In my first two blog posts on Building an ABM Framework, I shared how we organized and executed on our plan for the account-based marketing program at Evergage. In this post, I want to home in on how we outlined exactly what the sales team is getting when they select an account for the ABM program and how we solidified our list of target accounts together. I want to help answer the questions: “how do you get sales and marketing on the same page regarding the target account list?” and “how does sales know what program commitments marketing is making for those target accounts?”
Defining the Tiers and Outlining the Services
An ABM program will only be successful when both the sales and marketing teams are fully bought in and working together toward a common goal. So having program commitments for ABM is critical.
At Evergage, we have three tiers of ABM, based on the following model: Strategic (Top), Lite (Middle), and Programmatic (Bottom). I’ve shared this visual before but it’s helpful to revisit it before we discuss how our ABM program commitments work:
Source: A Practitioner’s Guide to Account-Based Marketing: Accelerating Growth in Strategic Accounts
Our marketing team kicked off our ABM process by working with sales to define our ideal customer profile (ICP), and then pulled an initial list of potential companies. You might be thinking: Don’t you feel like the reps should be able to select their own accounts? What happens if the reps don’t like the lists you pull? How do you decide which accounts fall into which tier?
This is why having a list of marketing program commitments is critical. We do believe that salespeople should be able to select their own accounts and that they should ultimately be responsible for which tier each account falls into (essentially, what level of support from marketing they can expect for each account). However, for that to work the sales team needs to understand the list of services completely. So we met with each sales rep and his or her business development rep (BDR) to walk through a chart of marketing programs and activities at each tier to help each salesperson refine their list of accounts and categorize them.
This is what our chart of ABM program commitments at Evergage looks like:
In each of the ABM one-on-one meetings, I shared this chart. We walked through each tier one by one and talked through each program as it related to that tier and why. As you can see, the chart is very straightforward, so it was easy to review with the sales team in a transparent manner.
Once the reps had a solid understanding of the level of support/service commitments at each tier, they felt more comfortable with the whole ABM process. During our meetings, we walked through their current account list and talked about where they were gaining traction. We also talked about how some of the activities outlined in the chart might help the team make progress within specific accounts that they were currently struggling with. With the different tiers and program commitments, we demonstrated both the rigor and flexibility of our ABM program, and the reps were excited to test the impact of placing an account in a certain tier.
Sharing the Recommendations and Finalizing the Lists
To start the process of creating the tiered lists, we delivered our initial draft to sales. Marketing’s initial list contained our recommendations for Tier 1 – these are the accounts that we know are the most aligned to our ICP. Each rep had the opportunity to accept the whole list, modify the list (mix and match it with some accounts that they personally select), or reject the whole list (though none did). While we made recommendations on behalf of the marketing team, we believe it’s important to give reps full autonomy over their lists. Because we have created such strong alignment between the two teams, the reps typically trust the lists we pull for them. While this doesn’t mean that they accepted every single account that we recommended, it means that there was very little tension over how/which accounts should be included. Importantly, both teams worked together to ensure that the reps felt confident in their finalized strategic target account list, as these are their highest priority accounts that receive the most time, energy, and resources from the Evergage team.
After we collaborated and finalized the list of Tier 1 accounts, we spent time creating and implementing account-specific website experiences in Evergage. We also work closely with our BDRs once these accounts are active on the website, to make sure they are following up and trying to engage with them.
Once this process was finalized for strategic target accounts, we shifted our focus to ABM Lite (Tier 2). We repeated the account selection process for the second tier, collaborating with the reps to make sure they feel confident in their list. If they removed accounts from their Tier 1 list, we typically transitioned them to Tier 2 (per the rep’s discretion). Staggering the account selection process is key for efficiency, but it is also beneficial if you are looking to make the account selection process a quarterly initiative.
We believe that effective collaboration between the sales and marketing teams is critical to the success of our ABM program. With marketing program commitments by tier defined and target accounts identified and categorized, we’re pleased with our progress so far.
And to keep us moving forward in our ABM program, our goal is to hold quarterly one-on-one meetings between a few members of the marketing team and each sales rep, their BDR, and their manager to walk through updates and improvements to our ABM program, as well as their existing account list. If you are not doing this with your sales team, I highly recommend this. At Evergage, it has strengthened the alignment between not only the ABM team and the sales team, but also between the sales rep and their BDR. It forces everyone to have an honest conversation around efficiency and accountability regarding what’s working, what’s not working, which accounts to keep, which ones to remove, and what everyone can do to improve results moving forward.
Read more: Choosing the Right Channels and Strategies for Your ABM Program
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