The Ultimate Guide To Working With Internal Champions
49% of businesses have seen an increase in the length of their sales cycles (according to a report from RevOps Co-Op).
It’s a wake-up call that the processes and strategies within the sales process need to be revised and refined. More specifically, how sellers are working with internal champions.
Ultimately, if sellers can’t equip an individual or set of individuals to sell internally, the deal can lose momentum pretty quickly.
Your team needs to establish and maintain an airtight relationship with the internal champion(s) in a deal. And while this seems obvious on the surface, there are nuances along the way.
That’s why we’ve put together a guide, including a wide range of insights from sales leaders, on how teams can effectively work with their internal champions.
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The characteristics of internal champions
Nate Nasralla, Co-Founder at Fluint, outlined three qualities that define a champion:
- Personal incentive
- Access to information
And don’t be fooled - they’re all equally vital.
“It’s a common misconception that C-Suite level titles will be champions. Remember, being a champion is not the same as being an influencer in a purchasing decision.”
“Instead, it means that there’s a personal incentive or win in the deal that ties the individual directly to it.”
“Most of the time, executives have a lot of different trade-offs, and they’re not going to be doing a lot of the daily work to build a consensus across the rest of the buying team.”
In other words, your team can’t make assumptions.
“Another common mistake is that sellers think that a coach and a champion are the same thing in the sales process.”
“However, a coach is someone who gives you a lot of information, but isn’t able to shape and change the internal conversation. Whereas a champion is going to be the complete opposite.”
Nate also stated:
“A good champion is somebody who consistently shows evidence of making progress in a deal internally. And your sellers will have specific proof points to demonstrate that they’re the go-to person to communicate the business case.”
Tune into the full conversation with Nate from our podcast below - just click ▶️
Working with internal champions
Now we’ve established who an internal champion is, let’s discuss the relationship your team will have with them in the sales process.
How do you get buy-in?
What’s in it for them?
This question has never been more important when it comes to securing an internal champion.
Kaitie Voigt, Cognism’s Enterprise Sales Manager, explained:
“It’s so hard to find the right person to get in front of, especially from my perspective of enterprise sales. So once you’ve found the right person, being able to get the information across, and demonstrate why your product can help, is crucial.”
The key takeaway? Cementing the business case starts from the very first interaction.
Kaitie also said:
“You have to nail down and be specific with what’s in it for that champion - they’re the step to getting the next yes in the process. A scenario whereby the champion wants to move the conversation onto the next stage is the desirable one.”
Tie it back to the champion’s individual goal, as Kaitie outlines below:
“Maybe there’s a promotion on the line or a big project that’s part of their deliverable for the year. Use this information and tie it back to their personal stake in the deal.”
“That’ll make things easier to get other internal stakeholders engaged. It becomes a need that will help the organisation hit a particular milestone.”
Vladislav Podolyako, Founder & CEO of Folderly, supported this idea:
“To ensure your champion is aligned and validated, AEs must tie their solution to the internal champion’s success metrics. These are the measurable outcomes the champion is accountable for in their role.”
“When the AE shows the solution’s positive impact on these metrics, it contributes tangible value to the champion’s professional success. This tactic validates the solution’s relevance and strengthens the champion’s advocacy for the product within their organisation.”
Nate shared this view, saying that it’s important to communicate and lead with pain from the start:
“Sellers aren’t in the room when buying decisions are made. So the question to ask is, ‘How can we control our message when the buying team is meeting internally, and we’re not there?’”
“Think about a ‘pyramid’ concept regarding the writing style. Go to the champion and say, ‘We came to this conclusion, based on the points we learnt in these conversations, and they were backed up and supported by this.’ Provide the bottom line at the start, so the champion doesn’t have to decipher it for themselves.”
How do you prepare your internal champions?
Okay, so you’ve identified the champion - what happens next?
Your team needs to ask themselves a series of questions, starting with…⬇️
Is the champion prepared to provide feedback to the rest of the buying group?
“At one point or another during the deal cycle, your AE and AE manager will probably be getting decision-makers together on a larger call. And there’s no doubt your champion will be an important player in these sessions.”
“It’s important to prepare - remember it’s a miracle if you can even secure thirty minutes. Your AEs have to make it count!”
“It starts with covering even the most basic points with your champion. For example, ask your champion who will be on the call, and what their vested interest is.”
“The champion also knows the personalities of the people joining the call. You’ll have some decision-makers that will be super direct and succinct, for example. Knowing how to talk to these different people is key.”
Is there a clear understanding of the overall process?
Nate told us:
“We talk about buyers as if it’s a full-time job. But the reality is that it’s an activity that someone does fractionally, among their day jobs. Buyers aren’t practicing or listening to podcasts on how to buy, so it’s the seller’s role to help them navigate the process.”
To keep champions informed on deals, your sellers can gather intel from past customers.
“Look at past customers who have successfully bought and rolled out your product, and send them an email like:
Hey - you were doing a whole lot of work behind the scenes when purchasing. I’d love to compare notes on how I think I saw how you rolled out the software versus how it actually went.
“Make notes on the typical timeline of compelling events. And get an idea of what the buying process actually looked like.”
The bottom line?
Don't just assume the champion will be able to map out the steps on their own. Buying journeys aren’t linear, so purchasing experiences are going to differ.
Closing thoughts on working with internal champions
Hopefully, you’ve gained a much better picture of how your team should be working with internal champions.
Before we wrap up this article, we wanted to share a pretty interesting insight relating to the relationship sellers should have with champions.
If you go back to the basics, sales is about gaining trust. If a champion doesn’t trust your rep, the deal isn’t going to progress.
This has been summarised clearly in a recent LinkedIn post from Jamal Reimer, Founder of Enterprise Sellers 👇
And that’s it - your guide to internal champions. Remember:
- The sooner your sellers can work with champions, the better they can articulate value in a deal.
- If the value is clear, buy-in from the rest of the decision-making committee will be easier.
- Your sales cycle will become more efficient because the buying committee will make decisions faster.
In this current climate, it’s crucial to focus on strategies that will productively and efficiently move the needle.
Cognism's 'The Blueprint'
Cognism scaled its ARR from $10M to $40M in under 2 years. Discover the strategies our sales leaders used to get us there.
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