Sales B2B: the death of the Champion.

Sales B2B: the death of the Champion. 1024 576 Bruno Sireyjol

In B2B sales, the Champion is typically a stakeholder within the customer’s organization who plays a crucial role in helping sales reps navigate the complexities of the buying process. He or she positively impacts the chances of closing a deal. So much so that Customer Centric Selling and Value Selling sales methodology include the Champion detection and management as one of the key steps of the sales process. Some of our clients rank Champions so high in their opportunities assessment that it motivates their decision to pursue or even engage into a new business opportunity.

However, after running an in-depth analysis of over 400 won opportunities with our clients, we came to a different conclusion. Champions are never mentioned in the top 3 reasons why a deal was won or play a minor role in the decision process. Above all, none of them displayed all the attributes listed in simplistic qualification frameworks like MEDDIC. Could it be too much emphasis is laid on Champions? Let us debunk a couple of myths.


The Champion sells on your behalf:


This is true for transactional deals. The lower the amount, the more sellers rely on Champions to support, advocate for, and influence the decision process in favor of their product or service. When quantity prevails over quality, Champions are targeted and coached to facilitate – almost delegate – the sales process and increase productivity. Does laziness pay off? No. Reps who keep control of their deals and cover their bases boast a 55% higher win ratio.

On more complex and strategic deals, Champions’ impact is marginal and accounts for 12% of the activities that contributed to the successful completion of the sales process. Strategic sellers navigate complexity by multiplying customer touch points to confirm, adjust, or change their sales strategy. The Champion is seen as a means to an end, not an end in itself. Champions may exist but senior reps consider coaches or teachers to be good enough.

Champions are thus primarily leveraged to :

  • Check decision map,
  • Understand internal politics,
  • Validate their sales strategy,
  • Identify pitfalls and landmines.


Champions are pro supplier:


This is true once again for volume-based businesses. Since reps rely heavily on Champions to progress their deals, they also resort to “Always be closing” techniques at every step of the sales process. In other words, they need a “Yes” to a simple question: “Are we preferred?”. More subtle questioning techniques may be used, namely for inbound leads to understand the journey completed by the customer before reaching out and possible early interactions with competitors. There is a 0.88 correlation between Champion’s perspective and the probability to win a deal.

The more complex the sales and the bigger the deals, the less reps rely on Champion’s perspective. Since Champions are a means and not an end, Champion’s view is considered but only slightly affects the overall sales strategy.

Although the Champion may be open and readily accessible, only 18% of them actually disclosed information that was not typically not available to other suppliers. In contrast, pro supplier obvious signs raise red flags on integrity and credibility in the eyes of the decision committee members. Champions may admit they may gain personally from the sale but, due to economic and strategic stakes at play, they do not share sensitive information.

In strategic selling, the Champion’s evaluation is based on more subtle evidence:

  • Personal work ethics, including the ability to retain critical information,
  • Ability to execute critical steps of the sales process that are unique to the supplier,
  • Ability to question and challenge suppliers’ offer capabilities, benefits, and ROI,
  • Adoption of supplier jargon.


Champion are good at influencing others:


In transactional sales, Champion and Decision Maker are the same person in 70% of cases. Below 50,000 euros deals, they own the budget 80% of the time. Their vested interest in both solving a corporate problem and a personal issue make things simple: 2.3 stakeholders are involved on average. The top 3 decisions criteria are: reps’ business acumen, supplier’s easiness to do business with, and the perception of value delivered. Apart from negotiating internal resources allocation when needed, there is no evidence influencing others in picking a specific vendor is ever needed.

When selling big into key accounts, seasoned reps do not rely on Champions to influence anyone. Within committees made of individuals from different business units, departments and with varying seniority, experience or expertise, strategic sales reps carefully select key contacts based on 3 main traits: career track record , career momentum and ability to speak for the organization greater good .

Most successful reps certainly look for stakeholders to help build consensus and catalyze action among a wide collection of perspectives. They do equip them to convey specific messages or check the committee’s vision is shaped around their unique selling points. That said, beyond the initial stages of the buying process, impactful interactions and activities do not include Champions’ influence. What successful salespeople do :

  • They treat each individual as equally powerful players,
  • • They request and get access to power in 68% of the time,
  • They focus on customers’ organization dynamics around change and consensus creation.

Champion detection and coaching can work for simplistic B2B sales processes. However, even in transactional businesses, the number of stakeholders involved in the purchasing process grows. Customers are more informed – or misinformed – by the amount of data they collect before even reaching out to vendors. Information overload, risk aversion and dilution of influence require different tactics and sales strategies to advance and close deals.

The truth is that Champions and their extensive list of attributes simply no longer exist in competitive deals. Successful reps do not rely on Champions to sell on their behalf or influence deals. They do target multiple stakeholders ‘profiles. The traits and the spirit of the Champion still live in these multi-level relationships, which means only customers’ buying committees should be treated and evaluated as Champions.

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