How turning your buyer into the hero of your sales strategy can double your success rate

Richard Rivera

Author of The Champion Sell

Richard Rivera

Author of The Champion Sell
Richard is President and Founder of GENNOW Growth Advisory and has helped five companies to grow revenues by $14m-$110m each – thanks, in part, to his passion for finding buyer Champions within the organisations that he and his teams are selling to. If you can identify and build a Champion – also known as the “hero” of your deal – Richard claims it will double your win rate and help your business to grow more rapidly.


1. Recognise that everything you thought was right in your sales approach may be very wrong.

The reality is that most salespeople are selling backwards.

That's because they approach that first discovery call with a mindset of: "I have outcomes that I desire for myself."

They’re trained that it's all about having intellectual, rational descriptions of their differentiation or ROI metrics, or their product’s capabilities and features.

It's not. 98% of human decision-making is emotional.

Every human buyer goes through a subconscious series of decisions, the first of which is 'Survive'. When faced with any kind of new opportunity, we immediately view it as a threat, and we all have a need to protect ourselves.

So we have to disarm our buyers' survival instincts.

Your prospect – driven by fear – needs to quickly come to an understanding of: "Is this a threat to me, my time and my position? Or is this a friend?"

And by friend, I don't mean that sales is necessarily all about building personal relationships with people. A relationship will often form as part of the buying process, but that's an output. It isn't the objective.

The ultimate mission of the seller should always be to try and determine if there is an emotional connection between their unique value proposition and what the buyer needs in order to solve their problems.

No emotional connection? Expect a less than 25% conversion rate

When a seller suddenly realises how people make decisions and how they react to us – especially in those early conversations – they experience a breakthrough. They see that if the message is all about themselves or their product – the "inward" mindset – then it's going to create a series of disconnects.

But again, emotional connection has to be our mission.

You want to develop a buyer Champion who really sees, emotionally, how your solution aligns to the problems and outcomes that they care about.  

If you can do this – and we’ve proven it for over a decade – you should expect conversion rates near 50%.

Emotional disconnect is the #1 enemy of all sales conversions.


Richard Rivera, Author of The Champion Sell

2. Lead the buyer’s vision

So, how do you make that first call to be about the buyer and not just what you're trying to sell?

One way is to say, "Hey, tell us why you joined the call today?” And then, “The first thing I wanted to frame our discussion around is the 'why' behind why our customers work with us – these are the problems that they typically need solving. Can we start there, and then you could maybe share some feedback on how you might relate to some of those problems?"

Then, when you begin moving buyer minds to the outcomes you can deliver, you’ve both disarmed them and begun inspiring their vision.

Their vision of how they can thrive with you.

Let the buyer's emotions and personal vision lead all of your initial conversations

When you hear the conversation early on being all about the buyer's problems, and there's still no context of you or your solution, you're in a good place.

Now, we guide them from problems to outcomes.

Talking about your product in the context of use cases and customer stories that have been delivered is one powerful way to generate emotional connection – because it offers social proof. Connection is all about the relevant problems and outcomes that a buyer relates to.

It's all about the emotional understanding that others have had for your solution that your buyer might relate to.

When this happens, you can actually sense the energy starting to grow. It goes from the buyer not being sure why they are there to, "I want to start talking now." And then to, "I want to start asking questions."

And before you know it, you might hear them saying, "Wait a minute, I relate to that Barclays outcome. I am actually struggling with the same thing."


Richard Rivera in Dallas at Zscaler coaching them to become ELITE champions

3. Ride the shift in tone and energy

The tone and energy start to grow as the meeting goes on. You can feel it – and then that energy plateaus because it's moving from emotional connection to intellectual connection. And that's when you start hearing the buyer go, "Help me understand how you do that?"

Or, "What exactly do you do differently, and how do you do it?"

And then lastly, you start hearing validation, such as "Ah, I totally understand how that could make an impact. It makes sense to me."

They'll typically cut things off there because they're emotionally connected, and for now they don't need to go deeper intellectually. They'll say, "Yeah, let's repeat this again. It's been a good call. Let's have another call with three of my colleagues."

What they're saying is: "Let's see if they experience what I've just experienced, this emotional connection."

You need to go right back to the start every time a new stakeholder enters the story

When you do have that meeting with your Champion's colleagues, you have to fight the urge to go straight to selling and hitting them with all of your metrics.

It's a case of another human being, another emotional connection to make. So you have to start again from the beginning.

But when you start getting the power of emotional connection across three, four or five people, that power becomes exponential. They start feeding off each other. Your Champion is now able to de-risk themselves; they're no longer so exposed.

If you're not looking out for this dynamic or you've never experienced it, you may never notice it. So you'll miss your chance of identifying and nurturing your Champion.

And when we don't have Champions in our deal, we lose far more than we win.

Your Champion quickly becomes your mediator

Your Champion should be your hero of the deal. You need this person – who should be in a position of power and influence within the organisation – to become your mediator.

They're the ones who will help the other stakeholders to align to your unique value proposition. That's why everything you should be doing is to make the Champion the hero of your entire sales strategy.

And yet, it doesn't happen at least 85% of the time.

If you get it right, it's a win-win because the Champion had a problem, and they connected to a solution. The opportunity now is for them to become a lifelong customer that continues to come back.

Because wouldn't it be great to have 80% of your business coming from existing customers? To invest two years of your life developing Champions within the organisations you're selling to and then reap the benefits over time?

It creates a very efficient sales process – and it creates promotion and growth in our own careers as well.

/ Richard Rivera 

Author of The Champion Sell

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