Sales Buying Roles: Champions

RepVue Editorial Team
RepVue Editorial TeamDec 21, 2023

Understanding the different buying roles is crucial to closing enterprise sales deals. It’s important to identify who the decision-makers are as quickly as possible, but the first buying role you’ll likely work with is the champion — in many cases this person will also be the “initiator” — or the person who reaches out to express interest. 

Champions are the primary drivers behind purchasing a product or service. They may not have the final say in the buying decision, but they play a critical role in the sales process.

Champions can provide valuable insights into the company’s needs and goals. They may also have influence over the decision-makers, so building a relationship with them can help you win the deal. Initiators can come from any level of the organization, from entry-level employees to top executives. They may be the ones who are experiencing a pain point that your product or service can solve, or they may be the ones who are driving a new initiative that requires a specific solution.

And critically — they may stand to gain personally from implementing your product or service. Understanding that is absolutely critical to your success in closing enterprise deals.

Understanding the role of champions in the sales process can help you tailor your approach to their needs and interests. By identifying and building relationships with champions, you can gain valuable insights that can help you win the deal and build long-term partnerships with your customers. 

The Role of the Champion in the Buying Process

The champion is often the person who identifies or recognizes a need or a problem and the primary driver behind finding a solution. This could be a product or service that they need to purchase to solve a business challenge or improve a process. 

Champions are critical to driving the buying process. You need to understand their needs, pain points, and motivations to tailor your pitch and offer a solution that meets their requirements. Additionally, the champions will provide you with valuable information about the buying process within the company, the decision-making criteria, and the other stakeholders involved.

Influence of the Champion on the Buying Process

The champion’s influence on the buying process can be significant, as they can introduce new products or services to the organization and influence the decision-making criteria.

As a salesperson, it’s essential to understand the extent of a champion’s influence on the buying process and tailor your approach accordingly. You need to build a relationship with the champion and gain their trust by providing them with valuable insights and information. By doing so, you can increase your chances of success and close the deal.

An Account Executive normally works with the Champion. See AE salaries here.

Identifying the Champion

The champion identifies a need or desire for a product or service,  often starting the buying process, and seeing it through to the implementation of a solution. Therefore, it is important to understand the traits of a champion and how they differ from buying roles.

Traits of a Champion

The champion has identified a problem or opportunity for their company or clients that requires a solution. They are often the ones who do research and gather information about potential solutions. Champions are typically proactive and have a clear understanding of their needs.

Champions are also often the ones who have the budget and authority to make a purchase — but they may not be the final or only decision-maker. They are usually executives or managers who have some power to make decisions and allocate resources. It’s critical to determine whether this is in fact the case. 

If your Champion doesn’t have budget or decision-making authority, then you will likely need to work with them to get the support of someone who does. This isn’t necessarily a deal-killer. It’s not uncommon that someone will feel pain or see a problem that requires a fix that is “above their pay grade” — but then it’s your job to help them frame the solution and pitch it up the chain to get the support of the decision maker(s). 

Champions vs. Other Influencers

It is important to note that the champion has influence over the buying process, but  not the same as the influencer role. The influencer is someone who has the power to sway the decision-making process but does not have the authority to make the final decision. Influencers may include colleagues, consultants, or subject matter experts.

While the champion is the one who drives the buying process, influencers can play a crucial role in shaping the decision. Influencers may provide valuable insights and perspectives that can help the decision-maker make an informed choice.

Therefore, it is important to work closely with champions to identify the people in influencer roles, as well as to understand their needs and concerns so you can address them comprehensively.

Learn more about the Influencer buyer role

Engaging with the Champion

Here are some strategies to help you engage with the champion:

Effective Communication Strategies

Clear and concise communication is key when initially engaging with the champion. They are the ones who are driving the buying process, and they need to be convinced that your product or service is worth their time and money. Therefore, it is important to communicate the benefits of your product or service clearly and effectively.

One effective communication strategy is to use storytelling. Storytelling helps to create an emotional connection with the champion and makes it easier for them to understand the benefits of your product or service. You can use case studies or customer success stories to illustrate how your product or service has helped others in similar situations.

Another effective communication strategy is to ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions encourage the initiator to provide more detailed answers, which can help you understand their needs and concerns better. This, in turn, can help you tailor your pitch to meet their specific needs.

Building Relationships with Champions

Building relationships with initiators is important for two reasons. First, it can help to establish trust, which is crucial in the sales process. And second, it will help you to identify the other stakeholders who will be involved in the buying process.

One effective way to build relationships with initiators is to share useful knowledge and information. This can be in the form of industry insights, market trends, or product updates. This can help you demonstrate your expertise and show that you are invested in their success.

It goes without saying that providing exceptional customer service will help you quickly build a relationship with the champion. Responding promptly to their inquiries, providing them with personalized attention, and following up with them after each stage in the process demonstrate that you value their business and are committed to their success.

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The discovery process is critical in order to build a deep understanding of what’s motivating the champion. You need a clear understanding of how implementing your solution would benefit the company — and how it would benefit your champion personally. 

You will work with your champion in discovery to build an ROI analysis. Will your product drive more revenue or reduce costs for the company? Will it reduce the time to deliver on a critical process? All of these things are important to understand.

But don’t be shy in also asking “what’s in it for the champion?” Especially once you’ve built a relationship with them. Too often this part is overlooked.  

You should ask about their personal goals. Sometimes this will be obvious based on their role in the company. If they’re a sales leader, they’re probably incentivized on sales or bookings.  Or they’re an IT leader, they’ll be concerned about security. 

But you should go beyond the surface level. 

Take the IT Leader. How are their goals and incentives structured — both formal and implied?  Do they have goals around uptime? Or maybe they recently had a security disaster and they were hired after the previous person was let go, so it’s critical for them to bring immediate value to the organization. 

If you are effective in building trust with the prospect you should be able to eventually get a good understanding of their motivation for solving this problem — and the pain that’s associated with not solving it. Always be curious!

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