Our survey of salespeople (see The Biggest Account Planning Challenges & How You Can Fix Them (Part 1)) revealed that a key problem in sellers achieving their targets (#6 in respondents’ concerns) is “Mapping the organization’s political landscape.”
Altify’s definition of account planning highlights the importance of this issue:
“Build long-term business relationships in a complex marketplace that enable you to create, develop, pursue, and win business that delivers mutual value.”
If your aim is to build long-term relationships, you need to understand that companies don’t buy; people buy.
To build long-term business relationships, you need to understand how the organization works, and the politics of the organization as it relates to your goal for the account. You must be clear on the different dimensions of hierarchy and influence, the difference between organizational structure and political structure.
Each relationship within an account must be examined from a number of angles, so that you can develop a relationship strategy for each key stakeholder in an account or opportunity.
To determine the impact someone has – their Political Status – you have to map Rank (formal) against Influence (informal).
Use these 10 questions to assess the impact an individual might have:
- Will there be a significant impact if this person says “Yes” or “No” to new initiatives and projects?
- Is this person responsible for overall Business Strategy for the Business Unit?
- Do the end-users of your products report to them, or does they represent their interests?
- Are they the functional leader or the Business Unit leader with profit or loss responsibility?
- Do people seek out this person’s endorsement or expert opinion in areas that pertain to what you sell?
- Is this person’s influence greater than you might expect given their position?
- Can this person work around the company’s policies or procedures to make things happen if they desire?
- Is their support critical where important initiatives are considered?
- Does this person sign-off on the financial justification for your project?
- Will they be measured on the success of your products?
Alongside influence, the next critical thing to determine for each individual is whether you can count on them to support you, as you develop the relationship between your company and theirs.
Use these 10 questions to assess the level of support you might expect from an individual and to determine whether they are a friend or an enemy. (You are looking for a lot of Yes answers):
Does this person talk to others about the value your company can bring to their organization?
- Have they been a willing reference for you with other customers?
- Have they introduced / supported you in meetings with other senior influencers in their company?
- When speaking with others in their company, do they refer to you as the chosen business partner?
- Do they share internal or competitive insights that can help strengthen your position?
- Do they proactively advise you when issues arise in their organization that might affect your position in the Account?
- Do you consider them a partner that you can count on to help you develop the value proposition for their business area?
- Do they speak with Key Players about the value that you have brought to the company?
- Do they look for your input on general issues that are not specifically related to your products?
- Do they proactively come to you with ideas that might help you win in the Account?
The view you see is always dependent on where you are standing; it’s the same when someone is making a decision.
A customer’s decision orientation often is determined by the role they play in a company or their natural affinity to one approach or another. Understanding an individual’s orientation is critical to being able to relate to them, and then present solutions that align to their needs.
There are four types of decision orientation to consider:
- A Financial orientation implies a primary focus on price, cost, and economics. While your product must be viable; numbers and negotiations will be key.
- A Technical focus is about product functionality and capability. Such individuals are often analytical and detail-oriented. Product demonstrations, benchmarks, and careful deliberation will be key.
- Someone with a Relationship orientation believes they are forming a business partnership and that you and your company are important to them. While your product must be viable, support, trust, effort, and responsiveness will be important.
- A Business orientation takes a big picture view and this person can properly balance the technical, financial, and relationship issues. Their vision often extends beyond their company to include their customers, and their competition.
Among sales professionals around the world, failing to access Key Players (the people who can influence supplier preference, drive decisions and control outcomes), or to influence them effectively, is always one of the most frequent reasons cited for failure in a sales campaign.
According to our research, just over half of sales reps are effective at accessing Key Players – and, of course, those who are successful in doing so are also more successful at achieving quota.
So, for each of your customers, do you know who’s who – and why they matter?