When trying to access the right people in an organization to advance your sales efforts, you may struggle to chart a successful course. Maybe you spend a lot of time cultivating a relationship with one person, only to discover later that he or she did not have "pen power" to sign the deal. Or on a loss debrief, you learn you lost the deal because your chief competitor had the ear of a key influencer. Sometimes you don’t recognize until too late that a person you know in one division is tight with the project manager you are trying to sell in another. How do you make sure you—or the people you manage—recognize and identify the key players as soon as possible to optimize your chances of winning?
This is a universal problem, and I have encountered similar issues when advising companies in more than 30 countries. But no matter how different the culture or language, people worldwide have used maps for centuries to help them get where they want to go. Marco Polo and Magellan used maps to chart their course, and so should we in sales—a map to guide us in building stronger client relationships that lead to increased revenue.
1. See it.
The first step in creating your map is to see the exploratory, sales, and decision process unfold in your mind. Envision everyone who will be actively involved from a technical, business, implementation, financial and legal standpoint, both within the client organization, as well as your own—it "takes two to tango." Securing a baseline organization chart always helps, but more importantly, talk to as many people as you and/or your team can to confirm people are actually who and where you think they are.
2. Create it.
Once you have done your due diligence and double-checked for accuracy, start creating a map on paper or PowerPoint or online app. Your map should include key players from the client, and people from your company or extended team involved on the project. The map can be as simple or complex as the target organization, and should include the names, titles, locations, and structural relationship of the people you know and those you want to. If you suspect someone should be on your map but you cannot presently verify, include a spot for them and then confirm later—maps are dynamic and evergreen, so "keep your fingers on the pulse" as they morph.
Many people like to code their map with colors, symbols, or numbers: key players in blue, star for your champion, "x" if working against you, 10 for a powerful person, etc. Of course, you will know your code if the map is only for you, but you will want a key for your team members to ensure you are all "singing off the same sheet of music."
Once you have a baseline map that shows "who knows who," draw solid lines from people on your team to client players they know, and dotted lines to those you should get to know. Again, maps are always changing, so once a relationship has been established, upgrade it to a solid line.
3. Win it.
With your map in hand, if you are working solo, now it is time to start making the moves you have mapped out. If you are working on a team, share the map with them via hardcopy or e-mail a PDF to secure their input and buy-in on the projected plan. The map is a fantastic communication vehicle, and you will be pleasantly surprised how much discussion it prompts, and the connections that are unearthed when the whole team is looking at the same picture.
If you are a sales manager, consider posting a map for your Top 3 target projects in a Team Room—people will have a chance to contribute their ideas, and it visibly shows you are serious about using the process, that your team will "walk the talk." In addition, the maps are a great way to keep knowledge in-house in the event of sales team turnover. There are few things worse for a sales team than having a top-performing sales person leave and take all that "It's in my head!" client and company knowledge with them. With a map, you'll have a snapshot of your current status and direction, and a solid start on making a smooth transition.
Your custom-cut map is a "visual sales plan" that shows who you need to get to and your plan to do so, resulting in a focused investment of your people, money, and time. Like explorers of old, discover more sales with your new sales map.
Scott Leland is president of PLAYER MAP, Inc. He created the PLAYER MAP based on insight from coaching projects in 35 countries over 25 years. To learn more on mapping your must win project, visit www.playermap.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.