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Milind Katti

COO & Co-Founder, DemandFarm

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    Stakeholder management is gaining more and more traction in recent years with ever-evolving customer needs and the advent of technological solutions for integrating relationship-building channels and capabilities. The expectations from both external and internal stakeholders are getting increasingly higher and pushing the envelope of stakeholder relationship management.

    Fred Reichheld, the Bain Fellow and Management Consultant at Bain & Company says that “For every customer that complains, there are 26 who don’t say anything. And instead of vocalizing their frustrations to your team, they simply stop buying from you and cancel their subscription.”

    This might not seem like much in traditional low-value sales where sellers have a large number of customers to cater to but it makes a massive difference in your bottom line when you are dealing with high-value key accounts.

    In fact, a study by Bain & Company states that by improving customer retention merely by 5%, the company’s profits can go up by as much as 95%.

    When you look at these two facts in tandem, it becomes critical to focus on the key stakeholder relationships not only for their sake but for yours as well.

    Who are the Stakeholders?

    Stakeholders in its general sense is a very broad term that can go on to include any individual or group whose decisions can either affect you and your business or be affected by the decisions you take for your business. These could be your customers, employees, partners, consultants, investors, and so on.

    In the context of key account management, the stakeholders are the people within your key accounts that have a say in the buying process, also known as external stakeholders, and the people within your organization that are overlooking and ensuring the buying process is not only a success but as smooth as possible are the internal stakeholders or the relationship owners.

    The unfolding of the modern B2B sales process has given rise to buying groups that consist of a group of people that increasingly possess more product knowledge and technical awareness that not only require their expectations to be met but need to be wowed too. This places the onus on your key account management team to step up their game and craft and execute an account-centric stakeholder relationship building and management strategy. Gartner Research reports that your customer is no longer relying on your sales and support team for attaining the information about your product or solution, they are conducting independent research and relying on both offline and online channels to make up their mind.

    A report by UserIQ states that 87% of respondents from SaaS organizations that have a churn rate of less than 1% report that, they are fully or somewhat aligned on key customer relationship management. To keep the churn rate at its minimum, you will need to keep your communication with your key accounts authentic, targeted, and relevant to keep your account engaged which is made possible by data-backed stakeholder mapping.

    What is Customer Stakeholder Mapping?

    1. Definition of the Stakeholders’ Goals

    Stakeholder Mapping begins with defining the interests and goals of the buying centers in your key accounts. Knowing what they need and want can not only enable you to assess if the account is a good fit but will also help you provide a tailored offering that the stakeholders won’t be able to refuse.

    The key account buyer not only demands convenience in terms of accessing the information they might need but also want the communication and the expert consulting services to be authentic, targeted, relevant, and timely.

    2. Segmentation of Stakeholders

    The next step in the stakeholder mapping process is to segment the individuals or buying groups with respect to their roles, attitude, influence, and the amount of budget they control.

    This Relationship attribution is the key to stakeholder analysis as it provides data-backed insights into understanding your stakeholders’ interests and goals. When analyzed properly it could also help you comprehend who is on your side and who is against, what pressure they are under with respect to meeting certain goals, and what are the internal dynamics of the organization so that you can strategize accordingly.

    Your key account managers need to know how to strategically map these individuals within accounts with respect to their role, their stances, and the amount of budget they control. All this stakeholder intelligence needs to be actioned upon and monetized to expand and grow that account.

    3. Mapping of Stakeholder Relationships

    The next step in stakeholder mapping is to dissect the relationships that your internal stakeholder team has with the external team and also the ones that the individuals within their team have within themselves.

    This would help you learn who can positively or negatively influence who and to what extent?

    We all know that the account-based selling scenario can get very complex with multiple buying centers and buying committees that are responsible for these buying jobs.

    Individuals within these committees not only hold the power to influence the buying decisions (for example, by just delaying the purchase process and preventing it from progressing to the next stage) but can also influence other decision-makers within the committee to rule in their favor. Your key account managers need to know how to strategically map these individuals within accounts with respect to their role, their stances, and the amount of budget they control.

    4. Nurturing the Stakeholder Relationships

    Stakeholder management does not end once the deal is closed but is an ongoing process that lasts throughout the customers’ lifetime which needs to be extended as long as the mutual business interests are sustained. Developing these long-lasting relationships turns recent adopters into loyal long-term customers.

