Category Archives for Champion

Key Stakeholder, Donald Kelly, Decision Maker

TSE 1055: TSE Certified Sales Training Program – “Key Stakeholders”

As you move closer to the end of a deal, you’ll likely encounter more objections, and identifying key stakeholders is the secret to overcoming those challenges.

As you move into deeper conversation with the prospect, you may not realize that there are other people involved in the process, even if you aren’t directly interacting with them. Your job as seller is to find out who they are.

Today we’ll help you understand who those key stakeholders are, how you should work with them, and how you can prepare for the process.

Initial interest

Imagine you have an initial conversation with someone who is interested in your lawn care business. You generated some interest and they expressed a desire to know more. You’ll naturally address how you’ve helped other people in the past and take other steps to build value.

At this point, you’ll want to find out who else will be involved in this conversation. Typically, though, sellers neglect to ask that question.

Ideally, you should find out whether the prospect has made a decision like this before. If so, has it been a long time?

You do this kind of work on a day-to-day basis, but the prospect doesn’t. He needs guidance, and you can help him move forward.

Identifying stakeholders

Avoid making him feel as though he isn’t competent to make the decision. Instead of asking him who should be involved in the next call, ask it this way: “At this point in the conversation, my clients typically invite other people into the conversation.”

Instead of asking whether he’d like to invite others in, I would simply ask him who he would like to invite into the conversation. He might identify the CFO or the decision maker.

Next, I would point out that, in order to make sure the next meeting is as valuable as possible, I’d like to know whether I can connect with some of those stakeholders to find out what they’d like to hear.

If he has an objection, reframe the request so that he’s the one making the contact with his stakeholders on your behalf. Keep him involved in the process so he feels comfortable.

Cast of characters

The first stakeholder is your decision maker. He tends to be the person that sellers most often keep their eyes on because he’s the one that will do the final sign-off.

But he may not get involved until later in the process. The decision maker may expect the influencer and the champion to do all of the hard work.

Second is your influencer or the person who has the ear of your decision maker. She may be the right-hand person of your decision maker, or she may just be someone who has a connection with him.

In some companies, this may be an administrative assistant, and sales reps must be mindful not to overlook these people. These executive assistants often wield much influence with the leadership.

My wife worked in a similar position once, and her recommendation often depended on how the sellers treated her when they called into the office.

End users are the people who will use the product or service you’re offering, and they’re the ones you’ll likely interact with the most. We must make sure that they understand us and that we understand them.

The buyer will sign the check to close the deal. If he doesn’t like the deal, he will likely have key influence in it.

The champion is the person who likes you and who brought you into the fold. She invited your team to consider the possibility of hiring you.

The champion

We recently did an entire episode about the importance of the champion. The discussion centered around the fact that sellers often focus so intently on the decision maker that they neglect the champion.

In actuality, though, the champion is the one that you’ll interact with the most, and he’ll be the one that has the most interaction with his team.

He’s the one that wrangles the group through the decision-making process. He’s the quarterback, but he must have your support in order to succeed. If he doesn’t have it, he may lose the desire to champion your cause.

The knights

The dark night doesn’t necessarily have interest in your product or service. He’s usually the member of the organization who is a little bit apprehensive, and it’s in your best interest to discover who he is and why he is a dark knight.

The champion, of course, is your white knight. He will tell the company why it should hire you. He believes so strongly in what you have to offer that he’ll work to sell you internally.

The white knight will likely recognize the dark knight, so you can ask him who it is and what his concerns are. Gather as much intel as you can about the dark knight so you’ll know how to address his potential objections.

Handling the dark knight

Make sure you have a conversation with the dark knight prior to the meeting. Present information to Doug that addresses those concerns and ask him during that conversation whether there is anything specific he’d like to see in the presentation.

In some cases, the dark knight will be the person who made the previous decision and whose decision is potentially being undone by your company. Make him part of the process and compliment the work he has done.

Add on to the value and break down the existing barriers.

When you give the demonstration, you’ll be more effective because you took the time to identify these characters.

“Key Stakeholders” episode resources

This episode is brought to you in part by our TSE Certified Sales Training Program, which teaches you to improve your sales skills, find more customers, build stronger value, and close more deals.

The next semester begins in April.

