What is corporate hierarchy? It’s the business landscape upon which epic battles are fought. And there’s no question that B2B sales is a battlefield: Reputations, sales, and profits are lost and won.
As with any battle, the key to winning is knowing the terrain on which the battle is taking place.
Nowhere is this more critical than in enterprise sales, where understanding an organization’s corporate hierarchy can illuminate the battlefield. The stakes are high – and your competitors know it.
That’s why you need to know corporate hierarchy as you plot the path forward.
In this blog, you’ll learn what it is – and how to:
- Find valuable connections you may not know you have
- A high-level view of corporate hierarchy for a global strategy
- Uncovering enterprise buying centers
What is corporate hierarchy – and why is it so important?
Corporate hierarchy shows an organization’s complete hierarchical structure, or the parent-child relationships between subsidiaries, divisions, branches, brands – and their parent companies.
Enterprise sales are also known as complex sales for a reason. These deals are marked by the following characteristics:
- High perceived risk
- Multiple stakeholders = multiple decision-makers
- Long sales cycle (six months or more)
Why is this so important for B2B sales? Well, once you know how entities are interrelated, you can:
- Identify the strongest point of entry
- Uncover more enterprise opportunity for your product or service
- Discover where the organizational buying centers lie
Basically, corporate hierarchy lets you be a lot more strategic with your sales approach, penetrate the enterprise more broadly – and sell more.
A roadmap for a long sales cycle
Because of its size, enterprise buyers perceive these sales as having a higher degree of perceived risk. As a result, multiple stakeholders are generally involved in the decision-making process, and they give their decision careful consideration.
All of this takes time. A lot of it.
Depending on the industry, it can take anywhere from 6 to 18 months from the time you establish first contact to the time you close a deal.
You need a strategic point of entry.
Find valuable connections you may not know you have
Imagine you want to reach out to an enterprise security firm you’ve had your eye on for a while.
The company recently closed a new round of funding, and you decide the time is right to connect. You discover through corporate hierarchy data that the company is actually a subsidiary of another company where your former colleague works, and that colleague is more than happy to make an introduction.
This important connection may have remained undiscovered if you hadn’t known about the enterprise relationship between the two companies.
In today’s complex sales environment, those are connections you can’t afford to miss.
Warm referrals can help you forge real relationships faster, and establish a foundation of credibility and trust that leads to long-term partnership (versus one-time transactions).
A high-level view of corporate hierarchy for a global strategy
Once you know all the components of an enterprise, you can identify where opportunity exists for your product or service. (And if you don’t take advantage of the interrelationship between entities, you’re probably leaving money on the table; once you’ve penetrated one entity, you’ve potentially paved the way into another.)
Start this process by looking at a corporate hierarchy map to determine which entities could benefit the most from your product or solution, and where the highest-annuity opportunities lie.
This doesn’t mean ignoring some parts of the organization. It just means prioritizing your approach to go after the most lucrative areas of an enterprise first, alongside a strong global strategy to grow long-term business within the enterprise.
Let’s say you sell a software solution designed specifically for news organizations, and you’d like to approach ABC Television. Corporate mapping will tell you that ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Company; it will show that there are numerous additional media outlets within the enterprise.
Some of the outlets, like ESPN, you may have already known Disney owned. Some of them, like Vice, you didn’t – and then there are others you’ve probably never even heard of! Turns out, there are a lot of companies and brands that Disney owns–or owns shares in–that you may not know about, and the company’s rapid pace of acquisitions makes it difficult to keep up.
Opportunity in large enterprise companies is changing constantly. Corporate hierarchy helps you stay on top of this evolving landscape, and prioritize outreach to the entities you want to tackle first.
Uncovering enterprise buying centers
The purchasing process of every enterprise is as different as the enterprise itself, so the only rule of thumb for finding buying centers is “constant requalification.”
In other words, as you’re selling, you’re constantly making sure that your prospect is the right person, in the right department, at the right entity, to actually close the deal. It’s a continual process of discovery and confirmation.
Ask ongoing qualifying questions in an evolving landscape
Once you establish your best first point-of-entry, your goal is to learn as much as possible about that enterprise’s end-to-end buying process.
To do this, ask qualifying questions – on an ongoing basis:
- When and how do you envision rolling this out to your team?
- From the time we hang up to the time we sign an agreement, what needs to happen?
- Can you walk me through that process?
- Are their other people or departments who need to play a role in the decision?
Sometimes the answers to these questions involve other entities entirely. In the case of ABC Television, for instance, the news outlet may need your solution and advocate for it, but the purchasing itself would likely happen at Disney, the corporate parent.
If you know this early on in the sales process, you may be able to sell your solution to other entities owned by Disney (especially if it’s a software solution).
Result? A more massive sale. In the case of a national retailer, for example, you wouldn’t expect individual stores to purchase their own applicant tracking systems!
By asking navigational questions on an ongoing basis, you can understand how the company buys and consumes, where the power centers are, who motivates those purchases, and what they need from you.
Your competitors may not be doing this, and it’s a huge advantage.
Between the structure of the organization and the type of product you sell, you can determine at the get-go that you should head straight to the top of the food chain.
The structure of corporate hierarchy can also provide clues about where the buying will happen – before you start a dialogue. Corporate hierarchy data gives you the terrain analysis you need before you step onto the battlefield.
You wouldn’t step out onto the field without knowing what it looks like. Your outreach should follow the same rules of engagement.
Go deeper with your enterprise sales and marketing strategy: