In every sale, there’s likely someone with the potential to be your coach or champion. If this individual also has the budget authority, it can be an easy close. Outside these unicorn deals, the champion typically serves as an advocate and ally, providing information on competitor pricing and the decision process. Many sales reps don’t leverage the true potential of their champions because these contacts aren’t fully enabled. Despite the recent growth of sales enablement, sales teams have yet to tap into the power of buyer enablement.
Reps are innately comfortable developing relationships. And that includes building interpersonal connections with their champions. But in today’s complex world, the seller has information that can be extremely valuable to the champion. Consider all the insight a rep has from other customers who have tackled the same issues. From experience, reps know what stalls out deals. They are painfully aware of how difficult decision-making can be in large organizations. Yet, too many reps aren’t packaging this knowledge to enable their buyers. This is especially true when it comes to deal champions.
One important but underutilized buyer enablement strategy involves “champion content.” These written materials or key messages are given to the champion for him or her to use as their own. It should make the champion look smarter (a personal benefit to them) and help position you and your solution with influencers that you can’t directly access.
Created by marketing or sales enablement, this form of buyer enablement content helps your advocate sell on your behalf. It should be tailored for the selling situation, developed from the lens of your champion, and designed to be their own.
Our client Mark leads sales enablement at a technology firm. One of his best reps, Allison, was working on a large deal for a financial services firm. Mark’s work in building champion content was key to winning the deal. In this opportunity, Allison’s main contact was new to his role and not the ultimate decision maker. Over time, Allison developed a strong relationship with her contact, nurturing him into a champion. Allison’s experience in the space was extremely valuable to the champion. She knew the key issues and potholes to avoid from others in similar positions as her champion. And this insight strengthened Allison’s position as a trusted advisor in the contact’s eyes. They talked about what his priorities should be for the next year, and how Allison could help him achieve those with a significant investment in technology.
During this process, Allison worked closely with Mark and the sales enablement team. They created a strategic roadmap deck that Allison’s champion could make his own. Allison knew she wouldn’t be able to get a meeting with the CEO or CFO, so the presentation included the messages Allison wanted those senior leaders to hear. The roadmap also included solutions that Allison’s firm didn’t provide, further adding credibility. In this way, the champion became Allison’s proxy. He used the deck to deliver Allison’s point-of-view to other influencers in various internal meetings.
Allison also coached her champion on the key messages: his priorities, how his objectives linked to the larger business goals, etc. And of course, a key element of that strategy was the importance of Allison’s technology solution. Allison worked with sales enablement to get these ideas on paper and even role-played so the champion could master his talking points.
The champion welcomed the support, even using Allison’s presentation to communicate his vision to his team. He eventually shared it with senior leadership as part of the annual budgeting process, which resulted in funding for Allison’s solution. Allison was helping her champion buy and the champion was selling on Allison’s behalf to others in his company.
In partnership with sales enablement, Allison made her champion’s job much easier. Allison’s insights and experience, which she had taken the time to get on paper, helped the champion come across as more thoughtful, despite being new to the role. Bottom line, Allison provided real value. Of course, the champion wasn’t obligated to use Allison’s materials and messages. But because he agreed with Allison’s recommendations and had formed a trusted relationship, the content was one less thing to worry about. Senior leadership also viewed the information as more credible because it was delivered by the champion.
This form of buyer enablement isn’t about manipulating your customer or doing their job for them. It is about focusing on what sellers are supposed to be doing – offering insight that moves opportunities forward. Buyer enablement is helping the customer purchase from you. Often this means crafting and packaging key messages for the champion to carry forward into his or her organization.
Stop pitching to customers and start enabling them to buy
How well do your reps understand the goals of each influencer in their deals? Do they truly understand how their customer contacts are trying to position themselves for success? Gathering this information means having more than superficial conversations. Reps need solid business acumen to help the buyer bridge their plans to their company’s larger business context.
But this knowledge isn't enough. Reps should partner with sales enablement and marketing to create buyer enablement content. Include process guidance about making a complex purchase, like one involving your solution. Reps should help their buyers steer clear of any wrong approaches to the purchase process. Chances are your sellers have seen the buying process dozens or hundreds of times, but this might be the first time for your buyer. If the decision requires lots of internal alignment, the champion will need help navigating internally.
How well equipped is your team with content to help buyers sell on your behalf? Have they fully activated their champion relationships? With a focus on champion content, sales enablement can help sellers gain access to an audience otherwise inaccessible. And the insight is delivered with credibility sometimes not offered by a third party.
The future of sales requires a new mindset, skillset, and toolset. Contact us to learn about how leading sales enablement teams are helping their sellers with buyer enablement.
About The Author
Researcher, consultant, and sales leader, Brian uses a data-driven approach to drive sales effectiveness. His clients include leading sales organizations in financial services, technology, healthcare, and professional services. Using insight from academics and change management, Brian helps senior leaders and sales enablement teams understand and succeed in today’s more demanding market. His research has been published in Harvard Business Review and other outlets.