I was lucky early on to get schooled by a great sales personality. He was the director of a France-based airline cooperative, and he took me by the horns and set me straight when I was selling my airline software all wrong.

Prospect champions can quit, get fired and even flat out die.  Then who ya gonna call?

He taught me something every great staffing sales person knows intuitively: to win a mega deal you need a champion inside the prospect’s organization. Still today, my staff will hear me say when I catch wind of a deal up for grabs: “Who’s your champion at the client site?”

That lesson has served me well, but not being much of a people person I was slow to learn that you can lose those “champions”.   They quit, get fired, and yes I’ve even had some flat out die on me.

Later, a successful staffing owner taught me a corollary “two deep” rule. “Two deep” says you better have two champions because of the previously mentioned problem with one champion.

We keep spare tires. We carry two credit cards. We diversify our investments. And to keep great clients, we keep backup champions.

But you can never go too deep with client intimacy and so it happens that I came across the “2+1” rule in this wonderful Harvard Business Review (HBR) post.   [Side note: HBR has improved much from its stuffy, highbrow former self.]

With “2+1” you develop a rapport with someone influential with your two champions.   Who would that be?   It may be your client’s client, but it could be their competitor or their friend.  It’s different in every situation, and it’s something you can only discover by getting tight with your client way before your business relationship is threatened.

How you build your network of “+1’s” is up to you.   The writer suggests you “Run for office in your professional association. Attend conferences, and find a way to be invited to be a speaker, panelist, or facilitator. Create a personal board of directors or circle of mentors outside of your company to act as a sounding board and source of advice and introductions.”

The “+1” can give you a heads up if the wind changes direction and even help make it blow your way again.

Tags: Business, Harvard Business Review, Backup, Two deep, Spare tire