Understanding your prospects' purchasing intentions can be a difficult beast to navigate as they don't sit statically. A number of variables influence your stakeholders throughout the buying cycle which will ultimately determine whether you are successful in your bid for business. 

The good news for those in sales is that there are endless methodologies (all helpfully with different acronyms) which you can use to navigate these behaviours. 

Depending on which methodology you follow, there will be different tactics used to direct the conversation, obtain qualifying information, and determine product fit - (here is a write up of 8 such methodologies)

As you progress through the selling cycle, often it will be the case to record prospect and client interactions in a CRM system, spreadsheet, or reporting service to track and plan your next steps. Serving their intention, each are a helpful medium for acquiring an audit trail of your previous interactions. However, these tools can be found lacking in providing a visual roadmap to indicate where to focus your endeavours and with which stakeholders.

Fortunately, a good few months ago we were introduced to the following exercise which addresses these challenges during a workshop delivered by the team at Applied Influence Group

ACCOUNT PROFILING TOOL - INFLUENCE & IMPACT ANALYSIS (refer to slides attached) 

Especially for the more complex sales cycles wherein your team will be engaged with, and responsible for influencing a number of stakeholders, this exercise enables you to highlight where to focus your limited sales resource. 

To explain the axes, you can map out where your stakeholders sit depending on: 

INFLUENCE: your influence over the stakeholder 

IMPACT: the stakeholders' impact on reaching your account-objectives

By plotting your stakeholders based on objective information, historical data on selling to similar accounts, and using your intuition to fill in the gaps, you will have an idea of who your priority stakeholders are, and how much influence you have over them in order to achieve your objective.  

It is important to note that there are a number of weapons you have in your arsenal as a salesperson to increase your influence and I will explore how you can apply these strategically in a follow up post. 

The key however is to track this process over time in order to demonstrate progression and realign focus where necessary. Understanding factors such as internal relationships will illustrate opportunities to leverage and pivot around your existing contacts to get in front of other priority stakeholders. 

It can be helpful to refer to this exercise on a regular pipeline/sales update in order to understand what activities your team are applying to move you closer to the business objective. When pitching and going through the sales cycle, you can also utilise the account profiling tool to identify your man-marking strategy, creating both ownership and individual accountability.