Full of enthusiasm, one of my sales representatives calls me: “Rene, I have good news! I had a very good appointment at one of the largest social workshops in the Netherlands. They would like a follow-up appointment.

Are you coming? I think it's good if a board member also joins. We have to get this one together!” 

Sales people are often over-enthusiastic, but of course I don't have to think long about this. I immediately grab my agenda and we set a date for a follow-up appointment. An hour travel time there, a session of two hours (including a demo) and an hour travel time back: we block half a day. 

Once at the appointment everything goes great.

We sit with the head of the quality department and the head of ICT. The many questions make us positive and the evaluation shows that both gentlemen want to go for it. Great! My sales colleague already wants to close the session when I ask: “Glad you are enthusiastic. How are we going to take the next step and what do you still need from us?” 

Suddenly the feeling on the other side of the table cools. “We have yet to discuss it with our boss. We are not in charge. We like it, but we'll have to see if he does that."

A week later we get a call. The gentlemen's proposal was shot down within a minute. – The boss does not like it and is not open to an introduction.

Qualified leads

In short, half a day of my sales representative and myself was lost.

In addition, my salesman had already spent half a day on the first meeting and another half day on arranging the appointment. So sixteen hours were spent on a prospect where we were not sitting at the table with the right person. 

Recognizable? Unfortunately, many companies face this problem. Salespeople roam the country chasing conversations, wasting time on pointless conversations with people who have no say or budget.

To stop this, I have been using the CHAMP concept in every marketing and sales department for five years to pre-classify prospects and determine whether it is worth investing time in.

Tip: Having customers is great, but having the wrong customers is terrible. So say NO to customers that don't suit your business.

Champ Method for better leads

What does the CHAMP method mean?

The CHAMP method involves classifying each incoming lead based on four criteria:

#1. CHalleges

Does the prospect have challenges that you as a company offer a solution for? Check if this is a prospect you would like to welcome as a customer. For that you need more information about the company. Examples of questions you can ask are: 

  • What are you looking for?
  • Where do you want to improve / optimize / save money? 
  • How are you currently doing?

Is the prospect interesting enough and does he or she have challenges that you can solve? Great, then you can put the first check.

Tip: We wrote a blog about this: “No pain no sale“. What pain do you solve? And do you know how to draw attention to that?

#2. authority

Does your conversation partner have a say or authority to decide? You can just ask. If someone else still needs to be consulted, ask if the decision maker will also join the appointment immediately. If that is not possible, ask your conversation partner to at least check whether the decision maker is open to the exploratory conversation you want to have. 

If so, then the second check mark is a fact. If not, then you don't have to spend any more time on this. When in doubt, you can at most give the prospect an online demo.

#3. money

Does the prospect have a budget available that fits your solution? Many people find it difficult to ask this, but it is crucial. 

An example of how you can approach this: “We think it's important not to waste your precious time. That is why we want to know in advance whether our pricing model fits your idea in terms of costs. Can you tell me what budget you have in mind?”.

You often get the counter question: “What price should I think of?”. If you sell software, you can indicate the average price per user. Or what a comparable company like the prospect pays on a monthly basis. 

In other cases you can say: “On average you should think of an investment between x and x euros. How does that sound?”.

Is it difficult to give an indication in advance? Then you have to revenue model maybe hold it up to the light.

Is the budget not an issue? Great, then you have the third check in your pocket.

#4. priority 

What is the time frame in which the prospect wants to purchase your product or service? Is it about the short term, in a year or even later? 

When it comes to the short term and the other three criteria are also positive, it makes sense to schedule an appointment right away. If the prospect only wants to make a purchase in the longer term, it is less of a priority to immediately add butter to the fish.

Introducing the CHAMP method

When you introduce CHAMP you will probably get resistance from your sales department. Suddenly their agenda is no longer as full as before. They always find it valuable to speak to prospects face to face. Try not to give in to this.

My motto is simple: always call first, never just jump into the car. Call the lead and test the CHAMP criteria. The marketer or sales employee who calls must really tick off all the criteria in CRM. After the call appointment you have a good picture of the prospect.

There are then three options:

Three or four check marks? Schedule an appointment. 

If the letters CH, A and M are checked, I always schedule an appointment. P sometimes still determines the momentum, but you want to get to the table early so that you leave a positive impression.

Doubt? Schedule an online meeting. 

If you are unsure about one or more criteria, it is best to plan an online meeting. In this meeting you can already give a basic demo of your company or tell us more about your services. At the end of the online meeting, you determine whether it is still useful to make a physical appointment.

Two or fewer check marks? Nurture or shut down. 

If someone has no authority or budget, you can start nurturing. For example, you can invite the prospect to an event, put it on the list for the newsletter, or help in other ways to 'sell' the idea in the organization. After a few months you can call again to see if you can now have people join higher up in the organization. If you no longer see the point in the prospect, close it.

You will find that the introduction of CHAMP will save a lot of time that was previously spent on useless appointments. Once they get used to it, your sales staff will also be happy with the new approach. After all, they now come to prospects who are really interested. This increases the chance of success and they love that.

So check with every prospect whether the four CHAMP criteria can be checked: CHallenge, Authority, Money and Priority.