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  • Writer's pictureKrzysztof 'Chris' Daniel

Wardley Mapping in Sales - Report I

As I have written before, I found myself using Wardley Mapping increasingly to help with the sales process. It took me a while to even recognise that maps in sales are very different from regular mapping activities. I have even attempted to share my secrets.

The interest I observed inspired me to run an exploratory session last week. I had no plan for the meeting. Sales based on Wardley Mapping is an emergent practice, and we were trying to identify and verbalise key steps and approaches.

I will not publish the recordings... for now.

Plenty of you hoped to see recordings of this session. Initially, I wanted to share the raw videos, but the more I think about it, the more I believe it is not the right thing. Part of the discovery process is learning what did not work, requiring people to share sensitive details. I do not want those details to be held against anyone, so I will publish only anonymised lessons learned.

For now, my goal is to figure out how to balance the educational values and safety of participants. Once I learn that, I will start publishing recordings.

By the way, I am very interested to hear your story. If mapping did work for you, or it did not, share your story with me. I will be delighted!

Sharing vulnerability

Sales with Wardley Mapping has very little in common with the traditional understanding of 'sales'. The process consists of two steps:

  • knowledge gathering

  • interactive storytelling

and is rather an act of sharing what you do not know. This was a big surprise for me :).

This is much more complicated in sales than when mapping for personal or internal reasons because you are one step more away from the centre of the organisation.

When we map for our own purposes, we can attempt to identify what we do not know. It is certainly difficult and uncomfortable, yet the entire team has often shared goals and is bound by the same NDA. The outcome of the mapping process is the reflection of the team mapping capabilities.

However, in sales, the situation is different. The sales team does not know what the company knows and plans internally. The sales team does not know whether the customer is not willing to share the information or does not have it. The sales team has a very limited exposure to real plans.

The customer not knowing their direction is one kind of a fog, while the sales team not knowing customer plans is another. Mapping can help clarify both of them, but the question is whether it is possible to do it in one session. :).

The customer dealing with high levels of uncertainty might be willing to engage in conversation but will not buy anything to avoid a wrong decision. The only way I know to move forward with such a customer is to propose safe to fail experiments (which I picked from Dave Snowden).

My experience is that a full Wardley Mapping workshop may be an added value in this case if the customer is up for that.

I am also fond of the statement that Wardley Mapping in sales is about sharing vulnerability, as you cannot expect the customer to share their concerns without earning their trust. If your confidence levels are substantially different from those of customers, your message is very likely to be rejected.

All of those considerations lead to the conclusion that you must be ready to have a confident discussion about needs and products ("This is the situation, this is what we can do"), but it cannot be a starting point. You should start in a place that is more focused on exploration ("This is what we think the situation is, this is what we think we could do"). The duration of the exploratory part depends on how much time you need to level your confidence levels.

Managing this process is not possible without doing the prework. You have to accumulate enough of understanding to be a partner in the conversation. My most extreme case required 30h of preparation for the 30 mins talk.

I have described my approach to storytelling in this post.

My further plans

There is a lot of work to be done in order to move the practice of using wardley mapping in sales "to the right".

  • Prework checklist & guidance - This is a custom-built activity, as it depends heavily on who the customer is, how much do you know, and the relationship you have with the customer... I want to record a few case studies of how this knowledge gathering was done, and perhaps take a shot at creating a checklist.

  • Highlight storytelling - I deeply believe demonstrating vulnerability to people who do not know #wardleymapping has its own set of practices and checklists. Building a few case studies would definitely help the community.

  • Customer being wrong - sales pitch is not strategy workshop, however it is good to have an opinion on how the good strategy could look like for the customer. I would like to figure out how to balance acting in customer's best interests, respect for their knowledge and not selling them things they do not need.

  • Sales Playbook with Dos, Donts, Examples and Scenarios.

What have I missed?

Massive thanks for every person who joined the call!

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