What is Relationship Mapping? Strategy Guide
Relationship mapping refers to the process of outlining the inner workings of an organization – the decision makers, influence, and political structure – to ascertain the path of least resistance to building meaningful relationships with stakeholders. The result is to land a deal or expand business opportunities within an existing customer account. But the relationship comes first. After all, the success or failure of a deal comes down to the strength of the relationship between the seller and the buyer and a clear understanding of the goals or challenges the buyer is trying to solve.
Relationship mapping as an activity is an essential aspect of the account plan and works well with an account-based selling approach to sales. When used effectively, relationship mapping can help bolster revenue, build lasting relationships, flank against competition, and help establish sellers as trusted advisors to their key accounts.
Relationship Map vs an Org Chart
Sellers will often confuse a relationship map with an organizational chart. The two are, however, distinct. The organizational chart is effective at helping sellers understand the official hierarchy within a business. However, too many sellers – many junior sellers especially – mistake hierarchy for influence. Understanding the complexities within the account requires a holistic view that takes into consideration so much more than a rigid, corporate understanding of hierarchy.
Relationship Mapping – Questions to Ask
Unlike an organizational chart that’s simple enough to get your hands on, it takes time to map the political structure hidden behind the chart. That time is, however, well spent. Top sellers uncover influence in many ways, including looking for people or groups who have worked together at past jobs or those who have similar backgrounds. Most importantly, they source information from supporters who can offer information they won’t find in their CRM.
To glean this information, sellers must ask the right questions. Questions like:
- Who matters?
- How do they think?
- What is the current relationship?
- What is the relationship gap?
- How can that gap be bridged?
- What interests, challenges and objectives are on stakeholder’s minds?
- How do our solutions solve the key challenges facing the account?
Armed with this information, revenue teams can begin their arduous but beneficial journey to becoming strategic partners to their customers.
Benefits of a Relationship Map
A relationship map helps the whole revenue team get behind a seller and uncover what is working and what isn’t working within an opportunity. Using a relationship map, sellers can visualize the lines of influence, collect vital data, and strategize with the players that matter within an account to build meaningful relationships and ensure success.
Win Deals Because of the Relationships You Create
Relationship maps are all about, you guessed it, relationships. Not a cloak and dagger technique, relationship mapping helps you win more deals by bolstering your relationships within key accounts. By solving problems, addressing concerns, and building a holistic view of the target account, relationship mapping helps you stand out from the competition, most of whom fail to grasp the account holistically.
Bolster Revenue Within Existing Accounts
Today, most of the revenue comes from existing customers. While it’s always exciting and vital to the longevity of your business to have a stream of new customers, there is plenty of revenue being left on the table in existing accounts. Called whitespace, relationship mapping can help you target that whitespace, and turn it into revenue.
Handle Complex Buying Groups
Typically, there can be up to 10 individuals involved in a B2B sale. Called “buying groups”, the reality of these multiple person buying committees points to the growing complexity of B2B selling motions. To handle this complexity, sellers need the right tools, strategies, and methodologies to understand the people, problems and relationships that matter within an account. Relationship mapping is an ideal way for sellers to tackle these complexities, build trust, and establish themselves as trusted advisors to their most strategic customers.
Creating a Relationship Map in 5 Steps
1. Identify Your Goals for the Relationship Map
Your goal in any sales activity is to drive more revenue, as is the general goal of any organization you are selling to. With relationship maps, however, you can get more specific about your goals. Set yourself and your entire revenue team up for success when you identify your specific, actionable goal for any given relationship map.
Goals could be:
- Short term goals – what you hope to achieve in the next 2-3 months with a specific opportunity. What perceived challenges do you expect to face?
- Mid-term – what is it that you hope to achieve with a given account in a longer timeline than just the immediate future. How will you provide value in three years’ time, and what value (in the form of compensation) will you and your business receive?