    Once you have the above attributes of your stakeholders mapped out, you will have clarity on what communication needs to be directed at whom and when. Maintaining an Engagement cadence with the key contacts is as important as the level of engagement.

    Maintaining an Engagement cadence with the key contacts is as important as the level of engagement.

    e.g A senior decision-maker might feel neglected and would benefit from a one-to-one connect with a senior leader from your team to be able to voice his opinions and expectations.

    This requires abandoning communication silos and embracing well-balanced participation from across levels within your team and their team.

    stakeholder role mapping
    Stakeholder Role Mapping

    For example, in the illustration above, the Director controls over $1.4 million in budget, and if none of your communication has been directed at him, it could cause you to lose the deal in its final stages.

    Digital Account Planning Tools for Stakeholder Mapping

    The B2B buying journey is complex, non-linear, and can be unpredictable at most times. In fact, according to a report by Gartner, 77% of B2B buyers state that their latest purchase was very complex or difficult.

    Account management tools seamlessly integrate with your CRMs, and other sources of information such as ERP systems, billing systems, Excel sheets, email inboxes, and more. These Account Planning Tools can provide the much-needed intelligence & clarity and help you make sense of what’s happening within your key accounts and help you drive superior CX (Customer Experience).

    Profitable stakeholder relationships are built through Account Planning that provides your key account managers the guidance they need to have contextual, timely, and personalized interactions with the stakeholders in your key accounts throughout their buying journey and afterward. The data that is captured within the CRMs can range from the point of first interaction of someone from your key account to the final signing of the deal. These tools capture the emails that were sent, the meetings that were scheduled, and notes about the decisions that were made or are to be made. This keeps the stakeholder management process transparent and ensures that adequate resources are allocated based on the use of stakeholder relationship-based KPIs.

    Besides the obvious CLV or the Customer Lifetime Value which is represented by the financial value that is generated by that particular key account for your business, there are other non-financial parameters that can’t be ignored. For example, the Customer influencer value where the stakeholders in your key accounts either refer you to other potential customers or help influence the decision of the prospects, you are already in talks with, in your favor. Both of these could immensely escalate your potential revenue. Another important parameter to be perceived is the Customer Knowledge Value which is basically the ideas and suggestions for improvement that the end-users of your product/ solution can provide. These ideas can then be used by your R&D to create product updates that may help the business serve other customers better or tap into unexplored customer segments thereby benefiting you in the long run.

    Case Study-Globally unified view of Sales teams across 40+ countries

    One of our clients and a Fortune 1000 innovator through their products, solutions, and partners help businesses across industries make business-critical decisions. They have an expansive base of 10,000 channel partners in over 100 countries.

    Delivering the best value to their global customers required deeper understanding & insights about their key stakeholders and a seamless alignment between their Sales Teams and channel partners. The challenges they were facing were identified as impaired visibility of stakeholder attributes within key accounts and inadequate relationship insights about the accounts that they were managing which the team at DemandFarm helped overcome.

    1. Inadequate Unified Relationship Insights

    With multiple members from the Sales team and channel partners engaging with a large client, very often, the tacit and qualitative information resided as tribal knowledge with individual account executives. DemandFarm’s OrgChart helped convert this tribal knowledge to Enterprise memory by capturing the organizational hierarchy, affinity with client stakeholders, their decision-making power, budget control, internal political mapping, and more into a visual canvas available to all.

    Our client’s key account management team was engaging with multiple stakeholders from the purchase, sales, IT engagement, and C- suite within their accounts and vice versa. These complex hierarchies on both sides need to be navigated strategically to ensure reduced deal slips and higher sales velocity.

    DemandFarm’s OrgChart software allowed for Relationship Owners to be set for each external stakeholder. This meant one contact or more team members that can work in conjunction to achieve the set account goals against an individual client stakeholder. This simplified the accountability and tracking of tasks and activities for building long-term and richer relationships.

    relationship owners for stakeholder management
    Relationship Owners

    2. Impaired Engagement Visibility

    Complex global stakeholder mapping demanded seamless collaboration and alignment across Account Executives & Channel Partners.

    communication matrix for stakeholder management
    Communication Matrix

    In a complex buying structure such as this, stakeholders at multiple levels of the client’s team were interacting with stakeholders at multiple levels within their accounts making engagement management even more crucial. The Communication Matrix was instrumental in detailing if they were engaging often enough with the stakeholders within their key accounts and at the right levels eliminating communication silos?

