In a recent post, I shared the unfortunate truth that many of us have unrealistic expectations about Account Based Marketing (ABM). In a nutshell, good marketers fall victim to unrealistic expectations for ABM because they don’t fully understand the level of sales and marketing collaboration required to make it truly successful.

The name is partly to blame

“Account Based Marketing” is a misnomer creating confusion. Almost every enterprise I talk to actively avoids calling their initiative “Account Based Marketing,” opting instead for names like:

  • “Account Based Management”
  • “Account Based Sales and Marketing”
  • “Account-First Initiative”
  • “Account Based Everything”

They know that for ABM to work, Sales and Marketing has to work together in tandem. In this post I’ll share the easiest way I have seen to foster this collaboration.

How aligned are you today?

Many companies suffer from a bad relationship between Sales and Marketing, but those that do have a “functional” relationship tend to fall into three categories:

1 – Alignment

This is where most companies aspire to today, and it’s a great place to start. With Sales and Marketing Alignment, the departments are on the same page, talking to each other and communicating and sharing common goals — but still acting independently from each other. It’s a baton hand-off; each department does its own thing, but in a coordinated fashion.

2 – Activation

This is a new, more modern style of Sales and Marketing collaboration. In it, you have alignment as described above, but Marketing takes a stronger leadership role, activating Sales at the right time in order to move the business forward (especially when the human touch is required). Here, marketing acts as an orchestra conductor, gently nudging Sales to take the right actions. Or, to use a sports analogy, Marketing acts like the quarterback, calling the right plays that prompt the entire team to act.

3 – Integration

This is the highest level of Sales and Marketing. True integration is when both departments work together as a single team. Think about a soccer team playing perfectly in sync on the field. Players might have distinctly different positions — offense and defense — but they pass the ball back and forth in an integrated process.

Common roadblocks to Sales and Marketing collaboration

True integration is, honestly, a pipe dream for most companies, and may not be realistic given the vast differences between these two departments. They view success differently: Sales is motivated by quota and the bottom line, Marketing by engagement and awareness. Sales rightfully tends to focus on this quarter, while Marketing tends to take a longer-term view. Each brings different reasons for entering their professions, and vastly different personalities.

But despite these divergences, it’s critical that B2B executives create a path towards alignment, activation, and integration to achieve the shared goal of driving revenue. And, as discussed above, ABM is doomed to fail without good coordination between Sales and Marketing.

But — how?

Introducing the Sales and Marketing ABM Stand-up

I may not have the panacea for misalignment, but I have seen the impact of a small change that really helps both my team at Engagio, and our clients: Hold a regular Sales and Marketing ABM Stand-up.

(Shoutout to Engagio’s Head of Strategic Marketing, Sandra Freeman, who has pioneered and driven our adoption of this practice!)

Every two weeks, the Account Based Marketer meets 1:1 with each Account Executive and Account Development Rep for 5-10 minutes to discuss how, together, they are jointly going after accounts. Here, they share updates and agree on go-forward actions.

Stand-up meetings are common in the world of agile software development. Developers use them to tackle common roadblocks, ensure they’re on the same page, and coordinate efforts in coding and engineering. Your dev team likely deploys a daily scrum, which nearly always addresses:

  1. What did you get done since the last stand-up?
  2. What will you do before the next stand-up?
  3. What impediments stand in your way?

Participants stand, literally, to avoid tangents and distractions that extend meetings past the point of utility, and often a timer keeps everyone honest.

Sales and Marketing Stand-ups are one of the most important things a company can do to get ABM right, as they foster face-to-face collaboration between Marketing and Sales.

Running a successful Sales and Marketing ABM Stand-up

Like an emergency room triages patients, stand-ups give you the opportunity to triage key accounts on a consistent basis, fostering important conversations about how to best handle each account collaboratively.

Be sure to follow the same agenda each time. For example:

  1. Progress made since last stand-up
    1. Who did you talk to?
    2. What did you learn?
  2. Plan going forward
    1. Focus on the top 3-5 target accounts to penetrate, and two opportunities to accelerate.
    2. What actions will Marketing take? The AE? ADR?
  3. Blockages

Use this time to highlight what was shared between departments throughout the week, such as key communications or training materials. But don’t let it become a simple review of the existing marketing programs and schedule.

Focus on actions

Moving from basic Alignment to Activation is all about setting real activity in motion.

Ultimately, the meeting should be documented by the marketer, and end with agreed-upon actions. For example, if Marketing sponsored a trade show, you would use this time to discuss the attendees from that AE’s account list, and how to best follow-up with them. If you have a major event coming up, you could focus the stand-up on how you’ll set up meetings at the show. It’s OK to be flexible on the topics covered, as long as everyone has a clear sense of next steps.

One helpful resource in this aim is an “action menu,” a collection of Account Based Marketing Plays that will keep progress moving forward with target accounts. These can be simple, like a welcome package for new executive hires, or more sophisticated, e.g.:

  • Executive Alignment Play
  • Deal Acceleration Play
  • New Key Persona Play
  • “Shake the Tree” Play
  • Advocacy/Customer Marketing Play

Stand-up quick tips:

  • Be respectful of time, and don’t run long unless the AE wants to
  • Be on time and prepared with answers to the 3 questions
  • Don’t multitask — stay focused and be present
  • Save longer discussions for separate conversations
  • Meet in person

Thanks to Solstice for these tips.

The time is now to get aligned

ABM and Sales and Marketing alignment really isn’t rocket science — it’s a result of good, old-fashioned clarity and communication. Make this one easy change, and you’ll realize better alignment between these two teams, better ABM results, and ultimately, greater revenue impact.