Marketing In a Sales Focused Organization
B2B companies are able to identify and use champions by looking out for people in the prospective customer's organization that are most receptive of their marketing communication and providing the right motivations that will make them advocate for their solutions. They also achieve this by providing "champions content" that will make the champion more effective as well as to overcome their fear. We have provided more details below.
IdentifyING and MotivatING Champions
Most organizations identify champions by looking for a member or members of the company's team they are selling to that is excited about their product. They do this by listening to various members of a prospective customer's team with influence and authority, nurturing a relationship with those most receptive to their message, and coaching the would-be champion.
A major problem with the above approach is that willingness to buy and willingness to advocate for a particular solution are not always the same. A CEB study of 600 B2B buyers found that more than half of those willing to buy a product their organization needs were not willing to advocate for it in their organization. Hence, it is crucial to first overcome the barrier a potential champion has in terms of advocating for your products/solutions in their organization.
To overcome the barrier a would be champion has, it is important to first identify the barriers. Many companies make the mistake of thinking the barrier has to do with the value a solution presents to the champion's organization and spend more time trying to talk about the value of their product when the actual barrier is personal. CEB's study found that more than half of employees in a B2B company that are willing to buy a product/solution fear losing respect or credibility if they advocate for a product that is not as popular to other members of the team or advocate for a product that ends up being a disaster.
The right approach is to communicate the personal value of the product to the champion. The study found that "factors such as whether a solution could advance a person’s career or help him be seen as a better leader were five times as potent as the offering’s “business value”—things like superior product features, likely impact on business outcomes, or return on investment." Decreasing the champions perceived risk and increasing their perceived reward is vital.
Provide the Right Material
Champions who are motivated to advocate for a product may not have the required skills to do so. If they are unable to convince other members of the decision making body to purchase a product, they won't be able to help an organization close a sale. To prime a sales champion, it is important that they have the right marketing material that will enable them to navigate typical sales objection. In other words, champions need to have similar materials as members of your sales team but one that is specifically tailored to them as internal champions. This is easier said than done as it takes on average about three months for a sales representative to have enough training to close sales by themselves. It goes without saying that a sales champion in a customer's organization won't have the same level of training as members of the B2B organization's sales team.
Champions simply can't sell a product as well as your sales team and if possible it is worth it to try to convince the champion to let a member of your own sales team join in when the champion is recommending your product to the decision maker. There are subtle ways to handle objections the champion may have. However, if you can't be there when the champion is advocating for your solutions, the next best thing to provide them with a brochure that handles all the typical objections and to ensure they have all the information they need.
Creating content that will help champions understand the solution better and handle possible objections from their own organizations will help them improve the sales process.
Another key strategy is to have a more champion-focused approach aimed at individual champions. The approach should be about encouraging champions to to speak up when you are not there and be an advocate for your product.
An example of a company that does this effectively is quoted below: "Holcim, a global supplier of cement and related products and services for the construction industry, uses a simple and effective tactic to do this. As a component of its sales operations, Holcim regularly surveys people throughout its customers’ organizations to collect Net Promoter Scores (which gauge willingness to recommend a product or a company). If an account manager encounters a potential advocate for a new offering at an existing customer, a Holcim rep can present that person with NPS data from other functions that demonstrate broad support for Holcim’s offerings. Reps report that advocates are often unaware of allies within their organization until they see the NPS numbers and say that the data gives those allies confidence to promote a purchase."
The above example is important because a study of over 3,000 B2B employees showed that willingness to advocate for a solution doubled when employees perceive that there is broad support for the solution in their organization.
Target Multiple Champions
Buying decisions in various B2B organizations increasingly require approval from multiple groups. A survey of over 5,000 B2B stakeholders found that on average, 5.4 people have to sign off for every purchase in an organization. The idea is to target multiple stakeholders in the prospective customer's company. This makes it likely to have more than one champion in the prospective customer's organization. This is often referred to as account-based selling and the idea is that "instead of one salesperson targeting a single contact within a company, an entire team is dedicated to targeting multiple stakeholders at the prospective customer’s company."
For this to approach to be effective, it is important that the marketing and sales team work together from the very beginning. In fact, some experts recommend cross-department coordination, where the different teams such as Sales, Customer Success, Sales Development, Marketing, Engineering, Finance, Product, and the C-suite must be aligned.
One of the common objections champions give when a sales representative suggests being in the meeting where the champions recommend the company to their C-Suite executives that sign make the purchase decision is that the executives don't want to deal with sales representatives from various companies. One way to get around this objection is for the sales team to communicate to the champion that he understands that and to pull the "CEO/C-suite executive card" in such moments. Something as simple as saying “I get that your CEO doesn’t want to talk with account managers from all these different vendors. And because this deal is so important, and your CEO will be involved in making a decision, I’ll bring in our CEO. That way they can talk together and have a meaningful conversation” can be the difference when making an important sale. However, a sales rep won't be able to make such a move if there is no synergy in the first place.
This approach is great when selling to large B2B business but may not be as good when the target market is small businesses where the deal size may be less than $50,000. It is also best for organizations that deal with B2B companies where the number of decision makers is substantial. The greater the number of stakeholders, the greater the needed for the marketing team, customer success managers, and the sales team to work together and identify and cultivate more internal champions.