What Does Strong Stakeholder Management Look Like?
Like most everything in business, stakeholder management is mainly about execution. You can identify the right decision makers in a deal, but how do you manage them? How do you shepherd an entire buying center towards dry ink? Relationship management throughout the sales cycle looks very different when four, five or ten people are involved. And, the probability of stakeholders falling off the wagon or going rogue is much higher.
Sustaining momentum during the buying process is a matter of how well you manage stakeholders, and this requires tracking a handful of key indicators that reflect how invested each stakeholder is in solving the problem. They include:
Access. You may think you have a great relationship with a stakeholder, but the truth is in how responsive they are. Are they responsive when you need something or do they go dark? Look into the mirror of truth, folks – if a stakeholder isn’t responsive, you probably don’t the access you need to build consensus.
Cadence. You can’t leverage stakeholder value without having regular, meaningful conversations. Note that this is not an either/or situation. Conversations need to happen often and they need to be substantive.
Support. How do you know if a stakeholder really supports your solution? The answer boils down to one question: do they promote your solution when you’re not around? This will determine the extent of their personal commitment to your offering, and to solving the problem at hand.
Power. What kind of influence does the stakeholder have on the purchase? Are they driving the group towards a common direction? It’s important for sales pros to spend their time shepherding the right stakeholders.
Effective stakeholder management isn’t just about the customer organization. It also requires careful management of sales-side activity with the salesperson functioning as one part coach, one part air traffic controller. Your executives and project/technical resources need to be coached on how to talk to stakeholders within a specific deal. They need to be aware of the intricacies of each relationship and personality. You need to make sure the right conversations are happening at the right time, deadlines are being met and all resources are being responsive.
Tracking these indicators is the cornerstone of stakeholder management. It’s instrumental in determining the accuracy of your forecast, deal size, and when it’s time to double-down or cut your losses and run. This is also an opportunity for simplification via technology. While tracking can be done manually, tools like ARPEDIO’s Matrix solution make it easier to embed stakeholder management into an organization’s unique sales process and execute with consistency.
One final word – as we’ve discussed on this blog at length, the way companies buy is changing. More stakeholders are involved, each with their own personality, priorities and preferences. Unfortunately, many sales organizations aren’t keeping pace with this evolution. A lot is riding on how capable your organization is at effective stakeholder selling (more accurately termed as consensus-building) and stakeholder management.
How is your organization adapting to this new selling and buying landscape? Share with us!
Learn more in our complimentary white paper, “A Definitive Guide to Pain-free Stakeholder Management.”