    Was their manager sending an email to the VP on the other side?

    Is their CXO talking to the CXO in their key account over lunch?

    It imparted them the ability to monitor and monetize the quality, content, and cadence of the conversation. The Interactive Relationship Chart provided them with all the information when they hovered over it.

    The Account Planning tool captured all instances of contact between “Our Team” and “Their Team” providing an authentic account planning visual that aided in better data-driven decision making.

    3. Ineffectual Playbooks

    The opportunity playbooks empowered every account executive with all the relevant data requisite for role mapping, message tailoring, and mobilizing client stakeholders to close deals faster. These Playbooks offered relationship insights for every given opportunity and understanding of the stances and risks with each contact in the buying group.

    Account Executives could then leverage the influence map which defines the internal political alignment amongst the various stakeholders in the key account.

    For example, in the illustration below, you can deduce that Alex is on your side and can also positively influence Michael who could be a potential detractor. So, you can just take Alex along for your next meeting with Michael and hopefully convert him into a champion for you as well.

    influence mapping for stakeholder management
    Influence Maps


    For example, in the illustration above, you can deduce that Alex is on your side and can also positively influence Michael who could be a potential detractor. So, you can just take Alex along for your next meeting with Michael and hopefully convert him into a champion for you as well.

    Best Practices of Stakeholder Management

    • Achieving the mutual business objectives: Stakeholder mapping for your key accounts should be effected with the dual focus on achieving the ROI targets set for that particular account while also ensuring that the customers’ needs are met through efficient data-driven customer-centric processes and to keep optimizing your business goals to achieve the shared objectives.
    • Making provision for potential hurdles: While strategically designing the customer journey is essential to ensure that the predictability of revenue from an account stays intact, the key account managers also need to foresee and make provisions for the operational and regulatory hurdles that might lower customer satisfaction value of your offering.
    • Leverage data-driven insights to allocate resources: Make use of the data captured by the Account Planning Tools within your CRM to gauge the customer value of your accounts and allocate your relationship-building budget accordingly. Insights from the data gathered by the account planning tool could help develop measurement methods for account values, interaction automation, and personalization.
    • Rely on the “single source of truth” to avoid ambiguity: Use a single source of visualized data to make it easier for your C-suite and management teams at multiple functional levels to have absolute clarity and consistency in terms of what has been done, what is being done, what needs to be done, and at what point during this journey do they need to step in.
    • Maintaining brand consistency in communications: A product/ solution management team that can provide strategic direction and help to maintain brand consistency throughout all the interactions with the key accounts in the buyer journey is ideal.
    • Buyer Enablement: Gartner Research has identified six “buying jobs” of various levels of complexity that B2B buyers need to navigate to finalize the purchase process. Therefore, taking the time to understand and ease the purchase process of your accounts by providing them with relevant and timely information is essential. This will speed up the completion of the critical buying jobs and help you reduce the length of your sales cycle.

    Account Growth with Stakeholder Mapping

    Creating timely contact-based touchpoints is essential for meaningful relationships that hold the potential to last long and can only be built on the back of relevant data-driven relationship insights which is way ahead of just creating a personalized email subject line. The interaction consistency that you will achieve through creating these positive personalized experiences will not only help your key account managers make quicker and risk-free decisions but will also help with achieving clarity in terms of predictability of revenue and therefore help with revenue optimization.


    Ready to discuss your Account Management Needs?

    About The Author

    Milind Katti

    COO & Co-Founder, DemandFarm

      Milind is the COO & Co-Founder of DemandFarm. He co-founded DemandFarm to build smart software technology to bring Account Planning and Relationship Intelligence into your CRM, making Key Account Management data-driven, predictable and scalable.Milind has close to 25 years of experience in sales & marketing. He is an Electronics & Communication Engineer with MBA in Marketing. He enjoys long-distance running, loves reading history, and above all else, he is a humanist.

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