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Five Actionable Steps For Identifying the Right Customer Stakeholders

With roles and titles a poor measure for who actually matters inside your customer, finding the right stakeholders in a deal can be daunting. Fortunately, the best strategic account managers are ace detectives and even better amateur psychologists – two very helpful characteristics when qualifying power and influence within the buying group.

OK, but how do you actually…you know…DO IT?

  1. Put on your deerstalker hat and make like Sherlock Holmes. Who’s willing to talk and share pain? To be forthcoming with information beyond what’s covered in documented requirements? To speak candidly about their company’s challenges and strategies for overcoming them? These people demonstrate a strong connection to their company’s pain points and represent the most likely people to be invested in finding solutions.
  2. Create your buyer personas. This will vary depending on the customer, but typical buyer personas include Approver, Buyer Type (Business, Technical, etc.), Influencer, User, Legal/Procurement, External Consultants, etc.
  3. Use LinkedIn to identify hidden influencers. Who’s connected to whom inside your customer? Study who is sharing, liking and commenting on topics and pain points your products and solutions address. This can offer invaluable insight into who is invested in driving change and pushing your customer’s organization forward.
  4. Identify your “Mobilizers. These are the people within your customer who care above all else about driving action that serves the greater good of their company. They demonstrate a healthy skepticism and will never shy away from asking pointed questions of you.
  5. Ask questions. Lots of them. As a strategic seller, you’re exceptionally skilled at asking questions and finding hidden insights. Leverage your existing customer network to ask probing questions about the buyer decision-making process.
    Ask:

    • Who is driving the initiative at hand? 
    • Who needs to sign off on it?
    • Who stands to gain (or lose) if a deal goes forward?

If you’re lucky, you will uncover potential “mobilizers” who may be willing to advocate for you inside your customer. Just as critically, you may find hidden “blockers,” those people with the power (and inclination) to spike a deal.

Now it’s time to build a simple (yet awesome) relationship map.

Once you’ve identified the right customer decision makers, you need to gain an overview of who knows whom — to make sure the right person from your company is always in contact with the right stakeholder inside your customer.

Four Tips For Building Simple, Actionable Relationship Maps That Give Transparency to Your Customer Relationships

#1: Just do it. You can’t wait for an unexpected contract loss to start taking
an overview of your customer relationships. The time to build out relationship
maps for your strategic accounts is either when you’re trying to win new business or you’re comfortably ensconced in the middle of a contract.

#2: Ditch Excel. It is astounding how many companies, when I ask them if they do relationship mapping, say, “Yes, of course!” And when I ask them how they do it, the answer is Excel. I wonder if they’re also still using AOL instant messenger and renting video tapes from the local library.

Relying on Excel gives rise to so many problems, such as:

“Where does it live?”

“Who’s allowed to update it?”

“Who owns the process?”

“How do you make sure everyone has the latest version?”

You need a digital solution that lives in the cloud.

#3: Forget about org. charts. They change frequently, can be challenging to fill out (hurting adoption) and – at the end of the day – does it really matter who reports to whom? The person at the top of the pyramid may have delegated decision-making power to an underling, and organizational charts can easily mask hidden influencers and power centers. Missing even one of these can be devastating in the long run.

#4: Keep it simple. Your aim should be to find a tool that is simple, elegant and possesses four main elements:

  • It tracks two general types of information: (1) customer power structure and (2) your company’s relationship status with customer counterparts. At the end of the day, this is all that matters. Who is important inside the customer, and what is the status of your relationships with each of those people?
  • It provides a simple, visual way to get an overview of your coverage inside your strategic accounts. At a glance, any user should be able to quickly gain visibility into how well you’re covering an account and which areas need attention.
  • It natively integrates with your existing CRM. Salespeople’s lives are complicated enough without adding another layer of complexity. Your relationship mapping tool should not add complexity to your customer-facing people.
  • It is not a spreadsheet, whiteboard or piece of paper. (This is so important, I had to write it again.)

Wait for next week to get part 4 or get the Full Guide to Relationship Management