I put “champion” in quotes because the word gets thrown around like crazy in enterprise Saas sales. Often if you listen to QBRs or deal desks, every single deal has a champion! In reality, a true champion is rare and difficult to identify.
So to set the stage... you have completed 1 or 2 calls with a prospect of yours. The feedback has been incredible and the potential buyer is showing genuine excitement. Solid signal for a champion, yeah? Well, maybe.
Three Non-negotiable Traits of a Champion
Champions need three distinct criteria to be a true champion. If you are missing even one, you don’t have a true champion. But that isn’t a bad thing (more to come on this later).
A true champion has a vested interest in the success of your project. This means they personally have something to gain. Does the project help them in their day to day productivity? Is there a shot they get promoted if the project is successful?
A true champion has influence within the organization and access to the economic buyer. This does not mean they have to be a senior executive at the company. There are countless individual contributors that have the ear of the EB and are looked to as thought leaders within an organization.
A true champion sells on your behalf. This can be alongside you, and/or when you are not in the room.
Simple Effective Tests
The thing about these criteria is that it can be difficult to flat-out ask about them so we need to insert some creativity to get to the answer. Below are some tests you can use to gain insight. And spoiler alert, it isn’t rocket science.
1. Ask them to introduce the economic buyer or additional stakeholders.
This test is usually the most telling. If the timing isn’t right to do this, a true champion will clearly outline steps that need to be taken prior to making introductions.
According to Gong, winning deals have 8 or more contacts involved by signing.
2. Ask them to co-sell with you during a presentation with additional stakeholders.
Typical execution of this would look like the champion candidate beginning the meeting by telling the audience why he/she thinks the project would have a measurable impact to the business and why they are personally sponsoring it.
3. Ask them to prep with you prior to an important meeting.
If they have vested interest in the project being successful, this should be a no-brainer.
4, Shoot them a text.
Being on a “texting basis” is the new first name basis.
Are they responsive to your communication or do they leave you on read?
6. Ask them for a last-minute or after-hours meeting (with valuable purpose, of course).
I could see this as being potentially controversial, but every true champion I’ve had wouldn’t bat an eye about spending 15 mins with me at 7 or 8pm.
What if a champion candidate fails these tests or does not meet all three of the above criteria? That’s okay! We now know a blind spot in our deal and can work to remedy it. As mentioned above, there are going to be numerous people involved in any given deal and all can have a positive impact. We just need to keep working on finding our true champion. No true champion, and you’re either closing a small deal or no deal at all.