With RK Maniyani, Chief Technology Officer, True Influence.
Sales and marketing alignment are a core principle of account-based marketing (ABM). Successful ABM programs align B2B marketing lead generation with sales coverage models and work closely with inside sales organizations. When sales and marketing are united in an account-based approach, they tend to speak the same language and share common goals. They both look at accounts, not individual leads, contributing to alignment and positive results.
However, few organizations – only 16% – are fully satisfied with their ABM collaboration between sales and marketing, but improvement is worth pursuing. Forrester Research found that organizations with aligned sales and marketing teams see annual revenue growth on average of 32%. Less aligned companies see a 7% decline in growth.
Lead quality issues create ABM conflict
The age-old conflict between Sales and Marketing often stems from conflicts over lead quality, and this also creeps into ABM. Marketing captures, nurtures, and scores leads, then sends them over the wall to Sales. Leads may then languish unattended, because Sales is swamped or doesn’t see the same value as Marketing does. Sales may have been burnt before by so-called “qualified leads.” Maybe the lead looks good on paper, but it’s not at the right stage for sales engagement. Or it’s the right account, but the contact is actually in a different sales territory.
ABM targeting with intent data: align around the right players
ABM unites Sales and Marketing around the best leads, instead of the two teams operating as wary siloes. Yet uncertainty still crops up when companies experience what’s called “Second Lead Syndrome.” This happens when teams view additional leads at a named account as less important than the first prospect to raise their hand. Inside sales teams just stop looking for other avenues into these accounts, and this is a fatal ABM mistake.
It’s not uncommon for one lead to come in from a target account, get routed to a rep, and then have subsequent leads from that same account ignored or deprioritized when marketers and sales reps realize communication has already been established with another lead at the same account. This “second lead syndrome” contributes to misalignment and missed opportunities in ABM.
An additional spike from the same demand unit is not always a duplicate. In fact, it could be highly desirable, and this contact should be prioritized and sent to your inside sales or direct sales organization. It could be a member of an in-market Buying Group. (SiriusDecisions defines a Buying Group (or Demand Unit) as a team within the organization that influences and ultimately makes the purchase decision.)
Although ABM-ers view accounts as collective targets, you also want those one-on-one engagements with all the key players within the Buying Groups in those accounts. Reaching multiple members within a Buying Group is essential in ABM, and that second lead might just be another member of that important team.
Ways to use intent data for ABM: more informed sales teams
Intent solutions capable of CRM integration help both Sales and Marketing build out a fuller picture of B2B buyers and Buying Groups within targeted accounts. With intent data centered around buyer behavior, Sales enters engagements more informed about the account’s interests. They also know if other members of the Buying Group need to be engaged. This is one important way intent data helps B2B marketers push ABM programs to their maximum value.
Reduce Friction in Lead Quality and Scoring
Any number of things can sabotage the Sales and Marketing relationship, but quality intent-based contacts doesn’t have to be one of them. With the right intent partner, truly qualified leads can unite Sales and Marketing around high-value prospects.
Third-party intent data provided by services such as InsightBase empowers Marketing teams to focus resources on prospects and accounts that are ready to do business, and collaborate with Sales to move those buyers through the buying journey.
Why use third-party intent data for ABM
Intent data monitoring and other third-party data services create enormous opportunities for B2B marketers to grow their target account lists. In an Openprise survey, only about half of respondents used third-party data to identify new account targets, and fewer than half were using third-party B2B intent data to fuel ABM. These marketers are missing opportunities to accelerate pipeline and improve ROI.
Marketers must move beyond their preference for first-party data and embrace all sources of customer intelligence to fuel ABM strategies and win new business. Third-party buyer intent data can optimize every aspect of ABM campaigns – from personalized content to sales call prioritization – but the ability to identify new accounts showing interest in your product or service is among the most powerful.
