Account mapping: why you need to chart prospect companies

by Steli Efti
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You see a huge conversion opportunity in a prospect. You lead the conversation on the sales call and convince your account contact. You’re elated. However the next day, your prospect gives you a “no.” Ouch. What went wrong?

In today’s complex buying environment, relying on one executive to single-handedly close the deal is ineffective. A survey of 5000 stakeholders by CEB found that, on average, 5.4 people now sign off on each purchase.

So you can’t keep hopping on one sales call after another to hear a straight “yes”, or else you will leave a LOT of value on the table. 

The smarter strategy is connecting with your customers on a deeper level, identifying the decision-makers, and creating a consensus. A useful way to do on a practical level is mapping the accounts and depict the relationships at your prospect company visually.

In this article, you’ll learn how to chart external companies. It will help you better understand your prospects, personalize your last-minute sales calls, and close more business. Note that we’re not talking about structuring your sales team and building a sales org chart.

Let’s get started!

What is account mapping?

Account mapping is the process of visually representing the data points and the relationship dynamics at a prospect company. It’s used by sales professionals to get an overview of how an organization functions and identify the key decision-makers.

In contrast to a typical org chart, an account map also takes the informal hierarchies into account to arrive at the “best path of sale.”

flowchart

Even if the leads handed over to your sales team are marginally qualified, the chart lets you expand your network and get your foot in the door. 

As opposed to scattered CRM data, a well-constructed account map gives you a holistic view of your prospects and customers. When knowing who calls the shots and controls budgets, you can foster professional relationships with the stakeholders that matter. You can also refer the maps throughout the sales cycle to get a sense of your progress.

Still not convinced that relationship mapping is a game-changing addition to your sales team? 

Wait until the end of the next section.

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5 reasons why you need to start charting external companies for sales

For sales reps selling complex enterprise solutions, an account map is a terrific way to fill the data gaps in your CRM and other sales tools. Here are the key ways this chart can help you take charge during long sales cycles.

1. It shows prospects that you genuinely care

85% of prospects and customers are dissatisfied with their on-the-phone experience. So are the sales teams not putting in the required efforts?

Well, if your team is prospecting several companies aggressively, then you have less time to understand each one. Using a generic pitch makes it difficult to earn the trust of stakeholders.

Most sales reps default to scanning websites and marketing collaterals to learn about their prospects. Indeed 42% of sales reps feel that they don’t have enough information before making a call.

An account map comes in handy here to get an insight into a prospect company, its customers, and its problems. It introduces you to the key managers and relevant details about them that help you stand out from the pack of generic sales calls.

2. You can identify the decision-makers at your prospect company

How many times have you rocked a sales call, yet couldn’t close the deal? Probably the main decision-maker didn’t see how your product could help the company achieve its goals. In such cases, you don’t need to drop off the account.

What if your product becomes a great fit for the prospect company after a year? It’s also possible that the company contact (who liked your product) gets promoted and can now influence business decisions.

In such cases, an updated account map showing the business centers of your prospect organization is useful. You can use the intel to build rapport strategically with the blockers, influencers, buyers, and keep up with existing contacts

Also, during future sales calls, the map makes it easy to fall back to an old relationship if required. On that note, if you need help with sales pipeline management, then we have got you covered here.

3. You’re at risk with a single company contact

In most companies, a single professional manages the complete sales process. But what happens if this contact departs from your target company? You might need to rebuild goodwill with the customer.

I myself learned this lesson painfully when my key champion at Oracle moved to another company, and a deal I've been working on for nine months evaporated.

Consequently, it’s wise to expand your network and create fallback options. Account maps detail the internal dynamics and can facilitate touching base with multiple people.

When trying to sell complex solutions, multiple contacts partake in the final buying decision anyway. So it makes sense to initiate more than one relationship to understand the needs of the company better. 

Once you group the data from all the contacts that belong to a lead, you have additional context that can prove pivotal in closing the deal. If you have stored your lead data into Close, then it lets you group contacts and addresses that belong to the same lead.

Here’s how the result looks like:

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4. You can personalize your pitch (even when upselling...)

Do you frequently get on last-minute sales calls? Then knowing the internal structure of your prospect is invaluable. You can personalize your pitch based on the company’s needs and where they have planned to invest their resources.

Suppose you sell an analytics product and got an inbound lead from the CTA on your product’s FAQ page. Having an account map will mean that you know where your prospect lacks resources. 

The information is useful for sharpening your sales pitch. If there’s a dearth of data analyst talent, then you can talk about how your offering can derive actionable insights from their data to improve performance.

Do you have an existing account with a company and see cross-selling as well as upselling opportunities? That’s a great opportunity as selling to an existing customer is easier than targeting new prospects.

However if there’s internal organization politics at play and you attempt to bypass the hierarchy, then you might damage your existing rapport. Account maps enable you to build effective work relationships.

5. It aids internal account delivery and the overall sales success

For lead nurturing and account delivery, you have to communicate internally with other departments at your company. An account map can efficiently impart tribal knowledge about the customer to assist your account manager. The insights reduce future administration overload. 

You can also train new hires and prepare for company transition through your understanding of target companies. Won’t you like to increase your productivity and strengthen your future sales efforts today?

Note: Close lets you communicate internally about your leads. If required, your team can assign tasks to the support or account management team.

