportunity to upsell, it will be important you are seen as a person that can deliver on their promises.
Capture the success
Another benefit is that once your customer is successful, you can capture the Metrics of their success to help you with future references you may need.
“No Champion, No Deal” – it’s been a true saying for as long as the term ‘Champion’ has been used in sales.
Hopefully, this chapter goes to show you the full potential a Champion can have on your deal and gives some guidance on how to get them there.