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Influence and Advocacy in Sales: The Impact of Coaches and Champions

Influence and Advocacy in Sales: The Impact of Coaches and Champions

Every successful sales process relies on a deep understanding of the many moving parts within the targeted organization. Key among these are the internal influencers who can significantly shape the trajectory of your sales campaign. In the realm of sales, two roles stand out: ‘Coaches’ and ‘Champions.’ Both can impact your process differently, so a firm grasp on who they are, what they do, and how to engage with them can be pivotal for your sales success.

MEDDPICCC is an evolution of the MEDDIC sales qualification methodology that’s proven to be particularly effective for B2B enterprise sales organizations. At its core, the MEDDPICCC methodology aids organizations in ensuring they are working on the right deals and concentrating their efforts effectively to secure wins​.

MEDDPICCC extends the MEDDIC acronym to include an additional ‘P’ for Paper Process, ‘C’ for Competition, and ‘C’ for Coach. The inclusion of the ‘Paper Process’ reflects the increased complexity in technology purchasing compared to the past. Factors such as the shift from perpetual licenses to subscription agreements and enhanced data security and privacy requirements have intensified the contractual obligations between vendor and customer. Consequently, the ‘Paper Process’ has emerged as a significant factor influencing sellers’ forecasts, warranting its inclusion in the methodology​.

The second addition, ‘Competition,’ acknowledges the intensified competitive landscape in the current era. Competition can come from various sources: new companies emerging rapidly with the help of modern technology, other vendors vying for the same budget and resources, potential in-house solutions, or the choice to maintain the status quo. Understanding and navigating these competitive elements are critical to a seller’s forecast accuracy and deal success, thus necessitating the inclusion of ‘Competition’ in MEDDPICC​C​.

The third addition to MEDDPICCC is ‘Coach,’ and it is added to understand that there are frequently those people in an organization that will give you knowledge and advice about the sales opportunity, but they do not rise to the level of a Champion. One of the biggest mistakes a salesperson can make is confusing a Coach with a Champion. They may be your advocate and are pushing your product or service to other influencers in the account, but don’t let that confuse you. Without true power and the ability to sway the final decision with the Economic Buyer, you merely have an influencer. Let’s make no mistake; a Coach is also very important in a deal. They are a “guide” that you typically have more access to and can generate imperative touchpoints that help keep the deal moving forward.

In essence, MEDDPICCC is a comprehensive, strategic framework that equips sales teams with the necessary tools and insights to identify and pursue the most promising opportunities effectively, navigate the intricate contractual landscape, and outperform the competition. By adopting and mastering the MEDDPICCC methodology, less experienced salespeople can enhance their sales performance and contribute significantly to their organization’s success.

Delving Deeper: The Role of Coaches in the Sales Cycle

Coaches are akin to your inside guides in the labyrinth of a client’s organization. They’re typically insiders who understand the company’s dynamics, decision-making protocols, and culture well. They’re willing to assist you by providing you with key insights and information.

A coach is often eager to help, but their limitations are noteworthy. They might lack the political weight or authority necessary to affect the sales decision-making process. While their insights are invaluable, don’t expect them to be active advocates for your product or service within their organization due to their restricted influence.

Also, a Coach is typically much more interested in the problem getting solved than the problem being solved by you. They are not invested in your success. Many salespeople will think that a Coach is a ‘Friend’ when, in fact, they are only being ‘friendly.’ It is also possible that the Coach is also the Champion for your competitor but is being a good corporate citizen and answering your questions.

Champions: The Power Players in Your Sales Process

Unlike Coaches, Champions are powerful entities within the client’s organization. They are willing and able to actively promote your solution internally. Champions have the clout to influence decision-making processes and help you manage the sales procedure, making it a far more predictable affair.

Having a champion in your corner can completely shift the game. They ensure the successful implementation of your solution by promoting its merits internally and facilitating acceptance within their organization. Their endorsement can smooth the path for your product or service.

Identifying the Differences: Coaches vs. Champions

Recognizing the differences between Coaches and Champions is integral to a sales process. A Champion’s influence and proactive advocacy are what sets them apart from Coaches. An important pitfall to avoid is mistaking a well-meaning Coach for a powerful Champion — this misunderstanding can significantly derail your sales process.

It’s crucial to note that while a Coach cannot transform into a Champion due to their limited influence, a Champion can certainly function as a Coach. They can offer you valuable inside information, helping you navigate the company’s internal dynamics.

Strategies to Collaborate with Coaches and Champions Effectively

Your approach to working with Coaches and Champions should differ from leveraging their unique strengths effectively. With Coaches, focus on tapping into their insider knowledge about the company’s internal processes, culture, and decision-making frameworks. Value their insights, but remember not to rely on them to push your deal forward.

On the other hand, your approach towards Champions should be more proactive and strategic. Build strong relationships with potential Champions early in the sales cycle. Provide them with all the knowledge they might need to advocate effectively for your solution. Importantly, aim to cultivate multiple Champions within the organization, especially at higher levels.

Cultivate Your Champions

With years of navigating the complex world of sales under my belt, I’ve learned one irreplaceable lesson: understanding the power dynamics within a prospect’s organization is fundamental to business-to-business sales. In every company, some individuals sway the decision-making processes, irrespective of their official titles or roles. These are the people we call ‘Champions.’ Detecting these influencers early on can significantly streamline your sales process and enhance the likelihood of a successful close.

