Account Based Selling and ABM. Why They Work

Account Based Marketing has flipped the sales funnel as marketers know it. Where before it was a straightforward story from awareness to transaction, an account based marketing sales funnel is all about the customer, taking into account the complexity (and multiple points) of the decision-making process for businesses.

Given the length of time it can take to make a sale – especially when talking about a large enterprise – finding ways to connect to customers through marketing on a personal level is a smarter, more effective approach. Having a wealth of knowledge about a company at your fingertips makes it easier for your sales department to establish long-term, trusted relationships with loyal clients.

That explains the journey that account based marketing has taken over the years: from buzzword to a powerful marketing strategy inspired by the techniques once used by the old-school players who still remain at the top of their game. It also explains why account-based sales development (ABSD) is coming along for the ride.

Tips to Account Based Selling

  • Don’t underestimate the value of bringing sales and marketing teams together. In many industries, sales and marketing are seen as two sides of a somewhat acrimonious coin. By design, account-based marketing brings the two departments closer together, and when they are no longer polarized – and instead are meeting in the middle to target marketing-qualified leads with valuable, usable information – success is more likely.

The connection between the two departments is vital, because each work in tandem to make the sale happen. Account-based salespeople are able to establish relationships with potential clients by approaching them with solutions that meet their own unique needs, finding the best leads through the gold that is marketing department data, and retaining them through specifically targeted marketing campaigns.

  • Nurture new clients by specifically addressing their personal needs. Provide valuable information in the form of  a whitepaper offering the latest research in their field, or showing then a personalized landing page that reveals how much effort the marketing department has put into providing one-on-one attention. This shows them you are knowledgeable and will approach them with laser focus throughout your business relationship.
  • Make sales your only focus. There are other departments on hand to analyze data and determine whether calls to action are being taken or you’re getting the expected return on investment. By focusing on sales, using the valuable, unique content created by the marketing department after determining your needs, you’ll be more focused and better able to make a successful pitch. Take advantage of everything available to you, from social media to blog posts, keeping abreast on the latest industry news so you’re knowledgeable and able to answer any question a client may pose.
  • Be ready to face a number of buyers, each with specific needs. “One of our biggest B2B challenges is the number of decision makers who need to weigh in on the purchase decision,” said Reid Tatoris, co-founder of Are You A Human, a company that ensures advertising reaches actual human beings.

That requires a variety of different marketing strategies to meet a variety of different needs. ABS is like going into an account review, well-prepared pitch in hand. But instead of just a room full of clients, you have several rooms, and each one is looking at the purchase with a different set of eyes. Showing your client you know them and are ready to meet their needs is even more possible with tech as an added tool. “You really need to be able to tell your story several different ways to several different buyers in the prospect company. Everybody has the ability to veto the deal, and they all have their own purchase factors to consider,” Tatoris said.

Because there are so many people to please, each with unique needs, your company’s account based marketing plan needs to be completely on point, ready to set you up for success.

The Five Ds of ABM

There are five Ds associated with account based marketing, and each is an integral part of the process of defining solid, marketing-qualified leads, then using the right techniques to successfully guide them through the sales funnel.

DEFINE. Defining your marketing targets is to essentially create your dream portfolio. This step calls on the sales department to identify which companies they want as prospects, determining not only the businesses they want to work with but also the ones that are most likely to purchase their product or service based on their online search activities and other data.

To identify the best marketing targets on the sales side, consider

  • The revenue potential they offer if you land them as clients. (Larger companies have multiple departments, so the right client can mean limitless revenue.)
  • The likelihood that they will become longtime clients, in part based on their own strength in the marketplace.
  • Where they are geographically located. Some services – consider GPS services for landfill and construction heavy equipment, for example – are so specific that location may not matter as much as quality. For other, more competitive markets, however, having your business close by could be a major selling point.

DISCOVER. Now that you know who your ideal customer base is, it’s time for marketing and sales to team up to review your account portfolio. Determine which existing clients are most likely to give you the best return on your investment, whether that means high-end clients who are likely to spend more money, a multitude of smaller clients that you know are in need of your product or service, or both.

