How to Identify Internal Champions to Close More Deals in B2B
You’re targeting a large enterprise account. Through a cold email campaign, you managed to establish a point of contact at the organization. They love your product. So you get on a call with them, excited about taking the deal forward. Only to find they are the end user with little influence on the organization’s buying decisions. You’re disappointed.
But soon, you channel your inner sales geek.
You realize you’ve earned yourself an internal champion that can work on the deal from the inside. You can get their help to navigate the buying process or an introduction to decision-makers at the prospective company. Let’s take a look at how you can find and leverage internal champions for your prospects, starting with the basics.
What Are Internal Champions?
Here's a scenario: The content manager at a company uses an on-page SEO tool every day. They don’t like it as much and get introduced to a competitor via social media.
Soon enough, they heard a pitch and got to demo the competitor's on-page SEO tool. And they LOVED it. Now, they advocate for this new product in their company. They try to persuade their CMO and CEO to buy the product demonstrating its results.
In this case, the content manager becomes the internal champion for the new on-page SEO tool.
What Are the Benefits of Internal Champions?
Developing internal champions has the following benefits in a B2B sales environment:
- Intel on how your prospects buy: An internal champion can provide invaluable info on the stakeholders at your prospect’s company and how they make buying decisions.
- Shortening your sales cycle: With insider knowledge of customer needs, you can optimize your sales process around the key team members you need to persuade. If the internal champion has a strong influence inside the company, they can also expedite the decision-making process and help shorten your sales cycle.
- Quicker adoption of your products: If you identify an individual that loves your new technology, they might enthusiastically onboard, train, and guide their team on using it.
- Prevent deals from falling off: Made an error in your sales pitch that seems to go south? A strong relationship with an internal champion can get you back to the table with the decision-makers at the prospect’s company.
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How to Identify Internal Champions + Close More Deals
Champions are typically invested in your prospect’s organization and curious to learn about new products in the market (which could be yours too!) They may ask interesting questions during your sales meetings. Or have a strong influence inside the target company. Here are some tips for identifying and raking in more revenue via such champions:
Rely on Your ICP and Buyer Personas
Who is going to use your product day-in and day-out? Identify these end-users early on, and you’ll find people who could become your biggest advocates. When these people see the value of your product in their worklife, everybody wins.
Enhance your marketing effectiveness by understanding the motivations and pain points of your B2B buyers. Explore our article on B2B buyer personas to learn how to create impactful personas that drive conversions.
Map Accounts to Uncover Champions
You can also map accounts to try to uncover the champions. It involves charting the organization structure, identifying key decision-makers, and the relationship dynamics at your prospect’s organization.
In this process, you may come across potential allies that like your product. They can help you identify the business centers at your prospect’s organization and even influence business decisions. Even if they aren’t immediately useful, down the line, they may get promoted and facilitate the deal.
Find Patterns in Your CRM Data
Do your internal champions normally have the same role or job title? Are they normally working in a certain department? With a robust CRM that records customer interactions in a single place, you can find patterns that will help you identify internal champions.
Once you’ve caught the pattern, train your team to search for those specific roles or departments when prospecting, and integrate those champions into your sales process.
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Use Peer-to-Peer Prospecting
Once you nail their characteristics, the LinkedIn advanced search can find the employees who resemble your advocates. You can also use good old internet research to find their email address.
Once you find them, you want to connect with them on social media or email. You can also consider calling them or even meeting them in person.
When you reach out to them, use your ICP research to empathize with their pain points or just send a joke that helps you make a personal connection.
Build the Relationship
You want to identify as a friend or an expert with your prospective champion—not a salesperson. So don’t slide into their LinkedIn inbox with a pitch as soon as they connect with you. Engage with their social media posts and add value before sending a request.
Also, remember that developing internal champions will generally be a two-way street. Try to offer value to them before you ask anything. Continue to nurture this relationship throughout your sales cycle, and you’ll build a deeper relationship with them.
Ask Them for Help
Once you build credibility with an individual, don’t shy from asking for their help. Try to understand the internal politics of your prospect’s organization. Or request an introduction to the decision-makers at their company. While champions are generally happy to help, you should emphasize how their efforts will enable them to use your product to solve their pain points.
Help Them Communicate Your Value
Even after the initial introductions, you'll need the help of your internal champion to advocate your business value on your behalf. So train them to answer FAQs with various stakeholders that may get involved in the deal. Share any relevant case studies, presentation decks, product demos demonstrating your use cases, or other resources that can assist them in selling for you.
