Influence Mapping: Why it’s Necessary to Your Sales Strategy

10 minute read

What is an Influence Map?

What if you could understand who really holds the power to move a deal forward? 

Is the org chart your only recourse to finding out the all-too-valuable information of who holds sway – who has the authority to be your best friend and cause deals to close, or who could come out of the woodwork and soil your best chance at growing net new revenue?  

No. Unfortunately, org charts are rarely the best source for understanding the hidden lines of influence that permeate an account. 

It will take an entirely different activity to discover these hidden lines of influence, and tap into these veins of gold within an account to uncover real new avenues for revenue. That activity is called influence mapping.

An influence map is a visual tool that helps you identify and understand the stakeholders who have a say in your project or decision. It can be used to: 

  • Identify the key stakeholders who need to be engaged in order to achieve your goals. 
  • Understand the relationships between stakeholders and how they influence each other. 
  • Develop strategies for managing stakeholder expectations and ensuring their buy-in. 
The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.
– Ken Blanchard 

Collaboration is Key to Influence Mapping 

It can be challenging, sometimes, to convince sellers to do anything that doesn’t feel like selling. We’ve discussed at length the importance of enabling sellers to do what they do best. But with the right leadership, and through a culture that builds trust, it’s possible to help sellers begin to see the importance of collaboration.  

It’s on this culture of collaboration that sellers can begin to create influence maps that enable them to grow revenue. 

Working together is necessary if you are going to uncover the true lines of influence in your account. This means collaboration both internally and externally. As teams draw up their findings into visual maps and validate those findings with customers, they will need to also ensure internal alignment, as well. 

Sellers are often guarded about their deals, believing in age old competition over collaboration. Through pulling together, however, sellers can look beyond their own accounts and see the whole revenue team. 

This means working with the extended revenue team in order to fully comprehend the complex inner workings of key accounts. In order for this kind of collaboration to thrive, however, there needs to be a culture of trust. 

An Influence Map is Vital Because of Expanding Buying Groups 

And we really mean the full revenue team. After all, it takes an entire team to win a deal in today’s complex sales landscape. Everyone needs to pull together to get it done, or it simply won’t happen, especially not when intended. Sellers manage 6 to 10 stakeholders per account which, if you expand that out to your portfolio of accounts, could be hundreds of people. 

As Seth Mars, Forrester analyst, pointed out in a recent webinar, it’s rarely one leader making a buying choice in a vacuum. Instead, there are multiple buyers involved in the decision-making process, who then might make the final recommendation to a senior executive.  

Influence mapping helps you understand the inner workings of your account, and flank against the competition, so that these expanding buying groups don’t catch you off guard. 

An Influence Map is Visual 

“It was one thing to have the discussion, but it was another thing to have a literal document—a piece of paper—that I could bring in that showed explicitly how I saw their business. This kind of visual, physical insight map took a lot more work, but it was a game changer.” – Todd Adair, Not Just Another Vendor 

Visualization is key to influence mapping.  

This might sound obvious, but it isn’t always. Influence mapping needs to be visual. Your sellers need a real way that they can see the lines of influence within an account – the people and power dynamics between them – if they are going to be successful in achieving aggressive sales targets. We’ll talk more soon about the role influence mapping software can play in achieving this. But for now, suffice to say the best way to get that physical, visual influence map is through the right combination of technology and methodology.  

Core Areas to Visualize in Influence Mapping 

Speaking of visualization, here are the main areas you’ll need to understand when creating your influence map. Influence can be understood in regard to these three tiers:  

The Inner Circle – Those who wield their rank and influence adeptly to control what happens in their organization. Others look to them to define direction and dispense advice. Naturally, they’re a seller’s primary focus.  

Political Structure – Those who understand the company’s goals and are trusted by those in the Inner Circle. Their opinions matter, even if they don’t make the final call.  

Outside Political Structure – Those who may be aware of the politics in an organization, but don’t wield direct influence on them. They still may be tapped to give feedback. 

Questions to Ask When Building an Influence Map 

Often, effective influence mapping starts with asking the right questions. In our recent book, Not Just Another Vendor, Sarah Bennett, Vice President of Global Finance and Revenue Operations at Informatica, highlights the importance of building a wide range of relationships to answer critical questions that will inform our influence map. 

“Building a wide range of relationships is critical because decisions don’t happen in a vacuum. Within any organization, there will be those who can influence and those who can mentor,” says Sarah. “And there will also usually be those who are not supporters at all.” 

“As part of building relationships, we have to pay attention to their background and history. Do they have any allegiances to our competitors? What does the political dynamic inside the business look like? If we understand hierarchies and relationships, we can get to the person we really need to reach.”

