When you open the script of a play, one of the first things you see is what’s called the dramatis personae: all the names of characters who will take the stage and act out the story, along with a brief explanation of who they are.
For the average sales rep, on the other hand, the full cast involved in a major buying decision may not emerge until the story is well underway — and may even remain fully behind the scenes in some cases, never to be approached directly.
In fact, as much as salespeople like to develop a one-on-one relationship with their customers and prospects, the odds are that they’re actually operating in more of a one-to-many environment. Just look at the results of the most recent CSO Insights Sales Performance Optimization Study, which suggests the average B2B deal can involve as many as 45 different people. That’s a larger cast of characters than what you’d find in some of Shakespeare’s plays!
This is one of the reasons smart sales organizations amplify their use of CRM solutions like Sales Cloud by performing what’s known as “relationship mapping” to help identify all the various stakeholders who may need to be considered during a pitch. This is a process of looking at an account and considering:
Who will make the final decision (or at least communicate to the sales person)?
Who will provide authorization/approval to the decision-maker?
Who influences the decision from within — including other departments, roles, etc.?
Who influences the decision from without — other vendors, consultants, partners, customers, etc.?
The list doesn’t necessarily end here. Some relationship mapping might also factor in who might benefit from the sale going through versus those who might benefit from it not happening. For instance, sometimes buying a new product or service will introduce change to the way something is done — and not everyone likes change.
Sometimes reps can spend so much effort looking at how the buying process works within their customers and prospects that they fail to learn from the idiosyncrasies of their own organization. After all, every company is someone else’s customer, too. By looking internally you’ll have a better sense of the power structures and variables that can happen in other firms’ deals.
Think about something relatively major your company needed to get. This could be anything from a new photocopier to an advanced piece of software. See if you can fill in these blanks:
Stakeholder(s) who initially identified the need for the product
Stakeholder(s) who formally requested the purchase get made
Stakeholder who asked for research on the purchase to be conducted
Stakeholder who conducted the research
Stakeholder(s) who reviewed the research
Stakeholder(s) who were consulted about their needs and wants
Stakeholders(s) who gathered the input
Look not only at how many steps but how many potential people could be involved along the way — and we’re not even out of the “research” phase. Continue working through the relationships between those who continued the purchase process from meeting with potential vendors and the final selection. Then keep going, even to the deployment or post-purchase phase, because reaction or feedback from stakeholders there could wind up influencing others during the next purchase.
Relationship mapping may seem, at first, to be something you do with those organizations that are sort of like a black box — the ones who buy rarely, or whose buying process seems surrounded in mystery. In the long run this may be true, but you’ll get better at relationship mapping in general if you can also confidently create a visual representation of all the stakeholders within your favourite accounts.
Think of those beloved customers, for instance, who you can call up and have a warm, collegial discussion. These are people who readily understand what your firm offers and is prepared to spend when necessary. You might feel you know them and their firm so well you don’t even need to review the data in your CRM before a pitch.
Who do they sometimes mention as weighing in on a buying decision? Whose opinion do they relay back when they’re expressing the occasional reservation? Who do they mention when they discuss office politics? You may have been getting clues to fill in the relationship map for this client without ever realizing it.
Now do the same thing for your least-favourite account, or perhaps simply an account that is somewhat new in your pipeline. How easy is it to create that dramatis personae? How might you streamline this over time?
There’s no point in doing any of this if it doesn’t help a rep close more deals, obviously. This is why tools such as Sales Cloud, particularly when coupled with artificial intelligence such as Salesforce Einstein, can play a vital role in helping untangle the web of decision-makers.
Looking at past histories, for example, CRM can show a sales journey that avoids pitfalls that happen when certain parties aren’t consulted or won over, and the oasis you can discover when you proactively prepare for the objections or questions that certain stakeholders will bring to the table.
AI turns this up a notch by becoming more predictive, showing how well a rep or a team’s performance is being affected by the plot points in a relationship map, and what might happen within an individual account if things change in any way.
Bear in mind that a relationship map in sales is a lot more than an org chart. It’s about influence and the dotted lines between individuals that wind up having an impact on a big decision.
Buyers are like anyone else in that they want to ensure they’ve covered all their bases and can be accountable if their purchases or other decisions are questioned down the road. Approach relationship mapping with data, consistency and also some empathy, and it will be a lot easier to use your map to get to where you want to go — to more closed deals within every account.
Learn more ways to help your sales team succeed with our ebook, “4 Steps to Transforming Your Sales Process.”