So, how do you discern the Champions (or powerful influencers) within an organization? The key is to identify those who have earned respect, both from their peers and management. It’s about determining who holds the power to shape opinions and decisions, not just who holds the corner office.

Champions might not always occupy high-ranking positions. They could be team leaders, project managers, or even individual contributors who, because of their expertise, dedication, or charisma, have earned the respect of their colleagues and superiors.

Uncovering the Signs of Influence

Look out for those who command attention in meetings, whose insights are sought out, and whose opinions weigh heavy on decisions. Potential Champions have a way of making their presence felt. Their words resonate, their ideas hold merit, and their actions are often mimicked by others.

Also, notice the relationships. Influencers typically have strong connections across different departments and hierarchies. They are sought out for advice, invited to important meetings, and often play a critical role in strategic initiatives.

Building Relationships with Champions

Once you’ve identified potential Champions, it’s crucial to cultivate relationships with them. Remember, your product or service is not just being sold to an organization but to the people within that organization. Building a strong rapport with these influencers can pave the way for trust and credibility, making it easier for you to sell your solution.

In every sales process, you are selling three things and all of them are important to a Champion:

  1. Your product must work and provide great value to the Champion’s organization. Not insignificantly, the Champion has to acknowledge that your product works and is of value.
  2. Your company has to have an excellent reputation, and the Champion must respect your company.
  3. The Champion must trust and respect you as the salesperson. You will never get a Champion to help you if you do not have a great business and personal relationship with that Champion.

Show genuine interest in their work, seek their insights, and respect their opinions. Be a consultant, not just a salesperson. Provide value and solutions that resonate with their goals and challenges. Remember, influencers have earned their status because they’ve brought value to their organization. Align with them on this, and you’ll find your solution isn’t just being sold but welcomed.

In business-to-business (B2B) sales, understanding the dynamics of power and influence within a prospect’s organization is key. Recognizing and building relationships with these influencers will help you tailor your approach and aid in sealing the deal.

Always remember – respect is earned, and so is the sale.

Multiple Champions

In the complex world of B2B sales, you will likely need to influence multiple technical decision-makers. These decision-makers often come from diverse departments and bring unique perspectives and concerns to the table. For instance, the legal team that approves your contract is a technical decision-maker. While your main Champion within the organization might have a strong influence on some stakeholders, their influence might not extend to the legal team, particularly if they’ve never worked together directly.

In such situations, it’s crucial to identify and leverage alternative Champions. This could be someone who has a strong rapport with the legal team and understands their concerns and criteria for approval. They would be able to present your solution in a manner that addresses the legal team’s specific concerns, thus effectively influencing their decision. This “Champion Chess” strategy, where different Champions are used to influence different technical decision-makers, can significantly increase your chances of success.

Moreover, understanding the roles, responsibilities, and influence of each stakeholder in the decision-making process is paramount. This is where the ‘Decision Process’ and ‘Decision Criteria’ elements of the MEDDPICCC methodology come into play. By understanding who makes the decisions, how they are made, and what criteria are used, you can tailor your approach to meet the specific needs and concerns of each stakeholder.

I encourage you to focus on your main Champion and identify and cultivate relationships with other potential Champions within the client organization. Each stakeholder, each department brings its own set of needs and concerns. Understand them, address them, and you will build the broad-based support needed to close the sale.

A Key Consideration: The Competitor’s Champion

Nurturing your Champion is a crucial part of the sales process, but it’s equally important to be aware of potential threats that could undermine your efforts. A formidable Champion working for your competitor can pose a significant challenge to your sales endeavor. This is why it’s crucial to ensure that your Champions are more influential than your competitor’s Champions and that your Champions are well-equipped with all the necessary tools, resources, and support to advocate for your solution effectively.

Moreover, the concept of ‘Champion Chess’ becomes particularly relevant here. With multiple Champions in your corner, you have a broader base of influence within the client organization. This not only strengthens your position but also provides a buffer against the efforts of your competitor’s Champion(s). Each of your Champions can advocate for your solution from their unique standpoint, increasing the likelihood of winning over key decision-makers who might be influenced by your competitor.

Your Champion is your competitor’s enemy, and vice versa. However, it’s important to note that this isn’t a zero-sum game. A more nuanced approach is to view it as a dynamic landscape where various Champions, including your own and those of your competitors, continuously influence the decision-making process. Your goal should be to ensure that your Champions have the maximum influence on this process and to achieve this, you must provide them with all the support they need, including insights, data, and compelling narratives about your solution.

Don’t just focus on nurturing your Champion(s) but also keep an eye on potential threats. Use the Champion Chess strategy to your advantage, and continuously work to equip your Champions with the tools they need to be effective advocates for your solution. Remember, the more influential and well-supported your Champions are, the stronger your position will be against your competitors.

Harnessing the Power of Coaches and Champions

Recognizing and effectively leveraging the roles of both Coaches and Champions can lead to a substantial difference in your sales process. Coaches provide you with valuable insights into the organization, while Champions guide your sales process and actively advocate for your solution. By understanding the roles of these key influencers and using this knowledge to your advantage, you can steer your sales process toward a successful close.

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