The first known use of the noun “company” dates back to the 13th century according to Merriam Webster. It’s origin can be traced back to the word “companion” and a company often refers to an association of people.
When making reference to a client supplier relationship, the definition of a company plays an essential role. People in companies create these relationships and it is these relationships that makes business possible. But unlike social relationships the role of the individual only exists under the bigger umbrella that is the company.
This nuance is essential as one can rightfully assume that the loss of employees can potentially deteriorate existing successful relationships. Institutionalising these relationships becomes paramount to hedge for employees turnover. And while organisations are getting better at it to protect their top line, much room for improvement exists throughout a company.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools and their ability to manage accounts and contacts is a proven way to collect these institutional relationships. They offer a good understanding of who knows who at existing and target clients and also who does what. However such systems are far too static. They indeed fail to capture the constant churn within enterprises and the evolving power and influence their existing contacts may have on certain purchasing decisions.
Individuals in companies buy. But the buying process is never led by one single person. Many people within the enterprise get consulted and they are not always the same. Roles in the buying process change over time or based on the importance the decision will have on their daily work-life. And because of that power does not necessarily correlate with title.
Knowing your existing institutional relationships is fundamental. But understanding how these relationships map against your target client’s buying influence network is what will ultimately make the difference between winning and losing a deal. Are your relationships at the centre of the the buying influence network or are they merely playing a role at the edge?
Social networking features that will cross enterprises boundaries will allow managing these constantly morphing institutional relationships. The benefits for sales and marketing are clear, but they are as important for the procurement function. Understanding who shows interest in certain products and services and who posses relationships with actual vendors and prospects will permit better stakeholders involvement and ultimately successful change management.