Our last post helped you determine your current state of influence with your various stakeholders. With that in hand, you can now plot a path to the desired state of influence needed in order to be successful in the account.
Simply stated, a relationship gap is the difference between the current and desired states of influence and support. To bridge this, sales teams need to look at their stakeholder maps, and consider how relationship mapping tools can help.
To begin, let’s recall the four levels of influence you can attain with a key player:
Level 1: Vendor
Level 2: Credible Source
Level 3: Problem Solver
Level 4: Trusted Advisory
The key is to estimate your desired level of influence carefully and realistically. Everyone likes to think they are at “trusted advisor” level with their accounts and opportunities but you need to be realistic. If you underestimate your level of influence and you’re content with remaining at a vendor level, you have fewer opportunities to shape requirements. Once you’ve assessed your contacts and their influence – and whether they are in a position within their companies to establish initiatives, you can begin mapping.
For example: You’re considered a problem-solver to the VP of Sales. That’s not a bad place from which to start. But what does your contact’s role entail? If the VP of Sales is the person who sets the business strategy to respond to the business drivers impacting the company and the one who establishes initiatives to drive growth, you want to attain one level above problem solver: the level of trusted advisory, in order to be part of early, strategy-level conversations.
Let’s take the example of your Sales Operations contact. Here you are seen as a trusted advisor. This means that you are spending a lot of time discussing potential initiatives – but what if you need to rise to problem-solver level, to make the relationship successful? Then you will have to make your investment of time and effort reflect that.
For any account that you have selected to target (based on an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)) you should aim to at least be a Credible Source with each of the people who matter.
Now let’s look at the gap for Preference. To refresh, there are four levels here, too:
Level 1: Non-Supporter
Level 2: Neutral
Level 3: Supporter
Level 4: Mentor
Let’s start by pointing out the obvious: it’s rare that someone is truly neutral. If someone had to pick between two vendors for a solution, they will almost always have a preference one way or another. So if you think a Key Player is Neutral, then you should put on your paranoid hat and assume he is a Non-Supporter. What’s the worst that can happen? You might waste a little time. By assuming that Neutral means Non-Supporter you can then look to bridge to Supporter. Then you might indeed find that there were issues that needed to be resolved that you would have missed if you had not given the relationship gap some attention.
Similar to our exercise above, we’ll start by identifying our key players, their current state, and our desired state in order to judge the gap. In this example, you might be surprised to see that we didn’t go straight to Mentor as the Desired State for the VP Sales role. Remember a mentor is a key player who is selling on your behalf. If the VP of Sales is the ‘main person’ – and they’re also your mentor – the deal would already be done. This leads to a related topic that can help you to determine the desired state: buying role.
It’s important to have a positive preference – supporter or mentor status – with approvers and decision-makers. It is also extremely unlikely that you can be successful in a deal if you don‘t have a mentor. Others will refer to this as a Champion or Coach, but whatever word you choose, you definitely need one to win. Our final blog in the series outlines how to bridge that relationship gap.