What is Stakeholder Mapping in Sales?

11 minute read

Stakeholder mapping in sales is the process of mapping out key decision makers within the buying group of the account you are looking to do business with. 

In stakeholder mapping, you need to: 

  1. Define stakeholder goals: what are their biggest priorities? What are their motivations? 
  2. Segment stakeholders by relationship status: those friendly to you, and those adverse. You can also segment stakeholders by the amount of influence they hold over the buying group, or how much budget they have. 
  3. Visualizing relationships: being able to visibly see the relationships not only between your revenue team and their buying group, but the relationships between the stakeholders themselves, is key to success. 
  4. Activate the revenue team: use the information from your stakeholder map to begin building relationships with key stakeholders. 

Stakeholder Mapping is Important Because of Buying Groups 

Selling must be complicated because modern B2B sales are complicated. That’s largely due to expanding buying groups. Today, there are as many as 6-10 buyers in a buying group. While it’s complicated to map out one person’s goals, motivations and relationships, it’s vastly more complex to do the same exercise for every buyer in the group. 

Business has evolved. Your strategy needs to, as well 

In sales, reaching the people that matter is the single most important thing you need to do.

Unfortunately, sellers rarely meet the right people. Just 14% of businesses feel sellers connect with the right people in the account. 

This disconnect is the cause of a lot of trouble and incalculable lost revenue. 

How often have you been involved in a deal only to see it go sideways when you realized that who you were talking to didn’t have the authority you thought they did? Or were you  surprised at the end of a long buying journey when a competitor stole the deal right out from under your nose because they had a better relationship with the buyer? 

Relationships are vital  to winning deals that matter. But it’s essential to  ensure that your efforts to build strong relationships are being made with the right stakeholders. Prioritizing finding people with influence within an account will help you earn support and avoid being blindsided by an unknown detractor. 

You need to understand the entire account landscape. This means knowing what their motivations are, what makes them tick. You need to understand their problems better than they do, and deliver novel solutions to problems they didn’t even know they had that were holding them back.

The relevance of the revenue team – why you need one in stakeholder mapping 

Before diving into the ‘how’, it’s important to highlight one vital aspect of stakeholder mapping – the revenue team.  

A strategic, multi-armed approach to sales  has been missing in the B2B sales world for a long time. Often,  we see sellers gathering what basic information they can, shooting that off to a buyer in the form of a proposal, and then moving on to the next big deal.   

The problem is –buyers expect more. They are not looking to be a number in a CRM – they are looking for the human touch. Recent studies point to the importance of relationship selling, the resurgence of face-to-face time in complex buying motions, and the need for sellers when deals are complex.   

It takes a team of sellers, marketers, and customer success professionals to give customers what they need to succeed before and after the sale.   

Today, marketing and sales are closely joined together in the best sales organizations, working together on account plans, and working towards a clearly defined ideal customer profile in select markets, treating each account as a market of one. This approach is called an account-based marketing and account-based sales model, and the revenue team is the foundation on which it is built.  

Armed with this sort of strategic oversight, sellers can position themselves as trusted advisors within their accounts and be seen as more than just another vendor. 

How do you do stakeholder mapping? 

Developing a stakeholder mapping strategy is one of the most vital things you can do to ensure sales success for your entire revenue team. Here are a few practical steps you can take to ensure you are doing it right.  

We will be going over the steps briefly below, but for a more detailed overview of mapping the actual relationships within accounts, see our relationship mapping guide.

  1. Designate the key goals for the relationship map: step-specific goals you need to achieve within an account. Avoid broad, sweeping generalizations and be as precise as possible. 
  2. As your buyer moves through the buying journey, you will gather invaluable insights into who they are and what makes them tick. The key players should be highlighted within your map. 
  3. Once your key players are assigned, you’ll need to identify their motivations, their obstacles, their interests and even peripheral challenges they have that they might not know about. 
  4. Lines of influence and relationships between the key players. A savvy seller not only understands the key players themselves – they also seek to identify the relationships and lines of influence between the key players. 
  5. With your strategy in place, it’s time to get the revenue team behind you. Mobilizing as a team, performing deal reviews, drawing up sales collateral and seeking advice and help from senior leaders helps ensure your team isn’t alone during their most vital selling moments.  

Scott Jackson and a story of uncovering hidden motivations 

In our recent book, Not Just Another Vendor, we highlight the story of Scott Jackson, Senior Director of Sales Enablement at Comcast Business, Enterprise Solutions, and his sales team that shows us why knowing the right people in your account is so vital to success, and why it takes a team approach to win deals that matter. 

