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Nine Steps to Uncover Decision Makers and Influencers in B2B Sales

Sales is all about relationships.

You might say, yeah, Ren, I know that. That's not new!

Everyone knows that sales are all about the relationship, but one needs to put in the time, the thinking and the action to strategise and make connections happen.

It's about connecting with the right people, understanding their personal and business needs, and building trust.

Salespeople must identify the right people to engage in the sales process. You'll not only save time and resources, but you'll also increase your chances of closing deals and growing your business.

This week we are answering a question from Mick, thanks Mick!

How do we identify who in the organisation is the right person to connect with?

This is a big question, let's dig in,

1: Understand the company structure

Before you start reaching out to people, it's essential to understand the company's structure. This will help you identify the key decision-makers in the organisation.

Is it a functional, divisional, matrix or the new agile organisation?

Understanding the type of organisation is essential because it helps identify the key decision-makers and business groups involved in the decision-making process.

For example, a functional organisation may have a clear reporting structure, while a matrix organisation may have multiple reporting lines and decision-makers.

Knowing the type of organisation will help you navigate it more effectively and increase your chances of success in the sales process.

Look at the company's website, press releases, and LinkedIn to understand its hierarchy. This information will help you determine who you should target with your sales efforts aligned to the relevance of your products or services.

2: Identify the key business groups involved in decision-making

Once you understand the company structure, you must identify the key business groups involved in decision-making.

This could be the IT group, finance department, marketing team, or operations. Depending on what you're selling, different business groups will have varying levels of influence and decision-making power.

By identifying these groups, you can tailor your sales message accordingly and increase your chances of success.

3: Identify the key roles and key contact persons involved in the decision-making

To successfully navigate the B2B sales process identify the key roles and key person involved in the decision-making process within the organisation.

This involves understanding which business groups have the most influence and decision-making power and identifying specific individuals who will have key roles in the project or opportunity.

For instance, the finance department may have a CFO or controller as the final decision-maker. Or is it the VP for Sales or Operations?

A typical B2B sales opportunity with multiple decision-makers has five key roles in the decision-making process. You might have 3 or fewer key roles for smaller companies or organisations.

  1. Endorser

  2. Decision-maker

  3. Evaluator

  4. User

  5. Mentor or Coach

I have attached the slide below to guide your thinking and strategy.

4: Do Your Research

Use LinkedIn, Sales Navigator, Apollo and other sales enablement platforms to understand each key contact. Here is how to leverage Sales Navigator.

5: Engage in Pre-Sale conversation

Engaging in pre-sale conversation is important before you start pitching your product or service.

This means building a relationship with the decision-makers in the organisation before you start selling. Connect with them on LinkedIn, attend industry events, or ask a common peer to introduce you and offer to share valuable insights.

Have you heard of "Build the relationship before you need it ?"

Establish trust and credibility early, making it easier for you to have an open conversation at the right time.

6: Create an Account Map

An account map is a visual representation of the relationships within an organisation. It shows who the decision-makers are, who the influencers are, and who the gatekeepers are.

Creating an account map lets you see the big picture and determine the best way to navigate the organisation. This will help you prioritise your sales efforts and increase your chances of success.

Writing an Account Map forces you to engage in disciplined thinking if you do an intellectually honest job. An opportunity may seem great in your mind, but when you put down the details, people and numbers, it may fall apart.

Mapping your key decision makers is part of the overall strategy.

6.1: Determine the Political Heat Map

In addition to the organisation's formal structure, the political structure is usually less obvious. The first step in understanding political structure is distinguishing who has influence, formal authority and leadership.

6.2: Determine your relationship status with each key contact

Now, map where you are concerning your relationship with your key account using the worksheet below.

7: Understand the Political Heat Map by applying the Political Matrix

The political matrix within an organisation reveals the intricate power dynamics and influence that run deeper than the formal structure. Identifying who holds sway over the decision-making process is crucial, which isn't always necessarily those with formal authority.

7.1: Understand the Levels of Influence and Formal Authority in the organisation

Influence and authority don't always go hand in hand. Individuals may have high levels of influence without having formal authority - these are often seasoned employees who are respected for their expertise or experience. Conversely, some with formal authority, such as executives, managers or may have a different level of influence over their colleagues.

7.2: Identify and Name the Project Owner and Leadership

The project owner and leadership may not necessarily be the same individual.

The project owner is usually vested in the project's outcome and is accountable for its success. They're often a senior executive or department head.

On the other hand, the project leader takes charge of the execution of the project. While they may not have the ultimate authority, they play a crucial role in steering the project towards its goals, coordinating the team, and maintaining the pace of work. Understanding who owns and leads the project can significantly influence your sales approach and increase your chances of success.

8: Update and refine your Account Map as you navigate the opportunity

Finally, updating and refining your account map as you navigate the opportunity is essential.

Companies are constantly evolving, and relationships are always changing. By staying up-to-date with the latest information, you can adapt your sales approach and continue to build strong relationships with the right people in the organisation.

This is where a great CRM will help you navigate the sales process, creating tasks with milestones and reminders when to contact your key prospects and in the most effective channel.

9: Take action

As you are aware, researching and account mapping alone is insufficient.

You must act and develop relationships based on the identified gaps.

Also, your Account Map can change drastically when executives change strategies, managers move roles or leave the company. So, always stay updated and pivot as necessary.

My week started roughly, but we turned it around with three key steps.

Here is my LinkedIn post reflecting how we transformed what could have been a bad week into some wins.


​Process feedback, take action and acknowledge your efforts.

Let me know how you go with these nine steps.Remember you are in the arena! Go you.💜

See you next week!



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