How to Sell With Champions: Ask Them to Do the Heavy Lifting + 4 Example Questions
Most people believe a seller’s job is to pitch and close deals. But that view is dated.
Because sales reps don’t close deals. Champions do.
If you look at where buying decisions are actually made, it’s never during a sales meeting. It’s always during an internal meeting, without sales reps in the room.
So the make-or-break moments in your deals generally happen outside of your direct control. But not outside of your influence—if you’re selling with champions.
Which means you need to share the workload.
You need to move deals forward by working through your buyers, while you, as the seller, focus on enabling them. Buyer enablement typically happens in two settings:
- Written Content.
Co-creating the written materials, memos, and narratives your buyer will use to guide their internal conversations. Which can’t be a “concierge,” done-for-you process. Buyers need to be part of doing the work, which builds a sense of ownership in the deal.
For example, the Build-Test Loop helps you build champions, by building a business case.
Sales conversations, done right, are always designed to create space for buyers to think deeply, build conviction, and ultimately, sell themselves.
This is the art of discovery. It's less about gaining information. It's more about gifting buyers greater conviction in how and why they'll solve a high-cost, high-priority problem.
I do a lot of writing on this first topic.
So I tagged in my friend, Charles Muhlbauer, to break down this second part for us: artful discovery, designed to increase buying conviction, build champions, and share the workload.
His perspective and practical examples were just too good, so I'm sharing it all here.
And if you know Charles, you know he has this uncanny ability to ask exactly the right question, in the right way. The right balance of candor and compassion, humanity and “Hey now, are you even allowed to ask that?”
Here’s his take. Enjoy.
Your Buyers Need to Do the Heavy Lifting Too — Here’s How to Ask Them To
What’s some “traditional” sales advice you often hear, that you’ve challenged over the years?
We're often taught to do everything in our power to make a sale.
We focus on selling value, prepping for calls, asking the right questions, handling objections, which is all important. But this also puts a lot of pressure on us to do all the heavy lifting.
What we often forget is that our buyers have a role to play in the sales process.
By getting them to do a lot of the work, we can actually increase our chances of closing deals, because they’re the one who are closing it themselves.
I’m for it, but how do you do it? What’s an example of how you put this into practice?
Let's say you're running a demo for the second time, and you need to explain what your company does in a large group setting.
Instead of taking on that responsibility yourself, why not ask your champion—or at least the person who recommended another call—to explain it to the group?
If you do, you’ll not only take some of the pressure off yourself, you'll be empowering the prospect to sell your company to their own colleagues. That might sound like saying:
"Mike, I see Bob joined our demo today. Did you want to provide him with some context on how you’re potentially thinking about using our offering for your team, and the purpose of our call today?"
Here, you’re putting your champion to work, while they're taking responsibility for providing context on your offering for the newcomers.
I dig it. Especially great in group settings, where your champion is likely more aware of the dynamics inside a large group.
Okay now, if you apply this same approach later in the sales cycle, while negotiating pricing let's say, what would that look like?
Well let’s say the buying team is giving you a hard time about price.
Instead of offering a reduced price, why not ask them what they would be willing to pay?
By asking them to give you an answer, you're making them a more active participant in the negotiation. Which not only takes some pressure off you, it’ll help create more trust and transparency in the relationship.
That might sound like saying:
“Sounds like there’s a range you have in mind, that might propel this forward…”
Do your best to empower them to think about how to work with you. Make them work, too.
Definitely a scenario where reps feel pressured, and this approach reduces that. Okay, how about another scenario? What’s another discovery question you might use to "share the work?"
Another example is when a buyer feels your offering is a nice-to-have, but not necessarily a need-to-have. Instead of getting defensive, try to understand why they feel that way.
Ask them a direct question to get to the root of their concerns, which will let you create a more personalized response that speaks to their specific needs. This not only helps you build rapport, it'll also show your buyers that you're invested in their success.
This might sound like saying:
“Based on [the challenges you’re looking to solve for], what do you feel is missing from our offering, in order for this to be a need-to-have versus a nice-to-have?”
Here, you’re cutting right to the heart of the issue.
Somewhat surprisingly, this turns into a more positive discussion many times.
Good stuff. Let’s do one more. What’s a last discovery question you’d ask, to share the work with your champions?
This is where I’m “looking for trouble,” by asking my champion what might stop the buying team from moving forward with our deal.
By asking them to articulate their team's decision criteria and success metrics, you're making them a more active participant.
Which also ensures you're investing your time and resources into a buying team who’s genuinely interested. Sometimes, what champions want and what a buying team wants are different things.
So this might sound like:
“If you had to think about the top two things that would stop us from moving forward, what comes to mind?”
Getting to the truth helps you both make sure you’re spending your time well, and you'll end up spending less time on the opportunities that will absorb the most.
To wrap us up, you’ve sold, built enablement programs, and coached 300+ sellers. Across them all, what type of results are you seeing using this approach?
For me and my clients, we’re empowered to let our buyers sell themselves on the right solution, as opposed to the other way around.
The buyer is selling you, and buying for themselves. Which is magical, if you can let go.
Plus, by getting buyers to do some of the work, we’re making the sale more efficient and effective. We can be more present on calls, ask direct questions, and ultimately win more deals.
So, the next time you find yourself struggling to make a sale, try getting your buyers to do some of the heavy lifting. You might be surprised at how effective it can be.
> If you'd like to read more from Charles, connect on LinkedIn, or check out his website. <
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