Scott’s team set its sights on acquiring a net-new contract with a large dental business. It had more than 3,000 franchises around the United States, each one representing between one and 10 sites. 

“When choosing an opportunity, there are a few things you need to consider,” he says. “The types of questions we ask are: ‘Where can we make the biggest impact to affect change? Will the location enable us to make a big splash? Is it somewhere we can make a difference while also showing our project management expertise?’” 

While the account met the profile, it also came with its fair share of challenges. For one, the company was privately held, meaning minimal information was available to the public for Scott’s reps to consume, understand, and work into their sales strategy. 

The second was the business model. “When you think about franchising, it’s a very decentralized approach to decision-making,” says Scott. “That made it even harder for us to easily scale and make a single, compelling argument about how we could solve their customer experience problems.” 

The third was, if anything, the trickiest: the goods Scott’s team was  selling simply weren’t top of mind for the potential buyers. “Their experience and their focus are in doing the work of dentistry,” explains Scott. “They’re thinking about people’s mouths, not about their Wi-Fi connectivity or secure transactions.” 

Why Change? Why Now? Why Us?

To help focus his sellers, he repeated his guiding questions  like a mantra: “Why change? Why now? Why Comcast?” 

Striding into thousands of dental offices with PowerPoints  about internet speeds clearly wasn’t the way to go. Instead, Scott steered his sellers in another direction. 

“To begin building those relationships, your starting point is to listen,” he told them. “We have limited information and expertise about their business. We need to hear them and figure out how we can make a difference.” 

His rep set out. He spent time talking to people with influence and insight to get a concrete understanding of what mattered to them. Over time, he earned their trust. 

Why change? 

Over the course of his conversations, the rep began to see that his real competitor was the preexisting mindset. Initially, the franchise owners  told him they’d prefer to stick to what they had—usually a local provider—because it just didn’t seem like there was any compelling reason to make a switch. “All I need is Wi-Fi for my office,” they’d tell him. 

Scott wasn’t surprised to hear this. “More often than not, the biggest competitor I have isn’t another vendor. It’s what I like to call ‘Do Nothing Incorporated,’” he says with a chuckle. “It’s always easier for a buyer to give in to their fear of failure and default to saying ‘No’.” 

Why now? 

“What we need to do,” Scott told the rep, “Is to help anchor the value creation on the customer experience, not the nuts and bolts. In their current mindset, they aren’t considering the possibility that we can do more than just connect them to the internet.” 

In building relationships with key people within the account, Scott’s rep had earned the right to start having deeper conversations about how the two businesses could work together. 

Why Comcast? 

Comcast, he told them, could offer Wi-Fi, just like their existing providers. But it could also offer them secure connectivity for their work in the back office. Not to mention, the company could make it easy to put up TVs in the front lobby to keep clients entertained while they waited for their appointments. 

Because he had built up a strong reputation, the rep was able to inspire his contacts to think bigger and, ultimately, to act. 

“It wasn’t a big-splash event,” says Scott. “We had to get 300 decision makers to come in and make this choice, but we won a large site and then built-up momentum as we moved across the country.” 

By keeping customer goals fully at the forefront of their minds, Scott’s team was able to come into the new account, unseat the competition, and win at scale. 

The Benefits of Stakeholder Mapping 

Stakeholder mapping is all about getting to know your customers, just as Scott’s team did. It means asking the right questions, and mapping those out in a visible document. If you do this right, the results will be incredible. The benefits include: 

  • Improved relationships: sellers will appreciate you, and you will instill yourself as a trusted advisor to their accounts. On this bedrock, you can build the future for bigger and better deals. 
  • Cross-sell up-sell opportunities: by deeply understanding your customers, you can begin to see where you can target and grow revenue in your most strategic accounts.  
  • Better retention: customers don’t stay just because of the product – they stay because of the relationship they have with the business, and the business’ understanding of their problems.  
  • Land and expand: just like Scott’s team, your team will open unparalleled opportunities to grow into new deals when stakeholder mapping is at the basis of your sales activities.  

Insights are the final frontier of stakeholder mapping 

Lastly, it’s important to arm your sellers with the tools they need to really succeed in their accounts. The right technology will work with your sellers, giving them daily, actionable steps towards building those better relationships.  

As they work through the deal, their technology will capture invaluable insights, no matter how small, and leverage those buyer insights into their daily selling motions.  

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 and centralized access to insights while acting as a launching point for seamless collaboration directly within their existing tech stack.  
  • Align 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 make it possible to build relationships that matter. It helps create the conditions sellers need to maximize their impact. 

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