4 Tips to Leveraging Internal Champions in B2B Sales
Want to make sure you’re getting the most value from building relationships with internal champions? Here are a few tips for leveraging the support of these champions to drive more revenue for your company:
1. Stay in Control of Moving the Deal Forward
Here’s a quick sales story:
One of our reps was in the process of selling our inside sales CRM to a pretty large company.
They had sales teams worldwide, and their US team manager loved our product and wanted to champion it within the company.
The ultimate decision-makers (VP of Sales & CEO) were both located at their headquarters in Italy, though. Yet, our sales rep had never spoken with them. Instead, he coached the US team manager on handling common questions and objections.
Our sales rep: “Now I’m just waiting until the end of the month. That’s when she will be able to get the buy-in from the VP of Sales and the CEO.”
Alarm bells started ringing in my head.
YOU should talk with decision-makers—not just your champions. It’s great to have a passionate advocate within the organization, working from within to help you close a deal. But don’t rely on that person to do all the heavy lifting.
It's your responsibility to make the sale happen. When you hand over the responsibility of moving the deal forward to an internal champion… there’s not much left you can do. Your potential to be proactive goes down. You just have to sit back and wait—which is not a sales skill you practiced.
2. Remember, Internal Champions Can't Sell Your Product as Well as You
Even if you’ve coached your internal champion on how to sell your product to the different stakeholders—they will never be as good as you are at selling your product, handling objections, and answering questions about your product and company.
When the internal champion doesn’t know the answers to questions a decision-maker deems important, it will make the internal champion look bad.
The decision-maker will think: “Well, if she doesn’t even know the answer to these obvious questions, should I trust her judgment on this? That product is probably not a good fit for us.”
Then the internal champion will have to go back to you, the actual salesperson, ask these questions, and forward your answers to the decision-maker.
Not only is this a waste of time, but it’s also a very inefficient and low-impact way of communicating the value your product provides. It’s going to distort the value proposition of your product. So take control of the situation and get involved from the beginning.
3. Get Access to the Decision-Makers
Sometimes the decision-makers have instructed their gatekeepers to keep you away from them. They don’t want to deal with sales reps.
Typically a gatekeeper will tell you something like:
“Our VP of Sales wanted me to do all the research and come back with all the information for them so that they can decide without having to interact with account managers from different vendors.”
In this case, you want to be an expert, not a sales rep. You could say: “I believe there is no selling to be done at this point. You’re already sold on the product. I just want to be available in that conversation so that they immediately get a knowledgeable answer when they have questions and respond to any follow-up questions. This will save everyone involved a lot of time and effort.”
If an internal champion wants to make the deal happen, you could tell them:
"I’m glad you love the product. Thank you so much for championing this. Let’s do this together. I want to serve and support you as much as possible in this process so that it’ll be a success for all of us. I know that the [decision-makers] will have questions about our product and company that you couldn’t possibly answer. Let’s schedule a quick 30-minute call with you, me, and [the decision-makers]. We’ll be able to answer all the questions, and I can be an expert supporting you in making your case."
It’s important that you stay involved in the sales process and gain access to the decision-makers.
4. Learn about Different Stakeholders, and Sell to Them Individually
Whenever you talk with someone who is involved with the deal for the first time, figure out how they feel about your solution. How do they think it will affect them? What's their agenda? What are their concerns, objections and fears? What's in it for them personally? How does their department look at this deal?
It’s painful to watch a deal you thought you had in the bag go south—believe me, I know. I’ve made the mistake of thinking the deal is done just because someone in the C-suite signed off, only to have the whole thing derailed because an engineer or end-user came in at the last second and vetoed the decision because they aren’t sold on the solution.
As sales expert, Jim Keenan, says: “Deals close when everyone involved—every stakeholder, influencer, and decision maker—feels the impact of going with your product or service will change their world for the better and that your solution is key in reaching the goals and objectives they’re trying to accomplish.”
So, once you understand the wants and needs of each stakeholder, sell them your solution. Show them how they'll benefit. Find opportunities to make it attractive to them, so that each stakeholder has their own reasons to want the project to happen.
It's called complex sales for a reason—you have to sell your solution multiple times with different value propositions for different stakeholders.
Does this sound like a lot of effort? It is. But it's a lot better than losing a prospect you could have closed.
Internal Champions Are Great—but Remember You Sell to Decision-makers
Get in your champion’s shoes. Identify their needs and try to build a mutually beneficial partnership with them. But remember, they aren’t going to make the final buying decision.
So navigate the prospect’s company with your champion’s help, get introductions to the decision-makers, and keep checking in with them throughout the deal to gather additional context. Every interaction you have with an employee of the organization is an important sales conversation, and you should treat it that way. If you do this, you'll have a very prosperous career in B2B sales.
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