Solving the leading routing problem in ABM
Getting quality contact information to Sales can be an obstacle for ABM-ers. Some ABM programs can involve dozens (if not hundreds) of accounts, and if accounts are evaluated manually, ABM can be hard to scale. Some companies have thousands of sales reps, but even the best organizations can’t handle manual lead delivery for that many reps or inside sales staff. There’s only so much manpower to go around, both on the sales side and in Marketing.
Incorrectly tagged data leads to poor use of ABM resources
If contact data is assigned to the wrong account or geography, you may get a wildly inaccurate picture of the contact’s actual level of interest in a topic. Mobile users, especially those who travel for work, can create confusing matching patterns. Is this person just working out of a coffee shop temporarily, or are they not actually an employee of the account you have tagged them for? Look for an intent solution that does thorough quality checks on contacts and triangulates contact data for accuracy before delivering them.
“Unreliable data about who to target at accounts is the top challenge for ABM marketers.”
Tim Bollish, Market Research Manager, LinkedIn
How intent data is used in ABM: Automate and optimize lead delivery
Intent data can flag prospects who are most ready for engagement, saving time and improving lead delivery. When intent data is handled holistically via a solution that integrates with enterprise CRM and MAP systems, the result is faster, more accurate lead delivery. With automation and integration in place, you can accelerate lead routing while reducing manual involvement and operational costs.
How to prioritize ABM leads for Sales
With an intent monitoring platform, teams can prioritize accounts and focus resources where they’ll count. By maintaining current and accurate account lists within your intent platform, you help Sales stay on top of the most important prospects. Leads are delivered quickly and automatically to the most appropriate person for followup. Look for a solution that ensures leads within a target account are routed to the true account owner, and you’ll make Sales part of the demand generation process, instead of continuing as separate silos.
What sales and marketing alignment looks like in ABM
With successful ABM based on intent data, arguments over lead quantity and quality go away, and your sales and marketing teams operate as a single unit. Sales and Marketing are both focused on target accounts and working toward a common goal. Tight partnership and integration with Sales leads to active, ongoing collaboration throughout the ABM process in areas like:
- Defining personas
- Executing campaigns
- Working with inside sales
- Account insight and engagement
Account prioritization for better lead distribution and campaign focus
Understanding the source, type and topic nuances in intent signals separates the casual content buyer from more serious buying behaviors. Intent data serves this purpose to help businesses connect faster with the right B2B purchase decision-makers. When your sales team spends time making sales instead of sourcing contacts, they’re more effective in a way that translates to greater ROI. You can also better focus and segment campaigns in the same way.
Many B2B marketers have turned to robust intent monitoring technology to improve lead prioritization and distribution. InsightBase provides sales intelligence for specific contacts in-market, and the solution even won a 2019 RELE Award for Sales Enablement. Its core differentiator has been discovering and focusing on not just accounts, but on actual contacts actively showing intent.
B2B marketers can activate and monitor demand gen of all kinds from a centralized platform for more confident campaigning, even to highly segmented ABM audiences.
“We wanted to have more control of the entire (marketing and sales) process, and an ABM approach allowed us to do that.”
— Nash Haywood, Global Director – Digital Conversion & Paid Media, Genesys
How intent data builds trust and relationships in ABM
ABM depends on establishing trust both between sales and marketing teams about lead quality, and also with the prospects you want to target. Contacts need to trust the value and authority of your content if you want them to engage more deeply with you. Intent data clues you into the problems your prospects are researching, and then you can use smart content to show you understand what they’re going through. This builds trust, which in turn makes them more inclined to talk to you. After all, ABM is really about “relationship generation,” not lead generation.
Summary: How do you combine intent data with ABM?
To recap, intent data drives sales alignment in ABM and alignment across demand generation activities in a number of ways:
- Know what’s motivating the account
- Align to customer needs
- Map and profile account stakeholders like Buying Groups
- Develop and target value propositions
- Integrate sales and marketing campaigns
- Evaluate results and optimize campaigns
Could your account-based marketing use a little more alignment and trust? Our intent marketing experts can offer some ideas to help. Call us at 1-888-301-4758.