I don’t think there is anyone on the planet that can avoid the reality and need to be able to influence and persuade others. The process, challenge and complexity of managing people, our ability to understand others and effectively communicate is tied to our success.
Whether you’re working on a specific project, you want to influence others to support an idea or you need to manage a variety of different relationships on a daily basis. You need to be proactive in managing your stakeholders.
In key account management this makes a huge difference to the results you get from your key customers. Today I want to take a slightly deeper dive into stakeholder management which is an extension of what I begin to write about in my book the ‘the key account hack’.
Influenced by the work of great people I've learned from here are 5 real practical steps you can take today to begin formulating great stakeholder preparation to ensure your managing current and potential stakeholders effectively.
First of all its important to know why and when you should adopt stakeholder planning and analysis.
Here is when
- Ideally at the start of a project
- When the scope changes and new stakeholders are affected
- When the consequences of the changes are unclear or certain parties may be adversely affected
- When high level sponsorship is required
- When the project is complex and lots of different parties are involved
If you choose to take this step the benefits are immeasurable.
- You get more buy-in to what you want to achieve because you’ve spent time considering what’s important to them.
- By exploring their needs you will by nature be involving them in the process and building engagement early in the process. You’ll also get a sense from them of what needs to happen and when. This will increase your chances of gaining their support as your idea or project takes shape.
- Understanding your stakeholders means that you gain a broader picture of what you have to consider when implementing your goals. It helps make your contingency planning more robust.
- You can also gain support earlier which in many cases will help you get access to faster decision-making and resources when you need them.
Now you know lets get stuck in an evaluate the 5 critical steps to winning stakeholder management :)
NO1. BRAINSTORM ALL THE STAKEHOLDERS INVOLVED
Think about all of those people who have an interest in the outcome of your project or idea, who have power or influence over it and are affected by it. They may come from a range of places: customers, their suppliers, your suppliers, managers, senior managers, employees, your immediate team, support functions (eg Finance, HR, Purchasing etc), shareholders, government, regulatory bodies, the general public, trade unions. Where any of these might represent an organisation, be sure to consider who in those organisations will be most important to take notice of. In all matters of stakeholder management you are influencing individuals not institutions so name individuals.
NO2. MAP YOUR STAKEHOLDERS
If you end up with a huge list you will want to prioritise them according to their impact on your customer project or deal. You can do this by rating them against your own criteria of importance or by using a simple but very effective mapping grid. If you have an account planning CRM great but I’d still suggest writing it out so its clearer in your mind. You can even flip chart this and use it as a collaboration exercise with internal departments involved.
Once you begin the key thing to realise is this. The position a person is on the grid will determine how you’ll manage the relationship and the priority you place on their importance to the success of the project.
Stakeholder Grid Map – I've created a free template for your HERE+BONUS GUIDES TO HELP WITH THE PROCESS
NO3. ANALYSE YOUR STAKEHOLDERS
It’s helpful to deepen your understanding of those who are critical to your project. The questions below are guidelines to stimulate your thinking about what would be useful.
- What is important to them? What motivates them?
- What capability do they have to carry out their role in the project?
- What’s in it for them in this project? How do they, or their department, benefit?
- Who is important to them and what are they influenced by?
- Do they support or oppose the project? What is the strength of this (eg on 1-10 scale)?
- How can you utilise their support to achieve your project goals?
- If they oppose the project, how can you manage this? Do any of the supporters have leverage to influence them?
- How would they like to receive information? Medium? Frequency? Level of detail?
Note: If you have a CRM or system for mapping use that. I do have tools I could recommend but for now I'm more interested in you getting the process and then adding tools to support that later.
Use these questions, and any others you come up with, to identify each player and plot them on the stakeholder grid I've shared. Put a + or – sign next to each name to differentiate their response (positive or negative) on your map, or colour code them. If you can’t answer the questions yourself, ask your stakeholders directly, or get the views from others involved.
NO4. COMMUNICATION PLAN
To avoid lack of clarity, unnecessary time involved in gaining support, and other project problems that result from poor communication, it’s vital to create a communication plan. Avoid complicating matters by creating separate plans for each individual. Prioritise the most important and group the rest.
Time Guesstimate how much time you’ll need for communication. This will depend on how tight the milestones and final deadlines are from the start date. It will also depend on the size and complexity of the project, the resource you have and how much help you need. You’ll need project sponsorship, advocates, specific knowledge/expertise, access to information for starters. Your assessment of the stakeholders will help you determine how much time you need. Once you’ve guesstimated, add on at least 20%, as managing stakeholders and communication issues invariably take longer than we’d like.
Role What role do you want them to play? What does support look like? What do they actually have to do? How available will they need to be? Do they require coaching? What do you need to ‘contract’ with them about? To answer this last question, brainstorm what might go wrong so you can discuss how to handle problems, eg lack of availability, lack of budget, lack of decision-making power. Discuss how to manage the consequences if the contract falls down.
Priority order Consider the order in which to communicate with stakeholders. Whom do you need to target first? How might this impact the messages for key stakeholders?
Message What are your key messages for each stakeholder to get them on board? How will you sell in the benefits and enable them to buy in to how your project fits in to other initiatives. How can you reinforce this over time? How much communication does each person need?
NO5. ACTION PLAN
Define your role and specific actions to make the above happen. How will you manage expectations and deliver difficult messages. Spending time early on understanding your stakeholders and how you can best win them over will pay dividends. It will:
- save you time later on
- reduce or eliminate stress
- minimise resistance and misunderstandings
- help you more effectively manage your relationships
- steer your way through organisational politics
Take each step slowly. The effective working of each step produces greater results not just the steps themselves.
If you're a key account manager, consultant or sales leader who recognises the continued importance to master deepening, differentiating and growing your key client relationships. Get connected at www.jermaineedwards.com
Founder of the Key Account Hack System - New Key Account thinking that transforms customer relationships and creates predictable sales growth.