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Channel Matters Blog > April 2014 > Relationship Mapping Explained

Relationship Mapping Explained

by Rich Blakeman
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In my last post, How to Sell a Partner to the Territory Manager, I gave Channel Account Managers (CAMs) four tips for helping the territory manager (TM) see the benefits of collaborating with channel partners.
In this post, I want to touch more deeply on the topic of relationship mapping. CAMs, if your TMs aren’t already looking at their territory from this point of view, I encourage you to discuss this with them. In our consulting engagements, I’ve seen first-time relationship mapping create some real “ah-ha moments” for TMs.
The territory manager’s goal
Territory Managers reach their numbers in one of two ways:
  • Building deeper relationships with existing accounts, and therefore, selling more into these accounts
  • Developing new accounts
Relationship mapping can help with both of these objectives by uncovering relationships that channel partners already have and which the TMs can leverage. To understand this more fully, it helps to look at three types of relationship maps.
Role-based relationships
Almost all TMs have specific strengths, e.g., a TM with a financial background might be particularly adept at selling to the CFO. Alternatively, a TM with a technical background might be great at speaking the language of the CTO, CIO and end users – but when it comes to connecting with the CFO, they’re a duck out of water.
The purpose of role-based relationship mapping is to evaluate potential collaboration with partners based on the types of roles to which they can help the TM connect. Here’s how it might look when diagrammed:

In this scenario, the TM has a good handle on selling to the CFO and CEO, whereas channel partner A’s strengths are with the CIO, CTO and technical users. If the TM is selling a portfolio of technical products, a relationship with this partner could be beneficial at helping them penetrate deeper into some of their existing accounts.
Contrast the above scenario with a potential relationship with channel partner B whose strengths mirror those of the TM. No matter how good channel partner B is at closing business, they don’t bring anything to the table when viewed from this angle.
Luckily for partner B, there is another way of relationship mapping.
Industry-based relationships
In this example, let’s look at a specific selling scenario. Our territory manager represents a software developer who sells high-end applications for professional services providers. These applications can be customized to meet the unique needs of various professions. Our TM has been selling these solutions for a few years and has established strong ties to the CPA and business management consulting community in his area. Unfortunately, he hasn’t made any headway with the healthcare community.
Luckily for our TM, channel partner B was started by a former doctor. She’s great at speaking the language of her profession and closing business. Unfortunately, she doesn’t like to market all that much and is usually hurting for opportunities.

There’s a great opportunity for a win-win relationship here. The TM needs someone who can cover the healthcare professions, especially when marketing passes him an opportunity. Channel partner B can speak the language of the market and close the business. She just needs someone to alert her to the opportunities.
In this example, the relationship with the channel partner is helping the TM expand market coverage. It’s similar to market mapping, but it goes one step deeper into specific types of relationships – in this case, healthcare professionals.
Let’s take a look at one final type of relationship mapping – account-based.
Account-based relationship mapping
In this scenario, our TM is selling services to government agencies across the upper Midwest. Notoriously hard accounts to break into, relationships are everything when selling into the government market. Over the years, she’s developed great relationships with agencies in the states surrounding the Great Lakes: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. However, when she ventures out into the western portion of her territory: Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska, she runs into a brick wall.
Luckily for our TM, partner C is based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and has been working accounts in this region for years.

This relationship works out for our TM in two ways. It allows her to get a foot in the door of accounts that isn’t having any success with currently. Better yet, it saves her hours of relatively unproductive travel time if she can enlist a channel partner to cover that region of her territory.
These are just three of the most common ways to look at relationship mapping. When you sit down to map out relationships with your territory managers, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you came up with a few new ways. If so, I’d love to hear about it. Let us know by adding your comments or reaching out to me at
Last modified on 4/30/2014 2:05:16 PM
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