If you’re not familiar with the TSE Certified Sales Training Program, it’s a program designed to help brand new sales reps, as well as those who have been selling forever. The 12-week module offers videos you can watch at your own pace, as well as the option to join a group discussion. We address three topics: finding, building value, and closing. It’s amazing and it’s fun!

This episode is also brought to you in part by, a Chrome browser extension for Gmail that allows you to track and schedule your emails. You’ll receive real-time alerts anyone opens an email or clicks a link.

The episode is also brought to you by, a sales automation platform that allows you to send cold emails in a personalized manner. To find out more about how it can help you automate your sales process, go to Your prospecting will never be the same.

I hope you enjoyed the show today as much as I did. If so, please consider leaving us a rating on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Stitcher, or wherever you consume this content and share it with someone else who might benefit from our message. It helps others find our message and improves our visibility.

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Garrett Mehrguth, Donald Kelly, The Sales Evangelist

TSE 1046: You Need to Worry More About Your Champion Than Your Decision Maker

Garrett Mehrguth, Donald Kelly, The Sales EvangelistSometimes sales professionals get it backward, and they fail to understand the need to worry more about your champion than your decision maker.

Today Garrett Mehrguth talks to us about the importance of your champion in your sales deals, and why we shouldn’t lose sight of his importance.

Sometimes there’s great value in changing the defaults we learn as salespeople. We tend to become so obsessed with the decision makers that we overlook the champions, who are arguably the most important person in the whole scenario.

How decisions are made

Salespeople sometimes focus so greatly on getting a close that we neglect the fundamental truths involved in selling. In fact, we alienate people and we become our own worst enemy.

It isn’t price; it’s me. Most often, we are the reason that deals don’t close. It’s a direct result of who we speak to, who we don’t speak to, the way we end a conversation, the way we treat people, how well we prepare.

We must have transparency and honesty to admit that often we’re the reason we don’t close a deal.

Salespeople are quick to take credit for successes and slow to take responsibility for failures. #SalesTruth

Garrett believes that if we would build our resources and our marketing toward decision makers, we would drastically improve our conversion rates.

How deals emerge

Once a decision-maker recognizes he has a need, he might send a subordinate to a conference to talk to vendors. He might instruct the person to get three quotes and then bring his two favorites to the decision-maker. Once that’s done, the two will make a decision together.

He might suggest filling out 10 forms on the way to finding three good options. The pair will whittle those to two good options before making a decision.

The problem is that if you speak over the champion or speak through the champion or speak around the champion, you alienate your greatest ally.

Why you need the champion

The champion is your greatest asset while you’re not in the room, so if you alienate that person, you’re losing an important ally. You alienate the person who could potentially go to bat for you once you hang up the phone.

Good decision-makers make decisions by asking the champion whether or not he could work with that agency. So who truly puts their butt on the line?

It isn’t the decision-maker, because he has a fall guy.

The champion is the one who needs the information, the emotional support, and the resources to make a good decision. If you honor the champion with amazing intro calls, lots of sales resources, and well-prepared meetings, you give him the ammo to pitch you internally.

Why the decision-maker shouldn’t be your focus

In five years of working with marketing teams, Garrett has never heard anyone mention targeting the champion. Instead, we treat decision-makers as though they have some kind of supernatural power.

The decision-maker is never the point of contact. If he isn’t the point of contact, and he isn’t the one who will be working with the agency you choose, he isn’t the one to target.

Remember that everyone is selling to the decision-maker, including the champion. The decision-maker’s job is to discern the best fit for his champion. So even if he likes a certain agency better, if that agency can’t work with his champion, it won’t matter.

Deal retention is far more important than closing deals. Even if you manage to close a deal, if you don’t treat the champion well, you won’t renew it. You won’t get referrals from it.

In Garrett’s mind, there isn’t a single aspect of the process where the decision-maker is more important than the champion.

Avoiding absolutes

He acknowledges, too, that absolutes are dangerous. It’s certainly not true that the decision-maker should never, ever be considered.

Instead, let’s work to change the fundamental hypothesis that we as marketers and sales reps enter relationships with.

If we spend more time building rapport with the point of contact, you will drastically improve your close rate because you are building confidence and comfort with the most important voice in the room.

You need a champion who will give you a voice during moments when you aren’t in the room because that’s often when deals are decided. You won’t close $150,000 contracts while you’re in the room. It happens behind closed doors, and you won’t likely be there when it does.

Shifting focus to champions

Give your champions resources to bolster their confidence. Make that your primary goal.

