Most have heard terms like Champion, Decision Maker and Influencer, but what is a Champion? A champion is an influential person who actively supports and promotes a particular person, project, or idea. 2 key terms here are “influential” and “actively promotes”. It happens frequently that once someone from the BigCo expresses enthusiastic support, the SF team assumes that things are moving along and everything is going to be fine. But that’s not necessarily the case. You have to make sure that this person (let’s call her Jane) has actual power and clout. This is often hard to do because the title doesn’t always correspond with influence. I’ve seen product managers with more clout than VPs. So ask other people at BigCo what they think. You’ll be surprised how candid some of the answers will be.
You also have to make sure that Jane is indeed an active promoter. Is she giving feedback only to you or is she actively evangelizing her colleagues? Again, ask around. See how many people learned about your company from her. One of the best signals that you are on the right track is when you get a call from someone at the BigCo who says – I heard about you from Jane and decided to reach out and learn more.
· In order to be able to do this kind of validation, it is essential to have as many points of contact to the BigCo as possible. Do not allow one person (however well meaning) to block you from the rest of the company. Don’t make it adversarial and don’t make it a big deal – but always look for alternative contacts.
· Another reason to have many points of contact is because the “true” Champion may not emerge immediately or may not end up being who you think. You have to be able to go back to the well.
· Be careful of “phishing”. Sometimes a BigCo may be looking at another partner or an internal project and simply using you for information.
And now the key… Short of altruistic, sincere enthusiasm for your product, why would an influential person risk her clout by taking an active role in promoting an untested SF? Two most common answers are money and strategic alignment (I will talk about the latter in a different post)
Wait a minute, you might say, isn’t the size of the deal just a rounding error? It is…and it isn’t. BigCo projects its earnings with great accuracy. Deviations of a few cents can have a massive impact on the share price. So now imagine that Jane runs a business unit (BU) with $100M of revenue. That’s 10% of the company’s revenue - Jane is a big cheese. Since the company is required to project earnings accurately, it also requires its BU leaders to project revenues accurately. To achieve this, Jane’s compensation plan is not linear. It has accelerators and penalties. I’ve seen accelerators of up to 12X. That means that your $5M (5%) deal can be worth as much as 60% of her bonus or tens of $K to Jane personally. All of a sudden, your little $5M deal just doesn’t seem so small anymore.
· Establish as many connections as possible
· Look for evangelists with power AND vested interest
· Are they under plan? Over plan? Try to understand their motivators / pain points.