5 steps to best account based selling strategy

Much has been written about account based selling. It promises to drive excellent revenue growth, but many executives struggle needlessly to use it. What’s missing is an effective plan. I’ll share my top 10 tips learned from experience to help you be more successful.

These first 5 tips help you prepare, and the next 5 will focus on implementation.

Account based selling is a strategic approach to penetrate targeted accounts, uncover and solve buyer challenges, help the buyer buy and overcome those challenges, and generate revenue for the seller.

account based selling

1. Start With a Strategic Plan

Planning is such an obvious step, it is often overlooked. Having a strategic plan is vital. In my Focused Outreach Guide, I make the analogy that if you would not build a house without a blueprint, why would you initiate an account based program without a strategic plan? Yet many firms implement account based selling without that strategic plan in place. More often than not, the effort does not produce the desired results, and the exercise is deemed a failure.

What a shame! Thoughtful planning could have driven revenues up. Instead, the activity probably wasted value able time and resources, and left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Then there’s that big hole in the company budget and resource pool.

2. Set Realistic Expectations

Being realistic takes a mindset change. The goal of account based selling is to generate higher revenue from strategic or marquee accounts that satisfy a company’s sweet spot. With this in mind, it is not realistic to expect a large quantity of leads from sales, inside sales or the sales development representative (SDR) team. Instead, anticipate fewer leads, but more highly qualified opportunities generated from these accounts.

A case comparison shows the need to adjust expectations. In the first example, we worked with a client that had very strong inbound marketing offers, at a time when inbound marketing was in its infancy. For anyone who downloaded an asset, the SDR asked two simple questions:

  1. Why were they interested in a solution?
  2. Were they interested in talking to a sales representative?

If they answered satisfactorily to both, they were passed to sales. This approach delivered a large quantity of leads for the salesforce.

In contrast, consider an account based sales example. We were asked to call on named, targeted, strategic accounts that the sales team did not have time to penetrate while they were managing and closing deals. We called on key accounts that had high revenue potential or were marquee accounts, and our task was to pass to sales only those where we uncovered a challenge and an urgency to solve the problem. In this case, the opportunities were highly qualified, however we generated only about a quarter of the leads than in the inbound example.

3. Use Time Management

Account based selling requires more time to research the prospect. You need to find not only the company, the contact and their challenges, but also a trigger event that would fuel a sense of urgency to overcome the challenge. This takes time.

Research will require more time (within reason) than researching an inbound lead who may have already contacted you and identified their pain. For example: You receive a website contact form message, where the buyer says, “We are looking for a solution to provide accurate email addresses because it takes too much time to research each email address individually..” They have identified part of their pain, so research will take less time than starting from scratch.

In account based selling, manage your time wisely. If you are responsible for researching the accounts as well as executing the initiative, make sure you are doing the majority of your research outside the time you spend calling and emailing.

4. Define the Accounts

This is key. Field representatives have a finite number of accounts they can realistically manage and service. There may be additional contacts or departments within these very large multinational accounts where more opportunities may lie. However, time constraints prevent the field representative from making the additional connections to nurture and foster additional opportunities. Also, there may be strategic accounts the field representative would like to penetrate but doesn’t have the time.

The field representative should determine and approve these accounts and the appropriate level contacts within them. The result of the representative’s account selection and account based selling activity should have an impact on the field representatives quota attainment.

Field sales representatives are also best equipped to understand similar companies who have challenges like the ones they have solved for current customers. They are also best equipped to recognize the higher revenue or prestigious accounts, prospects or customers.

5. Determine Your Ideal Customer Profile: Your Ideal Buyer-Sweet Spot

The first thing sales and marketing should determine is their sweet spot, or their ideal customer profile, their universal lead definition or ideal fit — what the company defines as a lead. These assets are oldies but goodies, but still, they are not adopted fully by many organizations.

Sales and marketing should jointly create and agree on the universal lead definition, which should then be approved by executives. It should define what a lead means to the organization, and be shared and understood by the entire company, not just sales and marketing.

For instance, the customer service department should know and use the company’s universal lead definition. If a customer service representative is helping a client, and is aware of the universal lead definition, the representative would be in a better position to spot or cultivate a lead when talking to the customer.

Next Phase: Implementation

These 5 steps are key to planning a successful account-based selling approach. Now you’re ready to implement. We’ll look at 5 steps to implement a powerful account based selling strategy next.