DEVELOP with the marketing department a marketing plan specifically tailored to your accounts.  Campaigns for new clients will be much different than for existing clients, but making them as personalized as possible will yield the best results.

Take a page from Fed-Ex’s latest marketing playbook and make sure that your brand is cohesive throughout the campaign, with one singular voice.

DEPLOY. With multiple strategies in place, it’s time to execute your company’s ABM strategies and make your move, sending coordinated inbound and outbound marketing efforts to the companies most likely to be successful sales – based on the intel you and the marketing department have gathered.

Make sure the marketing campaigns you choose are specific to your target, no matter which available channel you are using to market to them.

DATA. Data plays multiple roles in both account based marketing and account bases sales. Near real-time behavioral data – a new tool in the pocket of today’s B2B marketers — gives sales departments a heads-up so they know exactly when to reach out to prospects, catching them in that critical window when decisions are made.

“In the B2B environment, buyers get through about 50-60 percent of the sales process on their own —before ever engaging a potential provider,” according to Lewis Miller, CEO of the sales execution software company Qvidian. “The sales cycle is in mid-stream by the time salespeople are involved. If they don’t understand this, and try to start at the beginning, the prospect will disengage. Knowing where a prospect’s head already is—and falling into stride—can differentiate one provider from all the others.”

Data also allows you to determine based on the numbers whether your campaigns have been successful or not. Analyzing data after a campaign will show you your return on investment, allowing you to see where you were successful, and where you were not. That allows the marketing department to tweak future ABM campaigns, making future sales easier for your department.

It All Starts With Sales

The value of bringing sales and marketing teams together during the discovery process is priceless. In many industries, sales and marketing are seen two sides of a somewhat acrimonious coin. Marketers often claim they gave the sales department the tools they needed, but they couldn’t seal the deal, while the sales department said the marketing department either didn’t bring in decent leads, or didn’t nail the marketing, making it impossible to make the sale.

ABSD brings the two departments closer together, and when they are no longer polarized – and instead are meeting in the middle to target marketing-qualified leads with valuable information – success is more likely. The connection between the two departments is vital, because each work in tandem to make the sale happen. Account-based sales in not only about establish relationships with potential leads by approaching them with solutions that meet their own unique needs, but also about finding the best leads through the gold that is marketing department data.

According to statistics, when sales departments attempt to convert traditional marketing leads into sales, they fail 79 percent of the time, creating a bigger divide between the two sides.

Using ABM, however, research shows that 84 percent of companies using ABM have reported a higher return on investment, suggesting that the strategy works for both marketing and sales.

Of companies using ABM, 96 percent have seen positive results, suggesting that a personalized approach gives the sales department the leverage it needs to earn the trust of the prospective client and clinch the deal.

(To that end, Xerox was recently recognized by SiriusDecisions, a Connecticut-based B2B research and advisory firm, for its best-in-class Large Account targeting. Xerox used ABM to create can’t miss campaigns that allowed the sales department to expand the company’s reach in new countries, generating enough growth to double its staff.)

Account based marketing and sales has worked for Xerox for years. But what about you?

If your dream portfolio is packed with high-value clients making complex business decisions about products or services and yours is one of the best choices for them, account based marketing is a smart move, because it allows you to showcase your value in a deeper, more meaningful way than you would by handing your card over at a trade conference. (That trade conference, however, could take you directly to the second D of ABM’s Five D’s, so don’t discount that interaction.)

If the majority of your sales revenue comes from clients that spend several budget cycles making business decisions about your product, ABM is the smartest way to reach them. The major players will have your information at the ready when they head into the next budget meeting, making it more likely that your company rises to the top of the list when it comes time to make a decision, and that sales call will be the one that’s answered.

Finding ways to connect to prospects through marketing on a personal level is a smarter, more effective approach. Having a wealth of knowledge about a company – and the people in those companies – bridges the gap, giving marketers the ability to focus efforts on the right people at the right time. Making it easier for salespeople to establish long-term, trusted relationships with loyal clients.

That explains why account based marketing has gone from buzzword to a powerful marketing strategy inspired by the techniques once used by the old-school players who still remain at the top of their game. It also explains why account-based sales development (ABSD) is coming along for the ride.

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