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Three Relationships You Must Build for Sales Success

Selling Skills | Building Relationships

Stop me if this sounds familiar: Your salesperson tells you that the first meeting with the major account was a success. The prospect loves the product! Fast forward a few more meetings with the buyer, and now the deal is bogging down. After another month or two, the deal finally dies.

On the face of it, the opportunity seemed well qualified—right industry, right company size, and an obvious need. So, what happened?

Chances are that your salesperson violated the Rule of 3’s. She failed to cultivate relationships with the three critical buying personas necessary for closing deals.

Product Champion/Technical User

Most sales reps will recognize this persona: The Product Champion or the technical user. This person is the one who will use your product, and they are the easiest persona to meet. After all, Product Champions are typically the ones researching new solutions or reading your firm's whitepapers or blogs. They are the ones who will most often respond to your prospecting sequences requesting a meeting to learn about your solution.

Product Champions focus on evaluating the user experience and the technical and operational aspects of your solution. They may use your solution personally and judge it based on how it will impact their job performance.

A great way to connect with a technical user is to focus your meetings on understanding their problems or pain points. Without a Product Champion signing off on your solution, your sales opportunity won’t move forward.

But building a relationship with the Product Champion isn’t enough. While a product champion can say “no,” they often aren’t senior enough in the organization to say “yes.” They also may not understand how to navigate an important buying decision through the organization. For that, you need to build a relationship with a Customer Coach.

Customer Coach

Customer Coaches are people within the buyer organization who like you, your company, or your solution. These supporters can help you understand and navigate their organization's dynamics, including the buying process.

A great Customer Coach might help you better understand their organization, what it needs, and how buying decisions are made. They also can help you understand what’s important to each high-level decision-maker—critical information.

A Customer Coach will help you if they like you and trust you. You can build trust in a business relationship by being reliable, responsive, honest, and objective.

More importantly, Customer Coaches can help get you access to the Executive Sponsor, the final persona in the Rule of 3’s.

Executive Sponsor

The Executive Sponsor is the senior person in the organization with budget authority or signing authority. Often, they are the most senior person, but not always. Getting access to the Executive Sponsor can be the difference between winning and losing a deal.

That’s because the Executive Sponsor has the authority to say “yes” but may have a different set of needs than the other personas you’ve met with so far. Unless you understand what’s important to the Executive Sponsor, you risk being blindsided by last-minute changes in the buying criteria or other unexpected requirements.

Executive Sponsors are interested in the broader business impact of your solution. What will it do to revenues, productivity, profitability, customer experience, or competitive positioning? They leave the technical issues to the product champion. They'll also evaluate the business risk associated with choosing your solution or your firm.

If you meet with an Executive Sponsor, focus the conversation on how your solution will help them achieve their strategic business objectives.

The Rule of 3’s is a good reminder of the three critical buying personas your salesperson needs to build relationships with: The Product Champion, Customer Coach, and Executive Sponsor. When once promising sales opportunities die, you can often trace the root cause to the salesperson’s failure to follow the Rule of 3’s.

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About David Jacoby

As a Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group, David helps large B2B sales organizations improve sales performance. Previously, David was a Principal at Linear Partners, a sales consulting firm providing sales strategy, sales operations, talent management, and interim management services to emerging growth companies. In the past, David has served as Vice President of Business Affairs of Xylo, Inc., where he was responsible for the Company's business development, sales operations, legal affairs, and financing activities.