We were amazed and disappointed to read some disturbing research data from Gartner about sellers.

Around 900 salespeople contributed to the research. 89% of them feel burned out and 54 % are actively looking for a new job. If this data is an accurate representation of the wider seller industry then it’s worrying and something has to be done to reverse these increasing trends.

According to Gartner, there are 3 main ‘complexities’ that burden sellers. At number 1 is Customer Complexity This refers to the ever-growing number of stakeholders – often from different business units – who will be involved in the decision process that sellers need to identify, engage and manage.

This ‘burden’ and challenge doesn’t come as a surprise to us as we talk to sellers everyday about this exact problem. Here is a summary of learnings from those seller calls:

  • Seller organisations have not mapped and documented the typical wider stakeholder/decision team for what they sell
  • Sellers are typically getting <30% engagement coverage across stakeholder teams
  • Sellers are too focused on senior decision makers (economic buyers) and lack wider buying team stakeholder engagement
  • Sellers struggle to earn the right to engage with some senior and specific functional persona stakeholders
  • Sellers make the mistake of trying to sell to each stakeholder ahead of understanding the stakeholder
  • Sellers are too one dimensional and don’t adapt for each stakeholder
  • Sellers don’t have planned steps to move the needle with each stakeholder
  • Sellers don’t understand the dynamics between the stakeholders in a decision team
  • Sellers only have a vague understanding of stakeholder influence levels
  • Sales leaders struggle to clearly and easily see who and what their sellers know when it comes to stakeholders
  • Less than 1% do any form of stakeholder mapping in sales (including relationship or powerbase or DMU mapping)

Decision Stakeholders

Let’s take a brief look at the key metrics of customer buying today that are driving the need for stakeholder mapping in sales, especially in complex and enterprise deals:

  • There are typically 11+ stakeholders involved in a purchasing decision
  • This can occasionally flex up to nearly 20
  • Stakeholders come from high, wide and deep across an organisation
  • They can be categorised into three core groups – decision makers, approvers and users
  • Their responsibilities will span across strategic, operational, financial, technical, contractual and compliance
  • They make buying decisions by consensus and committee

Individual Stakeholders

Stakeholders will vary individually, so it’s important to fully understand each of them :

  • Their level of influence
  • Their position on change
  • Their level of involvement
  • Ease of access to them
  • Their level of support for you

Supporting Sellers

The ‘burden’ of managing the wider buying team will only get tougher and sales is now as much about people management as it is about opportunity management.

Companies and their sales leadership need to do more to support their sales teams and reduce customer complexity by providing them with the training, tools and support to be more effective in stakeholder engagement and management.

Recruiting, refining and retaining successful teams should be high on the agenda of every organisation and more effective and successful and relationship stakeholder mapping in sales will contribute towards reducing the feeling of burnout and a desire to find a new job.

Equipping sellers

Reducing seller burden is the upside of using stakeholder mapping in sales, but the primary outcome is to improve sales results to benefit both the salesperson and the business.

Using online documents for this task is not the best solution due to their limitations in terms of capabilities and ease of use for both sellers and the colleagues who support customer engagements. The ideal scenario is a stakeholder mapping tool that integrates or synchronises with your CRM, however, this is currently limited to a handful of CRM’s including Salesforce, Dynamics, Sugar and HubSpot.

SaaS based stakeholder mapping tools vary in their level of capabilities from basic to comprehensive. The majority of solutions focus on mapping stakeholders at an account level highlighting general seller perspectives such as decision roles, status, access, path to deal and other basic selections.

More advanced solutions enable sellers to create generalised stakeholder mapping for an account plus more specific mapping at each opportunity level. This is important for sellers with multiple opportunities into an account because whilst a buyer may be for change and your supporter on one opportunity they could be the opposite on another.

The dynamics, politics and opinions vary from deal to deal, so its important to be mindful of this when selecting the right tool for your team.

How it helps sellers

An organised method of stakeholder management is better than a disorganised and random method which will achieve little except contribute to the burden of customer complexity.

Viewing customer contacts with little or no relevant attributes or structure is the same as any text based list, it provides no context of status or understanding. This is what you get from the vast majority of CRM systems, contact records.

Sales is already complicated, stakeholder mapping helps to reduce that complexity because visualization is better than reading, it provides greater clarity. Being able to see who and what you know and who and what you don’t know helps you focus on the steps you need to take to reduce the risk of a no-decision or loss and increase your chances of a win.

This not only improves the sellers opportunity management but also makes deal reviews and QBR’s more informative and productive.

B2B sales is like jigsaw puzzles, you have to have all of the pieces and know how they fit together to complete them. By using stakeholder mapping in sales you give your team the solution to reducing customer complexity.

Boxxstep Advanced Stakeholder Mapping

Boxxstep is the most comprehensive stakeholder/relationship mapping tool available and it brings together other stakeholder focused tools such as Mutual Action Plans and Win-Loss performance feedback for a seamless buyer-centric strategy.

Stakeholder organigrams include:

Account – Contact Reporting line, Politics, Ownership and Focus
Opportunity – Contact Politics, Ownership, Deal Influence, Deal Buying Stage and Consensus Alignment

The dynamic visualizations enable sellers to easily see:

Account – Contact general Business Support, Involvement and Influence
Opportunity – Change Position, Solution Opinion, Vendor Preference

In addition to this a single click and sellers can capture and manage stakeholder profiles for each opportunity including any their criteria, concerns, challenges and objections.

Check out Boxxsteps relationship and stakeholder mapping capabilities and see for yourself


Stakeholder mapping in sales has been seen as a nice to have feature but things have changed. Increased customer complexity means that sales teams need a better way to capture, manage, share, action and review who and what they know about each customer stakeholder team. Using the right tool/platform will not only reduce the burden of customer management complexity it could also increase your win rates.

Now is the time to consider using one.

Note: For information and not explanation the other two major burdens on sellers identified in the research are Product Complexity (ever-growing set of products, solutions, and use-cases) and Internal Complexity (policies, procedures, processes, methodologies and systems).