You’re on vacation, and you’re finally ready to relax. You check into the hotel, and your spouse is dragging you by the arm toward the pool. It’s time for a margarita, poolside. But no, you can’t go. You’re headed straight to the hotel room to work because even after several weeks of meeting your potential new customer, you’re not sure if you’ve established a champion yet.
Your primary contact is now scheduled to meet with his or her procurement team, and you’re not confident you’ve earned their business. That awkward and uncomfortable feeling is now in your stomach.
Can you relate?
Regardless if you’re in sales, business development, marketing, or another profession, everyone needs a champion to ensure your best interests are advocated.
What’s a champion?
Force Management defines a champion as:
• Someone who has influence or power inside their organization
• Someone who has a vested interest in your success of your project or the services you’re selling
• Someone who is actively selling on your behalf when you’re not present
Why do I need one?
You may be wondering how a champion is different than a coach. It all comes down to the person’s influence. A coach can help guide you inside a target customer or internally at your employer as you look to promote a new idea or product offering. However, a coach may not possess the influence that a champion does – the power to get your idea or promotion over the goal line.
The takeaway here is a coach won’t go to bat for you when you need them the most. A champion will.
How to foster a champion in a coach
You can find a champion by developing the relationship with a coach through consistent performance and creating many happy customers inside an organization. Over time, that person will go from coach to champion – only if they possess the three key elements that define a champion mentioned above.
What if you asked your customers what value you offer and what problems do you solve? Would their answer match what you sell? Did you get that awkward feeling in your stomach again? Scary to think if those answers don’t match…correct?
Based on my experience as a buyer and seller, I believe this disconnect happens more than we think. And when there’s disconnect, earning a champion is impossible. How can people go to bat for you when they don’t have a clear understanding of the value you’re providing their organization?
As sales associates or drivers within an organization, it’s our responsibility to have a growth mindset and move up the value chain in the eyes of our customer or your boss. We must ensure our customer has a solid understanding of how we solved their problems differently and provide them proof of where we’ve successfully done it elsewhere.
Is your manager a coach or a champion?
The importance of champions doesn’t only apply to sales – it can also apply to your internal organization as you look to move up the value chain in the eyes of your manager. Will he or she see the value you offer and rally for that promotion or salary increase? Is your manager a coach, or a champion? Does he or she have the influence to help you land that next job internally? Do they truly understand what value you provide?
Don’t tell them – show them. Displaying to your manager the little intricoes of going the extra mile will create more trust and confidence in your abilities within the organization. You must challenge yourself to find creative ways to make work for your manager or your teammates easier.
For example, you could stay late when it’s not required to help get a project out the door or attend a conference that will help you control your brand in the eyes of your customers. If you focus on this type of behavior consistently, over time, you will create internal champions!
Can you have champions outside your internal team?
Yes, of course! You’ve got advocates outside of your department – key stakeholders, decision makers, and other people whose respect you must earn. Once that trust has been acquired, the influence to accomplish a positive outcome for your business and the role you perform will allow you to achieve greater results. If you try to convince someone to be your champion or advocate without proving yourself, they will always resist you.
It’s now your turn, and I would love to hear from you! How have you built strong relationships that have turned into champions? Having someone sell on your behalf when you are not present is priceless.
Challenge yourself to build authentic relationships where your customer or stakeholder will always go to bat for you.