The verdict is in: ABM still delivers superior results.
(Source: SiriusDecisions 2019 State of Account-Based Marketing Study)
As a sales leader, you may be thinking that the ideas behind Account-Based Marketing isn’t new, and you’re right. Sales has always been focused on accounts. However, what’s new is the alignment of your organization around this idea. Marketing has joined the hunt for target accounts under the name Account-Based Marketing, and Sales is reaping great rewards.
The truth is ABM isn’t just for marketers. The greatest misconception of the account-based movement is thinking that any one function is responsible for the account based strategy. It’s not a marketing initiative. It’s not a sales initiative. It’s not a sales development initiative. It’s a strategic business initiative. All departments on the revenue-generating side of your business are responsible for planning, executing and delivering the strategy at the account level. When your entire revenue team embraces this mindset, you’ll see significant benefits.
The market will continue to evolve. New technology will enable new tactics. More terms and acronyms will be dreamt up. But here’s what we do know: ABM works when sales and marketing teams align around a targeted list of accounts (new or existing logos) and coordinate their actions throughout the entire customer journey.
The truth is vision isn’t easy. Many organizations let the opportunities slip through their fingers, only to be caught playing catch-up for the next generation of business. But in this case, we’re going to make it easy for you not to let this one slip through your fingers. Let us spell it out for you now.
Why Sales Should Love and Embrace ABM More than Anyone Else
So, what’s the difference, you ask, between the business-as-usual sales and ABM?
There are too many compelling reasons to not take ABM seriously. As a key stakeholder and revenue-diver at your company, these tie closely to the outcomes you’re responsible for. Adopting this new go-to-market strategy affects leaders everywhere.
Sales leaders implementing ABM are realizing the following benefits:
You Will Get More From Your Marketing Team
ABM tightly integrates your sales and marketing teams, and aligned teams drive value. How much value? According to SiriusDecisions, alignment drives 36% more business growth and 27% faster profit growth.
Chances are this isn’t the first time you’ve heard this. In fact, organizations have been talking about it for years. Mary Shea and Shanta Samlal-Fadelle from Forrester Research wrote in their 2017 report, “The misalignment between sales and marketing teams continues to be a hot topic, even after a decade of B2B firms trying to solve this problem.”
Sales and Marketing alignment means having shared goals and responsibilities, speaking the same language, leveraging the same data, and utilizing the same tools.
If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “can’t marketing just send me better, hotter, and more qualified leads?” than ABM is just the thing for you.
You Will Have a Seat at the Table
As sales reps have become the owner of the customer relationship and are given more responsibility, they have established their seat at the table. With the rise of more titles such as Chief Sales Officer, Chief Revenue Officer and Chief Growth Officer, more executives are turning to the sales department for key business decisions.
This expansion of responsibility for customer engagement beyond cold calling and closing deals indicates that the future role of the sales leaders is bright. More CEOs are making the shift to a customer-focused growth strategy, and sales leaders are stepping up to drive organization-wide change to improve the customer experience.
Customer Satisfaction Will Soar
ABM consistently delivers the personal and relevant experience that customers demand. And you must not forget that ABM is highly effective at every stage of the customer journey, including post-sale. When you have an enterprise sales motion, we all know you can get as much revenue, if not more, from your existing customers. And according to HBR, acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one, making ABM an obvious choice.
All of the same ABM principles of pre-sales apply to post-sales too. It’s no wonder why leaders have turned to what ultimately drives growth: creating value for the customer and using new technologies to transform the customer experience. HBR emphasizes the point: “The most customer-centric companies are the ones outperforming their competitors and raising the bar on customer expectations.”
Efficiency and Effectiveness in Your Sales Process will Skyrocket
Since ABM is about quality over quantity, more focus is placed on selecting the right accounts and orchestrating plays, naturally leading to an increase in productivity. Marketing can be done the way Sales wants marketing to be done, which, in turn, gets you closer to the holy grail of Sales and Marketing alignment. When you achieve alignment, everyone is focused on the same goal: driving pipeline and closing accounts.
Bigger deals mean more risk to the buyer, which leads to the need for a more in-depth and involved decision-making process. As the buying committee grows, so too must your knowledge and understanding of your prospect’s business. It takes a team to navigate all the opposing players and get a football from one end of the field to the other and across the goal line. There’s no “I” in Account Based Sales.
You Build a Great Reputation
ABM allows you to establish and cultivate trust with your customers, thereby building a strong brand reputation over time.
With the traditional demand generation approach where volume and velocity was emphasized, there was an increasing pressure to do more. The advent of sales automation tools enabled reps to blast prospects en masse. This results in a “scorched earth.” When you send an irrelevant message to anyone and everyone but only about the people who respond, you risk hurting your reputation of those who don’t respond. In other words, you’re damaging your brand.
However, if you take the time to utilize the core tenants of ABM and take the time to send a personal and relevant message to a targeted audience, you are building trust and a strong brand. By creating real value at each interaction, you become a trusted advisor bringing commercial insight, not another product-peddling salesperson. People only pay for the value that they can comprehend. Creating and translating value allows you to close bigger accounts faster.
The ABM Process
When we looked at the most successful ABM practitioners, a pattern emerged. Most ABM journeys follow a seven-step process:
- Select Account: Align sales and marketing around a list of target accounts most likely to deliver revenue.
- Identify people: Fill out these accounts and buying contacts for key personas based on your ideal buyer profiles.
- Develop account insights: Learn what matters at each account so that your interactions are relevant and resonant.
- Generate account-relevant messages and content: Create or adapt content and messaging that reflects your account insight and is targeted specifically at the buying teams in each account.
- Deliver account-specific interactions: Manage targeted interactions that are personalized for each account.
- Orchestrate account-focused plays: Synchronize interactions into coordinated plays that align to account plans and goals.
- Measure account progress: Report on the impact of ABM efforts in terms of account engagement, impact on pipeline and revenue, and program ROI.
Every step of the process is important, so don’t skimp and don’t skip out on any step along the way. If you follow these steps, you’ll see the results.
There’s a lot that goes into each step of the ABM process – much more than we can cover in a single post. To get the entire blueprint for building a world-class ABM program, download our The Clear and Complete Guide to Account-Based Marketing. This 175-page guide incorporates the best strategies, tactics and secrets we’ve learned over the years about ABM.
Managing the Change that Comes with ABM
It’s natural human behavior to inherently reject change, as the fear of the unknown is real. But, as Peter Drucker said, “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence – it is to act with yesterday’s logic.”
Learning how to manage change is a critical part of implementing any initiative successfully. The companies who recognize the need for active change management to guide their ABM programs are often the ones who see the quickest success.
One of the biggest changes happens on the marketing side, where a department used to be measured by the number of leads generated is now measured by down-funnel metrics and quality of engagement with targeted accounts. Don’t underestimate this change, and don’t expect it to happen simply because you announced the new goals and metrics. The biggest change that ABM demands of the Sales and Marketing teams is to embrace the new relationship with their new teammates.
The key here is to start with account reps who are open to this kind of relationship, then prove it out with an ABM pilot program. Show the positive effects of ABM.
Once you’ve proven some early success, the ongoing progress reinforces the effectiveness of the ABM strategy. In well-run ABM programs, the only challenge is that more reps will want to be included than the program can accommodate!
Read more: Pre-Qualify Prospects with a Survey…Before You Get On the Phone
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