Last weekend I was exploring Boston with friends from out-of-town. No tour would have been complete without a stop at Faneuil Hall. The gentleman that you see hanging upside down was working the crowd. What you can’t tell from the picture is that he spent the better part of a half hour gathering a crowd. It was windy, a bit chilly and he was competing with a host of local bars, shops and various other acts. And yet, about 200 people were gathered, waiting to see the big trick. And when he was done a line of willing “financial contributors” were putting money in his out-stretched hat. How did he do it? He started with a few “champions”. He carefully selected people passing by to help set up his props. People who attracted others by their seeming interest. This hanging, upside down stunt man was the ultimate sales man – earning his keep by drawing in a crowd.
Gratefully, most of us don’t have to suspend ourselves from a 20 foot pole in windy downtown Boston to capture the hearts and wallets of our prospective buyers. But we do share a lot in common with the artist. People can live without our product or service. Our buyers have many other distractions on a daily basis. And as much as it hurts to admit, we are replaceable. There’s hot chocolate and live jazz music right around the corner calling my name.
Organizations are complex webs of process, rewards, accountability and people. If you want someone to pick you over an alternative you have to instill some of the passion you exude for your business into them. The best way to do this is to build a partnership with an influencing advocate. Good sales people do this every day. They build rapport with someone who gives them the inside track of purchasing needs. Someone who tells them the “secret” threshold of pricing to ensure a smooth order process. Someone who lobbies to buy your product or service. But just like our stunt man, if you stop building advocacy after exciting your champion, success will vary. You have to make it easy for your champion to incite the crowd. Just like he made it easy for his helpers to draw a crowd by giving them something to do, and often something to say.
Our buyer champions are good at their job, but they are generally very bad at selling. That’s why I developed the notion of a Champion Kit. Champion Kits are NOT your corporate website. They are NOT a literature library. They ARE a series of tools designed to make it easy for your champion to build a business case.
Making your champion an advocate hero can be a tricky path. Below are some of the tactics I’ve learned from a few years of trial and error.
- The tools within your Champion Kit will vary depending on your offering and the buyer’s likely journey. But there are some core components that I include in all of them. (1) Justification Brief – this is NOT a pricing proposal, although pricing may make an appearance. This is an overview of the problem challenging the organization. An outline of various approaches to addressing the problem. And a recommendation for why your champion is advocating your solution as the best approach. (2) Buyers Guide – it would be lovely if our buyer’s didn’t consider alternatives, but it would also be unrealistic. Instead, arm your champion with a template by which they should consider various approaches. Think of it as a checklist. (3) Value Calculator – help your champion quantify the likely impact your solution will have on the business. This could be dollars earned, risk averted, time saved or any other quantifiable measure. (4) Presentation template – Make it easy for your advocate to present to their management team. Give them all of this great data in ready to use slides they can personalize. Don’t forget to keep the template SIMPLE, you want them to apply their own corporate design.
- Don’t forget objectivity. I know you are trying to sell your stuff. But if you throw objectivity out the window no one will use your tools. You need to balance natural bias towards your approach with evidence your champion can use that truly points to your solution as solving their business pain.
- Personalization, not customization. The first time I developed a champion kit I made it far too complicated. The goal was to produce a customized, organization specific business case. Noble goal, but I lost sight of one truth. People are easily distracted. Too much of the material was customizable and almost no one used the kit. Instead, give users the ability to personalize information, without requiring heavy customization. It may not be as snug a fit, but it’s far more important that the tool be used.
- If you measure the kit’s success on how many new leads you generate you are going to develop the wrong content. While components of the kit could be used for driving in-bound activity, the focus should be on your target audience who want to build a business case for your offering. Focus measurement on increasing your deal win rate and improving predictability of the closing portion of your buying cycle.
- Don’t forget about kit adoption. You can’t treat the Champion Kit like publishing a white paper or data sheet. Humans are creatures of habit. If you want to introduce a new routine you have to work hard to build muscle memory. I learned this lesson the hard way. It is not enough to involve sales people in the creation of the kit components, you must train them on how to use the tool, teach them why, and then challenge them to give it a try. Once they see success, the snowball impact of re-use is high. For my clients I run a one hour workshop on building champions and how to use the tool. Over the next few weeks I look for reps who have found success and encourage them to share it with their peers. This is especially important in the first 60 days of kit roll out.
Just like our stunt man, building a champion kit requires some upfront planning but when adopted by your sales community, channel partners and prospective buyers it can lead to measurable reward.