Your champion is likely scared to death of going to his boss with a recommendation. His discernment and character will be judged by the referral he makes. Anytime you give a referral to someone, your own judgment is on the line.

Challenge things that other people won’t do. Put your neck on the line by offering evidence and claims that protect the champion when he goes to his boss. You take the risk so your champion doesn’t have to.

It will give him the confidence to recommend your agency and it will differentiate you from the competition.

In order to be successful, do the opposite of what everyone else is doing.

Building confidence

Garrett’s company operates on annual contracts, and they give the point of contact room to act if he doesn’t feel completely comfortable in the relationship. By backing up their claims, it gives the champion room to cover himself if he makes a bad choice in hiring them.

If you create alignment with the champion, you’ll create alignment with the decision-maker. At the end of the day, the decision-makers just have to make more money than you’re charging them.

The champion has to have a day-to-day relationship with you. You can’t neglect that relationship.

It’s why you must develop resources that speak directly to your champion.

Even when it’s time to renew, the champion will get to decide whether to continue working with your agency. Regardless of the data, if the relationship isn’t there, the deal won’t renew.

Change your perspective to focus on champions, and your volume will drastically improve. There are far more champions looking for vendors than there are decision-makers.

You’ll also increase your deal retention and reduce churn.

Change your prospecting and marketing to focus on the champions, you’ll increase your at-bats and your close rate.

“You Need to Worry More About Your Champion Than Your Decision Maker” episode resources

You can connect with Garrett on LinkedIn @garrettmehrguth, email him at, or connect with him on Twitter @gmehrguth.

This episode is brought to you in part by, a Chrome browser extension for Gmail that allows you to track and schedule your emails. It’s super easy, it’s helpful, and I recommend that you try it out. You’ll receive real-time alerts anyone opens an email or clicks a link. allows you to see around the corners. You can see when people open your email, or when they click on the link you sent. will give you half-off your subscription for life when you use the Promo Code: Donald at check out.

This episode is also brought to you by the TSE Certified Sales Training Program. If 2018 wasn’t the best year for you, check out TSE Certified Sales Training Program. We can help you out of your slump.

If you gave a lot of great presentations and did a lot of hard work, only to watch your prospects choose to work with your competitors, we can help you fix that. The new semester of TSE Certified Sales Training Program begins in April and it would be an absolute honor to have you join us.

I hope you enjoyed the show today as much as I did. If so, please consider leaving us a rating on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Stitcher, or wherever you consume this content and share it with someone else who might benefit from our message. It helps others find our message and improves our visibility.

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Audio provided by Free SFX and Bensound.

Donald Kelly, The Sales Evangelist Podcast, Sales Champion

TSE 802: I’m Not Your Champion, Sis!

Donald Kelly, The Sales Evangelist Podcast, Sales ChampionYou need a sales champion.

You need someone on the inside of the prospective organization who can help you gain influence; someone who understands your goals and believes in your cause.

Find the right sales champion

Not everyone qualifies as a champion.

If your connection won’t benefit from whatever it is that you’re selling, she might not be the right person. Worse yet, if your product could potentially put her out of a job, she’s probably not the right person to champion your cause.

Pursuing the wrong champion will derail your deal.

Arm your sales champion

There’s a story of warring factions who were fighting for control of a city. The bad guys took the city, and the good guys were trapped outside trying to find a way in.

They found defectors inside the city who were sympathetic to their cause and provided wine to get them drunk. Once the defectors were drunk, the good guys snuck over the wall, gave weapons to the sympathizers, and reclaimed the city.

Your sales champion must know the ropes inside the organization. He must also have the tools required to influence the decision-makers.

You must sell your champion on your product so he can sell it to the organization. Equip him with enough information to coordinate a presentation, but don’t rely on him to close the deal.

Arm him with enough benefits to convince the team that they should hear from you.

Benefit the sales champion

Don’t focus on your own benefits. Figure out how your product or service will benefit your champion.

Does it save his department time or money? If so, the company can reallocate those resources elsewhere, which will help him impress his superiors.

Episode resources

The Sales Evangelist Hustler’s League is an online coaching program that brings together sellers of all levels. Our next semester begins this month, and we’ll be discussing how to build strong value to increase your close rates.

We still have a few seats left and we’d be honored if you’d join us.

Audio in this episode was provided by Free SFX.