Find the Champion

Identifying and building relationships with someone who can “sell for you” when you’re not meeting with people in the buyer’s organization is essential. Identifying this person and building relationships up, down, and across the organization is essential. Identifying the right person who has both influence and power is critical. In sales, that person is called the champion, and they are essential to finding when pursuing an opportunity. But how do you start?


There are two main characteristics to look out for in a Champion:

1. Champions have a personal interest in driving your deal

  • For a champion to be motivated to help you, they must have a unique benefit. They most probably directly benefit from the vision or possibility, or they are negatively impacted by the pain you have identified or have been assigned by their management to solve.

2. Champions have the power and influence to help drive your deal forward when you’re not there.

  • A champion is a person who will help you through the fog of decision-making, introducing you to the right people. That means they must be well-positioned, respected, and connected. More importantly, they cannot be afraid to put themselves “out there” to their colleagues, leaders, and peers. In that way, a champion is a change agent. They feel some sense of responsibility (and some way accountability) to tackle the challenge.

Champions are usually not the ultimate decision-makers. They rarely have the “final say” within their organization. However, they are critical to finding the “agreement network” of people who need to agree, and they’re essential to help you navigate the internal organizational and political dynamics. Champions are critical to your success.

Champions Have Personal Interest

Discovering the personal interest of a champion is, in many ways, crucial to the success of your deal. First, it allows you to understand the personal motivation behind pursuing a possibility or tackling a pain.

The champion does not have to be a senior executive, but they must be a respected leader willing and able to drive change in the organization. Winners know they are engaging in the messy business of changing their organization from within. Not only that, but they’re willing to do what it takes to change their organization by showing some accountability or responsibility for leading efforts. They are also personally vested, but when trying to figure out how to make that change a reality.

That means the champion could be personally interested in:

  • Moving toward something: To achieve something like beating an internal competitor, a promotion, recognition by their department, or monetary incentives. What is their goal or objective? How can we help them be successful?
  • They are moving away from something: Preventing a job loss, competitive pressure, budget cuts, or pending reorganization ideas. What are they afraid of? What is the risk they want to avoid?

Champions Have Power and Influence

There are two distinctive styles that champions can have. One is power, and the other is influence. These two styles are often synonymous. If you have one, it’s assumed you probably have the other. But a closer look at these two styles shows they work in widely different ways.

Influence occurs when the champion affects the emotions, opinions, or behaviors of others. The effect is apparent through peer pressure, socialization, conformity, obedience, and persuasion. The ability to influence is an essential asset for champions and a skill for those in sales, marketing, politics, and law.

A leader’s ability to influence others is based on trust; in fact, a champion’s power expands in proportion to the amount of trust in a relationship. An effective advocate moves others into action not with coercion but by eliciting their desire and conviction in the vision and goals articulated by the leader. Misused influence can bring about catastrophic results. But properly channeled, positive impact can bring about significant change as individual actions align with group efforts to produce gains that grow exponentially. A champion, who, through focused and deliberate effort, exerts a positive influence on others, will build trust and become a true driving force toward excellence.

Power is the champions’ ability to influence people or events to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others. It’s an ability to help others see something they haven’t necessarily seen before.

Power is the ability to influence the behavior of others with or without resistance by using a variety of tactics to push or prompt action. In that way, power is the ability to get things done. Champions with power can influence others’ behavior to achieve a goal or objective. Others may resist attempts to make them do certain things, but an effective leader can overcome that resistance. Although people may regard power as evil or corrupt, it is a fact of organizational life and is neither good nor bad. Champions can use power to benefit or constrain others, serve the organization’s goals, or undermine them.

Another way to view power is as a resource that champions use in relationships. When a champion influences subordinates, it is called low power. We can also think of this as someone having power over someone else. On the other hand, champions can also exercise upward power by trying to influence their leader’s decisions. Indeed, advocates can influence leaders to direct and coach their teams to get things done and are subject to the power of team members.

Create a Champion?

Think about it this way. Sometimes people need help. It’s a complicated and complex world. Businesses have many problems to solve, and buyers don’t have everything figured out. As a seller, you may have to find someone willing to learn and help them get what they need to become a champion. This is where a targeted outbound cadence can help.

Updated on June 27, 2023

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