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What to include in an account map

So you want to chart your supporters, enemies, and the overall political landscape at your prospect company? Great decision. Here’s the information you can include in your relationship map for every contact at your prospect organization:

  • Job title: Start with the title of the person, their role, department, authority, and level in the company. The idea is to see how they fit in the overall organization structure.
  • Name and photo: Getting the names of the managers right during a sales call will get attention. So flesh out the identity of the people that occupy the above titles. Also, put faces to these names with a headshot.
  • Contact details: Include their work phone, extension, work email, mobile number, LinkedIn profile, and CRM contact records. Try to find as many contact data points as possible.
  • Office location: For large companies (spread across geographies), it’s useful to know the country, city, and the office building where you’re going to do business. The information will also help if you get upselling opportunities later.
  • Visual representation of the organization relationships (both formal and informal): Chart the organization hierarchy along with the authority of different figures based on the information above. While the organizational chart of your target company is a great start, the meaty information is knowing the role each of these contacts plays in the buying process.
  • Other info: You can also research informal aspects like the goals and skills of each contact (might help you in personalizing communication with them). You can use custom fields in your CRM or in chart creation tools to fill such information.

Note that the role of an account map is to convey the structure of a prospect organization quickly. If you’re not sure of the functional and informal relationships in the organization, then it can turn ineffective during sales prospecting

For instance, look at the chart of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Computer Science & Mathematics Division below.

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It’s confusing and gives the impression as if eleven departments report to the director. 

The relationship dynamics at your prospect company and how the authority figures exercise their influence is invaluable information. It’s essential that your visual representation includes that. Next, let’s look at the specific steps to map new and existing accounts.

Five simple steps to robust account mapping

Are you ready to find the best path to sale for your prospects? It begins with mapping their accounts and sharing them with your sales team. Ideally this mapping should start from the discovery stage of the sales process itself.

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Step 1: Ensure you’re going after the right accounts

Finding intricate details of accounts is a time-intensive task. Before you begin, it’s essential that you have your ideal customer’s profile (ICP) handy. 

Once you identify the challenges of your key customers and have an idea of how to help them through it, you can create a target accounts list (TAL). These are the accounts where you should spend most of your company resources. If you don’t have a list, then Albacross shares 11 ways to create a raw TAL.

With a CRM like Close, you can also prioritize the accounts you pursue through the pipeline view. Use criteria like Opportunity value, likelihood to Close, expected close date and other criteria to identify the right accounts.

Step 2: Build an organizational chart of your target company

Mapping begins with plotting the formal organizational hierarchy at your target company. So for creating an org chart, you need to either manually enter the data from your CRM, or export the data of your accounts (here’s how to do it in Close) and upload a CSV file in a chart creator.

You can use a diagrammatic application like Venngage or Lucidchart to create org charts from data organized in a spreadsheet. Feel free to choose other relationship mapping and visualization tools for creating account maps.

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(Source: Lucidchart)

This research step can be tricky if you have zero prior context of the target company. If you can afford paid solutions like DiscoverOrg and Detective by Charlie, then get them to create the org chart for you.

Otherwise you can collect data of your customer manually through LinkedIn. The professional network has a sophisticated mapping mechanism that can unveil corporate hierarchies. However it can become tedious if you research using keywords and job titles. You can use the LinkedIn Sales Navigator to expedite the process.

linkedin-advanced-lead-search

For finding email addresses, contact information, and other placeholder values (that we covered in the last section), you can use additional sales tools.

If you’re dealing with a relatively large organization, then you should also define the scope of the chart. It might make sense to limit yourself to a few departments where you see opportunities to pitch your products.

Pro Tip: Already have a great relationship with an account? Then directly ask your contact for their organization chart. If you show the intent to understand the inner workings of a company, then your contact might offer assistance. Most sales reps don’t make the ask because of fear of rejection.

What if you’re dealing with a relatively new account? Then a direct request for an org chart might seem pushy. A way out is forging partner relationships with companies selling complementary products in the same market as yours. Such partners might have mapped the market and can provide you with intel to target your key accounts.

Companies with overlapping ICP and TAL (that you arrived at in the first step mentioned above) will make for great partners. You can use a tool like Crossbeam to find your overlapping customers while ensuring your other data remains secure.

Step 3: Gather information from your CRM and other sources, and label the key contacts

Now it’s time to expand the visual representation of the prospect’s hierarchy that you built in the last step. You need to investigate your contacts and determine how they feel about your product. If an individual plays a vital role in closing the deal, then learn more about their professional and personal lives.

Record all of the above data with the details of who participates in the buying process in your CRM. You can assign roles like deterrent or purchaser to relevant contacts for every company. Color codes for every role (like a green background in your org chart for the purchaser) can further quicken your understanding of every account contact.

Account mapping software might offer you special features to visually depict the above relationship dynamics.

For instance, Org Chart Software has dotted lines to represent influence, colors to signify affinity with the contact, and a power meter at the top of each card representing the decision-making power of the contact.

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(Source: Demand Farm)

Step 4: Identify the best path to sale

Sales is no longer a linear process, and decision-making for buying is also not hierarchical. If you hit up a deterrent (remember the roles we talked about in the previous step?) early on in your prospecting, then it might lead you to believe that you need to drop the account.

However, you can use the account map to identify who has the buying power and find people whose interests line up. The goal is to identify the relationships that will create a consensus and let you close the sale. You might need to add new lines to indicate which relationships will influence the deterrents and help in closing the deal.

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(Source: Lucidchart)

Step 5: Maintain the account map

Your company needs to keep updating the map as the relationship dynamics at the prospect company evolve. It might mean adding more contacts, additional notes about your account administrator, or even the arrival of a new decision-maker at the prospect company.

As your relationship with an account deepens, account mapping becomes more collaborative. Your marketing, account management, and account delivery teams need to contribute regularly so that your sales team knows the current status.

Wrapping things up

An account map gives you access to the decision-making process of your buyers. You can use it to stay in touch with relevant stakeholders and avoid getting held up communicating with the middlemen.

If you’re selling a complex solution or dealing with large enterprises, the relationship map enable you to touch base with multiple decision-makers. It’s an asset in the modern buying environment as multiple people sign-off every new purchase.

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