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Champions & Coaches: Understanding Key Players in Your B2B Sales Strategy

Champions & Coaches: Understanding Key Players in Your B2B Sales Strategy

In the intricate and often unpredictable world of B2B sales, two terms frequently arise: “Champions” and “Coaches.” While somewhat similar, these labels correspond to entirely distinct roles in the sales process. Each plays a vital part, yet misinterpreting or misusing these roles can lead to the loss of your sales opportunity. Many experts believe that believing you have a Champion when you only have a Coach is the biggest problem in long-running sales campaigns.

This article aims to delve deeper into the specific role of the Champion, introduce an innovative strategy known as “Champion Chess,” and illustrate how these elements can transform your B2B sales approach for the better.

Coaches and Champions are both part of the Opportunity Qualification system known as MEDDPICCC. MEDDPICCC stands for

  • M – Metrics
  • E – Economic Buyer
  • D – Decision Criteria
  • D – Decision Process
  • P – Paperwork Process
  • I – Identification of Goal
  • C – Coach
  • C – Champion
  • C – Competition

Deep Dive into the Role of Champions

In the sales universe, a Champion isn’t merely a supporter of your business or service; they actively advocate for your product or service within their organization. Champions usually occupy a strategic position within their company, influencing decision-making processes that can make or break your sales success.

The power of a Champion in the sales process is remarkable. They can effectively expedite sales cycles by persuading their organization of your product’s value, thus overcoming internal objections and resistance. Their advocacy of your solution goes beyond the superficial – they believe in your product’s merit and fight for its adoption and success within their organization. These qualities make Champions an invaluable asset and integral to any successful B2B sales strategy.

Discerning Between Coaches and Champions

Coaches, on the other hand, while beneficial, hold a fundamentally different role. They provide valuable insights into their organization’s structure, culture, and potential roadblocks but do not have the political influence with the key decision-makers to sway the decision-making process. Misunderstanding these roles or failing to distinguish between Coaches and Champions can lead to a misguided sales strategy that may cause delays or losses.

To prevent these pitfalls, it is essential to accurately identify who among your contacts can guide you through the sales process as Coaches and who can actively advocate for your product as Champions. Recognizing these distinct roles allows for more effective sales strategies tailored to leverage each role’s benefits.

Unveiling “Champion Chess”: A Powerful Sales Strategy

Another big mistake that B2B salespeople make is not recognizing when they need multiple Champions within the company to win the sales opportunity successfully. In larger companies, it is not unusual for departments to be politically and socially siloed from each other but still depend on each other for portions of the Buying Process.

For instance, a Champion with strong relationships and influence in the manufacturing department may not be as well respected by the Engineering department and have no relationships in Legal. Counting on this Champion to affect a joint decision that covers Manufacturing and Engineering with input by Legal is typically asking too much. Instead, use your Champion as a Coach (yes, a Champion can be a Coach) to find people of influence in those respective departments to help guide the conversations. In fact, a good test of the strength and loyalty of your Champion is if they will help you with these parallel departments even though they don’t have a strong influence.

Enter “Champion Chess.” This innovative sales strategy revolves around identifying and mobilizing multiple Champions within a single organization. Much like a chess game, where different pieces have unique roles and capabilities, other Champions within a company may have varying degrees of influence and operational capacity.

Executing the Champion Chess strategy involves a deep understanding of your client organization. First, you must identify potential Champions within the company. These could be individuals who have shown interest in your product or previously advocated for similar solutions. Second, understanding each Champion’s sphere of influence is crucial. This could involve assessing their position within the company, network, relationships, or their past success in advocating for new initiatives. 

Finally, the effective mobilization of these Champions is critical. This means providing them with the necessary resources, information, and support to advocate for your solution effectively.

Why chess and not checkers, you ask? The complexity and variations in a game of chess – with a staggering 10^123 possible positions – mirror the dynamism of the sales landscape. Checkers, though complex in its own right, offer a mere 500 quintillion possible combinations. This comparison underscores the depth and strategic diversity inherent in the Champion Chess strategy, much like in the game of chess.

It is important to understand that when you have multiple Champions at the prospect, they will have different responsibilities and influence. You must treat each Champion as a unique leverage point in your sales campaign. Just as a bishop is used differently than a knight in chess, different Champions work differently in your prospect organization, and it is up to the salesperson to play the grand master. For instance:

  • The Bishop is better in open positions.
  • Bishops get more powerful when they are in a pair.
  • If you have a Bishop, you should place your pawns on the opposite color of your Bishop.
  • Knights are more powerful in closed positions.
  • The Knight is stronger than the Bishop in endgames with pawns on only one side.
  • Knights love to sit on an outpost and dominate in the center of the Board.
  • Knights can go to all the board squares, while a Bishop can control only 50% of the squares (its own color).

Nurturing Relationships with Champions

Building and maintaining robust relationships with your Champions is fundamental to the success of the Champion Chess strategy. This involves regular communication, including updates on your product and industry news that could affect their advocacy efforts. Furthermore, offering value to your Champions, such as exclusive insights, networking opportunities, or professional development resources, can strengthen your relationship and incentivize them to continue their advocacy.

Trust and credibility are paramount in these relationships. By consistently delivering on your promises and providing high-quality products or services, you build credibility with your Champions. This trust is a foundation for a robust and lasting relationship that can yield long-term sales success.

Counteracting the Threat of a Competitor’s Champion

Just as you cultivate Champions within your client organizations, remember that your competitors may be doing the same. These Competitor Champions pose a significant threat to your sales efforts. Therefore, it’s essential to develop strategies to ensure your Champions are more influential, knowledgeable, and better supported than their counterparts.

One way to do this is by providing your Champions with competitive insights and strategies to help them effectively advocate for your product over others. Additionally, offering personalized support and resources to your Champions can ensure they have everything they need to outperform Competitor’s Champions.

Another strength of Champion Chess is to use multiple Champions together to overpower your competitor’s single Champion. It is much more effective to have multiple people with influence speaking on your behalf than just having a single voice.

Optimizing the Influence of Champions

Maximizing the impact of your Champions is crucial. By providing them with a deep understanding of your product’s features, benefits, and differentiators, you equip them to make compelling arguments on your behalf. Regular training and updates can ensure they are always informed and ready to champion your product effectively.

Champions play an integral role in the MEDDPICCC sales methodology, representing this comprehensive sales process’s ‘Champion’ component. By maintaining strong relationships with your Champions and keeping them engaged and motivated, you can drive your sales success while reinforcing the value and effectiveness of the MEDDPICCC methodology.

Understanding the nuances between Champions and Coaches, employing the Champion Chess strategy, and nurturing your relationships with your Champions are all crucial to succeeding in B2B sales. With a clear understanding and effective implementation of these concepts, you can unlock a new level of sales success. As business owners and sales managers, your next move is clear: embrace the Champion Chess strategy and let your Champions lead the way to victory in the complex game of B2B sales.

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