Coaches VS. Champions: Know the Difference

Coaches VS. Champions: Know the Difference

Categories: Sales Discovery Process  |  Podcasts  |  Sales Qualification

Champions can be a critical component to closing complex details. Identifying a Champion in your deal is a key step, but one where salespeople can struggle. Champions can easily be confused with Coaches. Make sure you know how to identify a Champion.

The key characteristics of a Champion are: 

  1. Someone who has power and influence within their company
  2. Someone who actively sells on your behalf
  3. Someone who has a vested interest in the success of the deal

Understanding the definition of a Champion is one thing, using it to identify one in your deal is another. Use these insights below, write them down, and run through them in your deals to identify if you’re working with a Champion or a Coach.

How to know if your proposed Champion has power and influence

To understand if your individual has power and influence, you first have to understand how the individual is impacted by the business driver or the problem.

Ask yourself,

  • In what ways is your prospect impacted by the business driver, the problem? 
  • Does the prospect have a business orientation as opposed to being centered on operational or technical issues? 
  • Does the prospect talk primarily about business problems and outcomes or technical problems and outcomes? 
  • Does the prospect share before and after scenarios for big picture business challenges?
  • Has the prospect owned the outcomes for big initiatives or projects in the past?
  • Is the prospect a go-to person for the senior executives?
  • Does your prospect make the news or report the news, (i.e. do they know what’s going to happen tomorrow or do they share what happened yesterday?)

Champions need to talk about both technical and high-level business problems in ways that are tied back to big business implications and positive business outcomes. Actively listen for talk about rules and guidelines that may hinder your solution being implemented and solving key business problems. If you hear language talking about budget, company guidelines, etc… that’s a red flag. People with power and influence treat policies as if they are guidelines, because they are individuals who try to influence the future in their companies.

How to know if your proposed Champion is actively selling on your behalf

When it comes to identifying if your prospect is actively selling on your behalf — look for evidence, not emotion. A true Champion will assist you in confirming the relevance of your solution and helping you develop a business case around the value for your solution. They will likely guide you and support you in identifying and influencing the decision criteria of the deal and the economic buyer. Coaches tend to have less urgency when it comes to establishing solid decision criteria, because they are not actively selling on your behalf. The quality of information your prospect’s provide and their investment around details is a critical way you can identify who you’re working with.

Ask yourself, 

  • Does the prospect help you develop strategies to overcome obstacles? 
  • Does the prospect deliver bad news about the deal so you can work through ways to overcome new challenges?
  • Does the prospect work with you on ways to minimize competitors (including a “do-nothing” or “do-it-internally” option)? Remember, competitors are a threat to you, but they're also a threat to your champion...if that champion has a vested interest in YOUR solution.

Champions are invested in helping you define the positive business outcomes, required capabilities and metrics that are attached to your solution because it will better equip them to sell your solution internally. So pay close attention to how well your champions support and guide you in establishing key deal criteria.

How to know if your proposed Champion has a vested interest in your success   

One of the main reasons someone with power and influence becomes a Champion for your opportunity is because they will gain some type of personal win if your solution is selected. In other words, you can take them to a place they can't get to on their own, and because of that, they’ve linked their success with your success. Regardless of what that personal win is, a true Champion wants to be attached to a valuable solution and one that achieves great KPIs for the business. Since the solution has to be valuable to the business, a Champion will help you align your opportunity to something critical in the business. 

Ask yourself,

  • Do your prospects share political information you can use to better align to a decision maker's value drivers?
  • Do your prospects ask for your support to prepare before a meeting?

If you’re working with a Champion, they will set you and your solution up for success and look for your advice on how to align the technical capabilities of your solution to the different value drivers of economic buyers they work with so they can aptly sell on your behalf.

As a seller you likely know how to stay aligned with what’s happening internally in your prospect's organization, to ensure you’re not missing a chance to influence internal decisions with your solution’s differentiation. If your Champion is invested in your solution’s success, they should also give you indications that they don’t want to miss out on similar opportunities to sell on your behalf — and do so effectively. 

Are you prepared to build up your Champions once you identify them?

Champions, don't magically appear. Oftentimes it takes a lot of work just to build the relationship. Identifying, developing and testing Champions takes patience, a focus on the fundamentals of great selling, and the ability to articulate your value and differentiation in a way that’s relevant to them. Make sure you focus on the intricacies of developing that relationship so you can maximize the ability for the person to help you close a great deal. We cover these topics regularly on The Audible-Ready Podcast. Here are a few episodes on champions that you may find valuable for your current opportunities. 

Subscribe to The Audible-Ready Podcast and tune in weekly to hear ways you can up your sales game. 

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