Sound Sales: Finding the Champion and Dealing with Committees
In almost every organization, there’s one person I call the champion. It’s safe to assume the champion will affect and influence your selling process. At times, it can be very obvious who the champion is. At times, the organization (your prospect) itself is very aware of who the champion is. However, sometimes the champion flies below the radar screen and stays out of the public eye. Champions fight and win their battles covertly behind closed doors – often without confrontation.
This person is able to work the organization from the inside out. While the sales professional is obviously trying to work it from the outside in. You will always find the champion where the action is. If the organization is making changes, the champion is probably involved. Strategic projects usually have the champion’s footprints all over them. The champion usually operates more like a cat than a bull in a china shop. The champion has usually earned the respect of people in the organization through past endeavors. Since they are so highly regarded, champions are well-networked throughout the organization. Thus, they’re always ‘in the know’ and are rarely surprised by events or changes.
When it comes to ethics, there is no middle ground for the champion – they are either very ethical or they are not. The champion is generally very much a political animal. In most cases, they will do what’s best for the corporation but in all cases, they will do what’s best for themselves. Unlike people in the organization who are bulls in a china shop (out to win battles), the champion is focused on winning wars.
Champions usually delegate very well, and the boundaries of authority do not get in their way when it comes to delegating. Champions are usually extroverts and have excellent communication skills. They know when to push and when to pull.
Many sales professionals have fallen off an unsuspecting cliff because they didn’t find the champion or they were on the wrong side of the champion. In corporate selling, it is an absolute must to identify the champion and to work with them more than with anyone else in the organization. Naturally, you face a challenge if the champion and your buyer are not one and the same. If you, your product or your service have the support of the champion, you stand a pretty good chance of making a sale and winning the deal. If you don’t have the champion’s support, you are in trouble. If the champion is behind your competition, you’re dead.
Never Lose Alone.
I could probably name five or so strategic or valuable reasons why corporations form committees. In fact, when a committee is formed, the organization and the members of the committee more than likely can communicate to you eloquently the value proposition of the committee. Frankly speaking, it’s all a bunch of B.S. Most of the time, committees are formed for one reason – and one reason only – no one wants to lose alone. If a bad decision is made, if a project fails, or if the wrong path is taken, no single person wants the blame. Therefore, if it was a committee decision, everyone feels personally safe.
In general, committees are a sales professional’s nightmare but often they are a harsh reality we have to deal with. When a committee is formed which has anything to do with your selling cycle, the cycle will slow down. In sales, I’ve always believed in the statement, “time kills deals.”
If an evaluation committee or purchasing committee is established, we have three choices. We can either ignore it, fight it or embrace it. At this point, embracing it is the best move possible. By embracing it, your prospect now sees you as a solution rather than as a vendor. You can try to turn a negative (a committee) into a positive by helping the committee establish criteria, timelines and methods of evaluation.
When working with a committee, you need to remove your ‘sales professional’ hat and put on your ‘I’m a valuable consultant’ hat. By assisting the committee, helping them establish criteria and even doing some of the due diligence and dirty work for them, you are in a position to establish criteria to your benefit and your competitors’ detriment. There’s probably a champion of the committee but don’t assume or take for granted that the committee’s champion is also the corporate champion you must find. Often the champion sits outside the committee, but guides and influences the committee without being on it.
Keywords: Sales, Organizational Champion, Corporate Committees, Management, Sound Sales, Sales Tips, Management Consulting, Compass Group Solutions, Mark McGlinchey
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