I met Erik at a Marketing Operations Cross Company Alliance (MOCCA) event, which was an immediate indication that he knew his stuff. Amidst the cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, some of the sharpest minds mind marketing come together to talk shop. Erik Archer Smith is the Marketing Director, ABM at Treasure Data, and I quickly realized he was implementing a lot of the ideas I had been thinking about for top performing ABM teams.

Sure enough, he confirmed my suspicion as he revealed how he runs his team at Treasure Data, which brings all customer data together for a single, actionable view and helps harness the information needed to create a data-driven enterprise.

Rather than pontificate on high-level ABM strategies, I wanted to sit down with Erik to get the inside look of a company implementing ABM at a world-class level.

So, without further adieu, please enjoy my conversation with Erik Archer Smith.

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Brandon: Why did you change the makeup of your sales team to become vertical based?

Erik: Business relationships are about trust. When you work with enterprise and mid-market companies, trust comes with industry expertise and a track record of success.

Historically we were in a territory model, and there are times when that makes sense. However, when we looked at the numbers we saw that Account Executives (AEs) had higher close rates when:

  1. Accounts were in an industry in which they had an interest
  2. Accounts related to a previous work-industry or personally closed-deal

That makes sense since you can imagine an AE would build expertise and trust in areas they had an interest or previous success.

From that insight, we worked with the sales leadership and executives to optimize the AEs around industry knowledge vs territories.

Brandon: Walk us through the steps to make the transition from geographic territories to ventricle territories.

Erik: The single most important thing in this transition is alignment and collaboration between marketing and sales. I strongly believe the steps below mean nothing if they are not done together. Also, the steps assume you already have your target accounts defined. If not, do that first (this deserves its own separate blog!):

  1. Do the math.
    1. Look at closed accounts and see if there’s any correlation to particular AEs and target verticals.
    2. Look at opportunities that were “mid” to “late-stage” but didn’t close – look for a positive correlation between an AE and a specific vertical.
    3. Look at closed-lost opportunities to see if there’s a pattern between an AE and industries where he or she performs poorly (but prioritize the ones above this).
    4. BONUS: If you can, set columns/filters for important firmographic data, such as company size, buyer persona, geography (it can still matter), account “tier”, etc. This will allow you to get more granular with the data later.
  2. Talk to Sales. A lot. We talked with each AE, we talked with their managers and we talked with the executive team to get their “gut” reaction. Then everyone talked together as a team. We presented the data, including their “gut/instinct” and created lists where AEs chose which verticals THEY wanted to prioritize for themselves. We intentionally did all this together, and I believe that this transparency and collaboration minimized pushback when the assignments were announced later.
  3. Distribute Accounts. Count how many target accounts you have in each vertical (and in each tier), using the data you put together in step 1. Now figure out what a completely fair and dispassionate distribution of the accounts would look like on an AE / AE basis. Use that as a base-line.
  4. Split verticals. Come up with 2 – 3 recommended ways to split the verticals by AE. You must keep in mind closing ability, preference, etc. so that there’s roughly even distribution between each AE aligned to the base-line established above.
  5. Make the final call. Let sales leadership make the final call and communicate to the sales team.
  6. Upload to your CRM. Now it’s time to input the new assignments into your CRM. This can be a big step, but it was fair easy for us as we use our own service, Treasure Data, for this.

Brandon What is enablement and why do you put so much emphasis on it?

Erik: There’s an old saying I like: “knowledge breeds confidence, confidence breeds sales.” But seriously, salespeople are frequently the face of your company, both from a customer-facing standpoint as well as general networking. You need them to be as smart, confident and happy as possible!

Brandon: What does your enablement look like for your AEs?

For training your AEs, table stakes are things like:

  • Industry reports/research
  • Customer case studies
  • Persona cards
  • Competitive battle cards
  • Product FAQ

Ideally, these should all be stored in a single location where salespeople can access them quickly on desktop or mobile.

From there you can look at things like collaborative account planning, demo practice/review, pitch-offs, objection handling workshops, or even time-management training depending on where the team seems to need/want the most help. As I’ve said earlier, a big part of this is just communication – if you ask your sales team what they need to close, they’ll usually tell you.

Brandon: What does your enablement look like for your SDRs?

Erik: Well access to all the same material of course, but then we do a lot more day-to-day training. We do “pitch-offs” 3 times each week in the morning and call review and general planning 2 times each week in the afternoon. We also work with a fantastic group called Winning By Design. They helped set the foundation for a lot of our soft-skills training. A lot of our day-to-day training is just putting their program into practice.