- Long-term: B2B sales is all about becoming a long-term, strategic partner to your customers. How will this relationship last, and what do you need to ensure your solution stays intact through ups and downs in the economy or leadership changes?
2. Designate the Key Players
As we’ve discussed, modern buying groups can contain as many as 10 stakeholders. You’ll need to know who these people are, what challenges they are facing, what level of support they have for you and your organization, and what peripheral goals and initiatives they have going on well beyond the immediate problem you are looking to solve.
At this stage, it is important to use relationship mapping technology to visualize lines of influence to understand where it lies. Many novice sellers make the mistake of assuming decision making follows a neat, hierarchical structure (think the official org chart). This is rarely the case. The political landscape within the account will be much, much more complex.
3. Discover the Problems, Concerns, and Interests of the Key Players
Although which team your buyers want to win the Superbowl this year could be relevant information for building rapport, the real “interests” we are talking about have to do with goals, pain points, and needs. Identifying the problems each stakeholder is facing, and their key interests, will often yield some overlap. By identifying these overlapping areas between stakeholders, you can band them together, and enable them to rally behind the solution to the problem that you uniquely solve (as a trusted advisor).
4. Find Relationships Between Key Players
In order to find commonalities between key players and band them together on your side, you’ll also need to understand how the relationships work within the target account. What drives the relationship between two important stakeholders? Is it a shared and mutual respect? Is it deference to a superior? Or does the one stakeholder simply influence another due to being a trusted advisor themselves? Lastly, where are the areas of antagonism, and how should you consider that information when strategizing for the account?
5. Mobilize Your Team Behind the Relationship Map
With all this data and understanding in place, you’re ready to act. As you move through your accounts, solving problems, building trust, and unifying stakeholders under a common cause, make sure to update your relationship map with other relevant info, pulling in senior and junior members of your extended revenue team as needed to make sure that you get the deal done on time and in style.
Relationship Mapping: Charting Levels of Support
As you begin to build out your relationship map, there will be several key terms you’ll need to be acquainted with. You’ve learned some of these already, but an additional area to note is around the level of support any individual has within an account to hinder or help you.
A mentor has a unique relationship. Often looked to with respect and deference, a mentor could go a long ways in convincing someone else about your solution and will help you find the people and problems you need to be aware of to be successful.
A supporter is your champion – your insider into the account. They support your solution, and you’ve built a relationship that matters with them.
The waters with your neutral contacts will still be uncertain. You’ll need to make your best first impression on neutral contacts to sway them to your side, and leverage what you know about influence within the account to get them to your way of thinking.
It’s rare that anyone truly has no opinion. If you’ve designated a key player as “neutral,” you should lean into your paranoid instincts and assume they’re a non-supporter until they prove themselves otherwise. It’s always better to underestimate someone’s level of support than to be blindsided.
A non-supporter doesn’t believe in you and your solution, but they aren’t hostile to you, either. A non-supporter may be tricky to win over to your side, but it is far from impossible to do so. Analyzing the people that influence your non supporter, as well as her unique challenges, goals and interests can help you and your revenue team bring the non-supporter over to your side as a supporter.
The final level of support – an enemy is antagonistic to you and your cause. This might be for personal reasons, or it might be because their interests are directly in conflict with the solution you are looking to bring to the table.
Visualize Influence within the Relationship Map
Beyond identifying supporters from enemies, sellers need to understand what level of influence these key players hold. 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.
Relationship Mapping Software to Solve Business Challenges
Now, you should see the benefits of relationship mapping. But where do you start? Perhaps the best place to start is with relationship mapping technology.
Relationship mapping software helps you by visually mapping out the people, problems, and relationships within your target accounts. It collects data and shows you where the greatest potential to help stakeholders is, and even where stakeholders might be a potential threat or champion to your account.
By working directly within your CRM, relationship mapping software enables your entire revenue team to collaborate on a winning relationship strategy to stand apart from the competition, focusing on the people and problems that matter.