The problems with account mapping and co-selling

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"Account mapping" is the process of seeing your overlapping prospects or customers inside of another company's CRM. 

For most of us, the goal of this exercise is to pick out and "co-sell" key accounts with the partner. Which sounds fantastic on paper. 

However, nothing is ever as good or easy as it sounds on paper. So let's dig into the conflicts that can arise in the practice of mapping accounts and co-selling... Then, we can try to find ways to avoid them. 

The main issues we hear about in account mapping exercises are: 

  1. Tunnel vision and zero-sum mentality
  2. Too forceful or impatient
  3. Misrepresented intentions, and false expectations

We'll get into these in more detail below, and provide some suggestions to overcome them, but let's keep digging into the why of this problem...

This is what most all agency operators will think when you start off by requesting to map accounts is; 

"You want me to show you my book of business so you can tell me who 'needs' your solution...  How is that in any way beneficial to my agency?"

This is a one-sided proposition because tech partner teams (and sales teams) are NOT close to the customers. They deal with partners, and prospects all day. And are not in a position to facilitate direct referrals.

Conversely, agencies are VERY close to their customers. I mean Christmas cards close. When was the last time you received a Christmas card from the partnerships manager at some software vendor you bought a license for? 

Often, the agency's client is a family friend, and they text regularly. 

So why do the tech teams think their customer is anywhere near as valuable as the agency's clients? 

Let's explore the main issues we hear about in account mapping exercises:

1 - Tunnel vision and a zero-sum mentality

A good quote to help me articulate this first issue in the process of mapping accounts is; 

"To a hammer, everything looks like a nail." 

In this context, I mean to imply that when you are only after a singular goal, you often push too hard toward that goal and miss the opportunity that could have been cultivated. 

The "zero-sum mentality" comes into effect when only one party benefits. Tunnel vision leads to a zero-sum mentality. And therefore, only one party can benefit.

This is why a co-selling motion, and partnerships in general, cannot succeed if either party has tunnel vision and/or a zero-sum mentality.

2 - Too forceful or impatient

You would never walk up to a potential partner and ask "Can we share all of our past relationships?"

Kaitlynn Sirotkin, Head of Partnerships for BridgeRev (HubSpot Elite agency) had this to say about her experience with tech teams wanting to map accounts with her:

What people think effective partnerships look like - "Here's an invite to Crossbeam and/or Reveal aka how can we mine your CRM." Boom. Done.
If I am being honest, that approach is one of the quickest ways you will give me the ick. In my opinion, a good partnership Is about nurturing relationships, fostering creativity, and consistently delivering value.
...Remember, partnerships are more than just transactions; they're relationships built on trust, collaboration, and mutual respect.

Kaitlynn's advice is to first build the relationship. Do not lead with account mapping - that comes later.

And, most importantly, do not to pretend your willingness to "map accounts" is a "partnership."

Be patient and let the partnership progress naturally as alignment continues to unfold. If it doesn't, then move on. If alignment continues, then progress to a stage where you both fully trust each other, and then map accounts.

3 - Misrepresented intentions, and false expectations

Usually, mapping accounts is requested by the person wanting access to anyone in your pipeline they would like to sell to. 

The ideal of co-selling is not where the false expectation lies. 

The issue lies in the ideal that your (SaaS org) data is more valuable than the agencies. That's almost always the case when a tech partner team or sales team wants to map accounts with an agency / service provider because the service providers "clients" are vastly more valuable than all of the "users" of the SaaS product. 

**Again, in the case above, I am speaking to SaaS org's who want to map accounts with service providers.

But, what about when a larger SaaS company wants to map accounts with a smaller SaaS? 

This can create a 4th issue: 

😲 I'm hearing a lot of complaints from point solutions who got bait and switched into mapping accounts with larger platforms only to learn they wanted to see the revenue potential of that feature, just to build it themselves... and were never intending to co-sell with the smaller point solution.

In one circumstance, the larger SaaS bated the smaller SaaS to map accounts with the promise of co-selling (a very attractive offer if you are the smaller org). Weeks after showing the data, the larger SaaS realized there was ~$17M in yearly revenue if they simply built the features of the smaller SaaS into their product.

Fastforward a few months and press releases about the release of their directly-competitive software came out leaving the smaller SaaS company high and dry.

This is a warning for any SaaS mapping accounts with larger platforms who can and will release competitive features if/when they see all that opportunity in your customer base after you map accounts with them. 

In short, definitely co-sell... but be careful actually mapping accounts. The two do not have to be one and the same. 

You can co-sell without mapping accounts. 

My suggestion is simply: 

  1. Before mapping accounts, co-market to gain further alignment and ensure your customers actually want what they other org offers.
  2. Try bringing a few prospect URLs onto calls with the partners to strategize a co-selling function with any of those prospects.
  3. Get onto sales calls with your partner.
  4. Then, and only then, IF feel like mapping accounts is a solid next step, potentially sign a non-compete (which may not be fullproof... but it can help ensure you are not getting bated into a research project which could lead to a new competitor).

In summary: 

😁 Tech organizations reading... must look at the partnership through the lens of building a new shared customer base together through strategic initiatives and a reciprocal GTM. Think of it as instead of I take a piece of your pie, you take a piece of mine...

Let's bake a new pie together 🥧🥧

I hope this was helpful.

Alex, founder.