Sign up

What matters to you matters to us! Customize your newsletter–tell us what you're most interested in and we'll handle the rest.

loader image




December 6, 2022

Reviving Buyer Organizational Understanding To Improve Win Rates in a Recession

After several marketing roles, I got my first B2B enterprise sales job in 2001. I was fortunate to have several strong managers who taught me how to be an enterprise sales professional. Each was a stickler for organizational chart mapping.


What is organizational chart mapping?

Organizational chart mapping is detailing out the client’s hierarchy of everyone who will touch your opportunity.

We would spend hours trying to uncover organizational structures, mapping out everyone involved in the deal, identifying their buying role, and discovering that buyer’s position in the deal.

We spent this amount of time on organizational chart mapping because we had to in order to win. In the economic turmoil after 9/11 and the Great Recession later in the decade, winning deals was hard! Businesses rigorously scrutinized both the expense and potential vendors, and questioned everything. If you wanted to make your quota and keep your job, you had to ensure you covered every buyer, understanding and aligning your solution to their personal wins.

Fast-forward to today, and both as the CEO of a tech-enabled service company and as an adviser at NVP, I work with B2B sellers to help them optimize their performance. When getting into deal reviews, I rarely see the use of org chart mapping anymore. The past decade’s economic boom made enterprise selling easier than when I started. Whether it was buyers loosening the purse strings, solutions that more clearly delivered an ROI, or improved seller productivity (likely some combination of all three)—the need to map the prospect’s organization to win a deal lost some of its necessity.


It’s Time to Dust Off Your Organizational Chart Mapping Skills

Whether we are in a recession or not, any enterprise seller will tell you times are tougher. Many companies I spend time with are seeing YOY declines in top-of-funnel lead generation, increases in sales cycle length, declining win rates, and more dreaded “pushes.” But our companies still need to grow, and as enterprise sales professionals, we need to step up our games to do our parts. I am encouraging my company’s sellers and NVP portfolio companies to dust off their organization chart mapping skills to improve their performance.

Mapping organizations is not rocket science; many selling methodologies have their own twist. I learned via Miller-Heiman’s Strategic Selling Methodology. This approach identified four broad buyer roles, which are detailed below.

1. The Economic Buyer: Controls the budget and makes the final decision
The Economic Buyer makes the final decision and often they are either the direct budget holder or it rolls up to them. Typically, they are the most senior person involved in the decision and are looking at the broader benefits of your decision to drive ROI. They are asking if your solution helps them make more money, reduce costs, or support a growth strategy. It is always one of those reasons. There is also always only one Economic Buyer for a sale. Many argue there are multiple, but my push back is always you haven’t identified the true Economic Buyer yet.

2. The User Buyer: Is a direct end-user of the solution you’re selling
User Buyers are going to use your solution. Getting this audience on board is critical to influencing the Economic Buyer. User Buyers want to understand how it will help them do their jobs better, solve their pain, and not threaten their jobs. For example, early in my career, I had a solution that could reduce indirect spending for prospects and was always shocked when a Procurement team told me “no.” What Procurement team doesn’t want to save money?! The mystery was solved one day when a category buyer confessed that it would take away her value to the organization. Never forget, the solution must appeal to people’s personal motivations and if it doesn’t, you’ll need to find a way around that audience.

3. The Technical Buyer: Determines technical compliance of your solution
Technical Buyers are my least favorite buying roles. They can’t say yes, but they can say “no”. These roles are often people in IT, Procurement, or Legal. They can stop a deal because you don’t have a specific security certification, you can’t agree to long payment terms, or you won’t budget on a key legal term. Rarely do they have a personal win in a deal, often they are just trying to reduce risk and not create more work for themselves.

4. Coaches: Your internal champion
Coaches want to see your solution implemented and they’re one of the most important roles. If your solution or your relationship with that Coach is aligned, this person will champion you within an organization, guiding you to the win with the information you need. Rarely have I won an enterprise deal (or seen a victory) without a Coach.


How to map an organization chart

With my deals, I would create an organization chart of everyone who could tough those deals, label their buying role, and then color code the box to identify their position in the opportunity. That chart often became the focus of my deal reviews, helping to identify ideas to help move a deal a long and identifying areas of risk (e.g., “We haven’t done a demo for a group of user buyers, we need to try and get that scheduled asap!”).

Rejuvenating the use of organizational chart mapping in your deal reviews and selling processes is easy. As a CEO or a sales leader, you can take action with these simple steps:

      • Ensure your team works off of a common methodology to understand organizational dynamics. Whether it’s Miller-Heiman’s approach or something custom to your sales process, your team needs to have a common language.
      • Incorporate organization charts into deal reviews. Make organization charts with identified roles and your deal position a mandatory part of the deal process. These charts should be robust, and if you only see two to three names on a >$100K deal, your seller does not have the complete picture!
      • Be patient. A tougher economy may mean “fewer swings at the plate,” so more deal discipline like org charts will hopefully improve your win rates to help overcome this challenge. Mapping an org chart and developing specific win strategies takes time, so you may not see the same deal velocity as the past few years.

In a future post, I’ll cover in more detail how to identify this information, develop Coaches, and identify strategies to win people over. As a teaser, though, it all comes down to asking great questions and listening! Your sales organization’s ability to ask and receive information to help you win the deal is the key ingredient in building this muscle.

Happy selling!


About the author
David is a senior advisor at Norwest Venture Partners, providing counsel to Norwest’s portfolio companies in the areas of sales, marketing, and operations strategy and execution. He is an experienced data industry executive with more than 20 years of proven success in securing and increasing revenue from new and incumbent customers while delivering superior client satisfaction.