An Influence Map vs Relationship Map – What is the Difference? 

We get it. It’s easy to confuse influence mapping with relationship mapping. But there are differences, and those differences are important. 

Influence mapping and relationship mapping are both visual tools that can be used to understand the relationships between people or groups. However, they have different purposes and focus on different aspects of those relationships. 

Influence mapping focuses on the relative power or influence of different stakeholders. It identifies the key stakeholders who have the most influence over a decision or outcome, and it maps out the relationships between them. This information can be used to develop strategies to influence stakeholders to choose your product or solution over a competing one. 

Relationship mapping, on the other hand, focuses on the nature of the relationships between stakeholders. It identifies the different types of relationships and the strength of those relationships. This information can be used to improve communication and collaboration between stakeholders, to build trust, and to resolve conflict.

Combining Influence Mapping with Relationship Mapping is Where Actionable Insights begin to Form 

To make the most out of your time with prospects, however, it’s not optimal to focus on just one or the other. Influence mapping and relationship mapping can be used together to get a more complete picture of the relationships between stakeholders. By understanding both the power dynamics and the nature of the relationships, you can develop actionable insights. 

These insights will take you beyond those hidden lines of influence and the relationships between stakeholders, allowing you to unearth the hidden motivations that truly drive decision makers. Once you understand these, you can plan a strategy for your account that fends off the competition, and one that allows you to produce novel solutions to problems your buyers may not have been fully cognizant of.  

It’s through uncovering challenges that the buyer might not even be aware of that you are able to truly establish yourself as a trusted advisor to your most strategic customers.  

Tracking Insights is Ideal to Uncovering Lines of Influence. 

As you work through an account you will undoubtedly come across countless insights into the stakeholders you are looking to win over to your side. The problem is, it can be nearly impossible to leverage those countless insights.  

They get lost. Or they exist in a spreadsheet somewhere. 

You need strong software solutions to turn these countless, important insights into actionable, daily sales activities. Unfortunately, few solutions exist today that can handle all of these complexities and distill them into actionable steps that compliment your seller’s workflows. 

The Right Technology Delivers Insights 

Altify Insights chart showing customer intimacy for better ways to identify decision makers in sales

Elevate team collaboration and build customer intimacy directly within Salesforce.

As you seek to implement your relationship and influence mapping technology, it’s critical that the solution you choose is capable of handling both of these. As previously mentioned, this is a tall order. Of course, even this tall order is still not enough, as modern selling requires even deeper insights than the influence between contacts and the relationships within accounts.

Here are a few things the right technology will do: 

  • Identify key decision-makers and business problems, enables greater visibility, and creates strategic opportunity plans to actually guide sellers toward closing. 
  • Allow sellers to capture insights into key buyer challenges and motivations, while giving them convenient access to seamless collaboration directly within their existing tech stack. 
  • Aligns your extended revenue team, uniting sales, marketing, and customer success with a single customer view to enable better collaboration, uncover gaps, and grow revenue. 

Ultimately, the right technology will only amplify day-to-day sales activities that makes it possible to build relationships that matter. It helps create the conditions sellers need to maximize their impact.

Influence Mapping Benefits and Summary 

While mapping influence might just be one piece to the bigger puzzle that ultimately leads to even greater insights, it is a critical piece. Let’s go over what the benefits of influence mapping are just to summarize what we’ve learned. 

Influence Mapping Helps You See Who Matters in an Account

It’s nearly impossible to do business when you don’t know who matters. Chasing the wrong people is worse than not chasing at all – resources, energy and invaluable time are diverted from other deals that could’ve been meaningful. Discovering the lines of influence ultimately help you understand who the people that matter are.  

Influence Mapping Helps You Turn the Tide

By understanding lines of influence, you can flank against the competition, and ultimately turn detractors into allies in your cause.  

Helps You Make the Most of Limited Time with Sellers 

In enterprise sales, miniscule amounts of the buyer journey now happen with each individual sales rep. Influence mapping helps grant you and your team the beginning knowledge to build meaningful interactions with potential buyers. 

Aligns the Revenue Team

Influence mapping is the first, critical step towards aligning the extended revenue team. Through uncovering lines of influence and visually mapping them out, the revenue team can move in coordination towards the goal of achieving that lofty trusted advisor status.  

As you can see, influence mapping is a powerful tool in the arsenal of relationship sellers. When combined with relationship mapping, and backed by a powerful solution capable of tracking each and every insight into the hidden motivations driving decision makers, you can set yourself apart from the competition and earn that trusted advisor status that leads to real revenue growth. 

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