Selling to businesses requires a more strategic approach than selling to consumers. Here’s how account mapping can help you plan your route to success.
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If your small to midsize enterprise (SMEs) sells products or services to other businesses, you’ll know how complex the sales cycle can be. The customer will have multiple people involved in the decision-making process, which means more points of contact, more complex hierarchies, and more hearts and minds to win, compared to direct-to-consumer businesses.
To help with sales, many organisations use a technique called account mapping. This helps them visualise the relationships within target companies and set their sales strategy accordingly. In this article, we explore what account mapping is, how it can help boost sales, and how today’s customer relationship management (CRM) technology can help.
What is account mapping?
Just as we use regular maps to plan the best route to our destination, sales organisations use account maps to plan the best route to a sale.
Purchasing and procurement within large organisations typically involves many people. For technology purchases, for example, this will include representatives from IT. But it could also include human resources if the tech is going to be used by the wider workforce. The customer might have a specific procurement function, and finance will also play an important role in approving budgets. There may also be involvement from senior management if the technology is particularly important to the company’s strategy.
Account mapping in sales is the process of mapping out relationships between these people, establishing who makes what decisions, and knowing how to approach each contact to progress the sale. Teams that can understand the hierarchies and dynamics in these situations stand a better chance of getting their deals over the line.
What does an account map look like?
The most conventional type of account map looks like the organisational charts that are common in many businesses. They will include the names of key stakeholders within a business, their job title, their responsibilities as they relate to your sales, contact details, and location.
Importantly, account maps also show the relationships between these contacts —not only in terms of seniority, but in terms of your sales process.
Most org charts, for example, show lines of reporting between managers and the people they manage. Account maps will also include lines showing how decisions are made, so there will be one between finance and IT, for example, indicating that the finance team will need to approve IT purchases above a certain figure.
These relationships can become very complex —but sales teams must understand them, which is where a visual approach can help.
What are the benefits of account mapping?
Aside from being a generally useful aid for sales teams, there are many specific examples where account mapping comes in handy.
Ensuring a strategic approach
Sales is all about building good personal relationships. But sometimes, those relationships might not be enough to get a deal over the line. You need to understand the full picture of an account to bring in all the key stakeholders.
By visualising how purchase decisions are made, sales teams can direct their resources accordingly. For example, if you are selling to a UK-based engineering team from a company with its HQ in Germany, it makes sense to understand what influence the head office will have and engage with them accordingly. An account map helps you identify how those in HQ will influence the UK teams and how you can bring everyone on board to keep the deal moving forward.
Responding to change
Sales cycles for business purchases can be very long —a year or more in many cases. Contacts within a prospect organisation may leave or switch roles, and your sales team must be able to respond to that. It can be especially frustrating if you have spent months convincing one person about your product, only for them to move to another company, leaving your trail cold.
An account map will show you who your next best point of contact is and help you maintain momentum.
Change can happen within your own teams, too. An account map helps ensure a consistent approach, even with different sales personnel. New members of your team may not have the personal history with customer contacts that established sales staff do, but they will be able to understand the fundamental structure of the customer’s business thanks to a well-formulated account map. This means they can get on board quickly and make an impact.
What is account mapping software (and how does it help create account maps)?
An account map is essentially a method of data visualisation, and that data likely resides in your customer relationship management (CRM) system. This database contains all the key information about customers and prospects, a history of their purchases and interactions, and data about current opportunities.
It’s possible to create an account map on a whiteboard using sticky notes— but it’s probably not the most efficient way to do it. For some companies the best way is to use account mapping templates. However, many sales teams build their own account maps using common office software used for slide presentations, or even spreadsheets. However, dedicated org chart software or data visualisation tools could be a better choice, offering more functionalities, and with dedicated features for drawing up useful account maps.
For SMEs that sell large or complex products to other businesses with a long sales cycle, account mapping is a vital process. Teams can use org charts or data visualisation software to build account maps based on information from their CRM tools. The maps provide an easy-to-understand visualisation of key personnel within a target account, helping SMEs to plan the best strategic route to a sale.