How often is only one person from the customer side involved in a B2B sale?
Even small transactions usually have to be approved by someone else.
And when it comes to big deals there can be a whole stack of people. Business users, influencers, technical experts, budget holders and decision makers.
And that’s just for starters.
Gatekeepers, external consultants, regulators…..sometimes it seems the whole company has something to say about your deal.
Often it’s hard to know the role everyone is playing. Decision makers, for example, are notoriously hard to identify and pin down.
But recording the people involved and their perceived role has major benefits.
It facilitates thinking about stakeholder management. It encourages opportunity owners to think about their communication strategy. It challenges sales people to unearth other people that might scupper the deal.
But what’s the best way to keep track of all this?
There’s a right way and a wrong way.
The right way is Contact Roles.
OK, so what’s the wrong way?
The wrong way is to create a field on the Opportunity that ‘looks up’ to the Contact. Or worse still, create multiple fields like this.
Lots of companies are tempted to track Contacts on opportunities this way. But here’s the problem:
- Only one Contact relationship is recorded against each Opportunity.
- There’s no way to record the specific role played by the Contact on the Opportunity.
Look at Martin Johnson. Is he the only person involved? Probably not. And is he the decision maker or an influencer? Perhaps he’s the project manager. Or the technical evaluator. We simply don’t know.
That’s the wrong way to record contact roles on an opportunity. Don’t do it!
Difference between Contact Roles and Partner Roles
The difference is simple.
Contact Roles allow Contacts (i.e. people) to be associated with an Opportunity.
Partner Roles allow Accounts (i.e. organizations) to be associated with an Opportunity.
Don’t be put off by the term ‘Partner Roles’. Many of our customers have re-named Partner Roles to Account Roles. They use this function to record the role played by other external advisers or consultants. But they also use it to record competitors on the opportunity.
And remember, we’re talking here about the roles played on the Opportunity. There’s similar functions for recording Contact Roles and Partner Roles on Accounts rather than individual Opportunities.
How to use Opportunity Contact Roles
Contact Roles allow sales people to associate multiple people (Contacts) with an opportunity.
The specific role played by each Contact on the opportunity can be recorded. Here’s an example using the standard Contact Role picklist values that come with salesforce.
I confess. I haven’t seen many customers using these standard values.
Many companies modify the Contact Role picklist to suit their business. Here’s an example taken from one of our customers.
In this case Steve Brown has been identified as the Primary Contact using the radar button on the left.
Once saved, here’s how the information is displayed on the Opportunity.
We can even see that one Contact (Alex Riley) has been added from another Account. She’s an external consultant providing technical advice to the customer. If we close this deal successfully we almost certainly need to include her in our communications plan.
How to use Partner Opportunity Roles
Sometimes other companies (Accounts) are playing a role on an opportunity. Those companies can be consulting firms, technical advisors or procurement specialists.
Link other Accounts to the opportunity using the standard partner roles function. In our example we’ve modified the term Partner Roles to Account Roles. This is because we also use it to track Competitors on the opportunity. Account Roles seems a better term when you do this.
Again, modify the standard Partner Role picklist values to suit your specific business.
Now we have a full view of the companies and contacts that are playing a role on the opportunity.
Managing the Buying Center in salesforce
If you simply need a way to record the role played by each person then Contact Roles work just fine.
But sometimes it’s more complicated.
The Buying Center is a 40 year-old concept first attributed to Webster and Wind. It’s the informal group of people that have varying influence on a B2B purchase decision.
It might be 40 years old but it’s a hugely valuable concept that is still used by both sales people and purchasing managers.
So if your sales process is based around the Buying Center then you need a step up on Contact Roles.
In the Buying Center you record not only the role played by each person but also their level of support for your solution.
It’s the combination of this role and support level that forms the basis for the communication strategy for each member of the group.
That can’t be done using standard Contact Roles. That’s because this particular function can’t be modified or extended.
The solution is to create a custom Contact Role function. In our case, this object is called the Buying Center (but it can be called anything that makes sense in your business).
Each Buying Center record stores information about the relationship between the Contact and the Opportunity.
Now we have the ability to capture a greater depth of information about each person associated with the Opportunity.
Use Contact Roles today
It’s not difficult to set up and use Contact Roles. Just have your system administrator add the function to your opportunity page layouts. Then customize the picklist values to suit the opportunity stakeholder approach in your business.
Then start proactively identifying and managing the people that matter in your sales deals!