When you ask Key Account Managers (KAMs) to show you the relationships they established in their account, they will most likely show you some form of organization chart. Sophisticated KAMs have annotated those graphs with additional information about the people involved. Usually, this information is accompanied with the remark: “It is a bit out of date, but I just did not have the time to update it yet. Things are changing so fast in this organization”. A sustainable up-to-date view of your relations in a complex account starts with having a more granular view of the data elements you need to describe your relations allowing for more flexible faster updates.
Holding the purse strings gives you the power to act, decide, veto, choose, etc. You can step in at the last minute and decide to call the whole thing off.
Obviously, information is shared and discussed during complex decision-making processes. Sales teams prepare sales messages, kits, demonstrations, etc. The potential client holds internal meetings, they look at the literature and compare solutions, they meet the sales force. There may be a pilot study, the results of which are shared and analyzed. There are additional internal meetings, during which the outcome of the pilot study is discussed : return on investment, adoption rate, customer satisfaction, etc.
And yet, sometimes someone suddenly comes out and stops the whole process, meaning the whole thing is dropped. This someone may or may not have had access to the information during the evaluation period.
The short answer is no, but it’s a start
Firstly, LinkedIn contains only information that a person is willing to reveal about her/himself. Secondly, there is no indication of the quality of the relationship between two people.
But what about the degree of separation that is shown on LinkedIn?
Mark Granovetter is famous for his ideas on weak ties within social networks. Although his most famous work is over 40 years old, it’s still relevant nowadays. I’ll start with an outline of his main ideas, if you want more detail I recommend you read the original article in the American Journal of Sociology (1973).
Granovetter starts with the premise that within social networks there are different degrees of relationships. He suggests that intuitively we recognize our relationships as strong, weak or absent. Two people who share a strong tie are likely to spend time together and share interests as well as character traits. They are also likely to share friends and relationships. This leads to the development of a close network of people.
It's been two decades since I read the following statement from a Swiss salesman : "I do not sell anything to people. I just talk to them until they want to buy".
At that time, he had already understood that selling is not about closing techniques and objection handling but about holding "value-adding-conversations" with potential clients. The major change since then is that salesman now have to engage these conversations with buyers that are extremely busy. They rather talk as little as possible and act as much as possible.