How Adopting an Account-Based Go-To-Market Will Launch Your Sales Career and Revenue

The verdict is in: ABM still delivers superior results.

ABM companies see 99% improved engagement, 80% improved win rate, and more.

Source: SiriusDecisions 2019 State of Account-Based Marketing Study

As a Sales leader, you may be thinking that the ideas behind Account-Based Marketing aren’t new. And you’re right, generally speaking.

Sales has always been focused on accounts. However, what’s new is the alignment of your entire organization around this idea of an account-based approach. In particular, 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 single 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.

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 driver at your company, they tie closely to the outcomes for which you’re responsible. Adopting an ABM go-to-market strategy affects leaders everywhere in every industry.

Sales leaders implementing ABM are realizing the following benefits:

You get more out from your marketing team.

ABM tightly integrates your Sales and Marketing teams—and aligned teams drive value. How much value? Organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing functions experience 36 percent higher customer retention rates and 38 percent higher sales-win rates, according to a MarketingProfs report.

Chances are this isn’t the first time you’ve heard this. In fact, organizations have been talking about it for years. In Forrester’s report, B2B Buyers Mandate a New Charter for Marketing and Sales, Mary Shea et al. say,  “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?” then ABM is just the thing for you.

You’ll have a seat at the table.

As Sales reps have become the owners of the customer relationship and are given more responsibility, they’ve established a larger share of the seats 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 deserve). And let’s not forget that ABM is highly effective at every stage of the customer journey, including post-sale.

When there’s an enterprise Sales motion, we all know you can get as much revenue, if not more, from an existing customer. And according to an article in the Harvard Business Review, 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 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 lead volume and velocity were emphasized, there was increasing pressure to do more. And with the advent of Sales automation tools, reps could start blasting prospects en masse. But for all its benefits of meeting these top-of-funnel metrics, the scorched earth tactic results in hassled and disinterested accounts. Not only that, but you also risk damaging your brand long term.

However, if you take the time to utilize the core tenants of ABM and take the time to send personal and relevant messages to targeted audiences, you build trust and strengthen your brand. By providing real value at each interaction, you’re regarded as 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 look at the most successful ABM practitioners, a pattern emerges. Most ABM journeys follow a seven-step process:

  1. Select accounts: Align Sales and Marketing around a list of target accounts most likely to deliver revenue.
  2. Identify people: Pinpoint who makes up the buying committee at each account based on your ideal buyer profiles.
  3. Develop account insights: Learn what matters at each account so that your interactions are relevant and resonant. (Note that, if you sell multiple products or services, an account can have multiple buying committees, depending on the product they’re interested in.)
  4. 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 for the particular opportunity.
  5. Deliver account-specific interactions: Manage targeted interactions that are personalized for each account.
  6. Orchestrate account-focused plays: Synchronize interactions into coordinated plays that align to account plans and goals.
  7. 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.

Managing the change that comes with ABM

Of course, to reject change is an instinctive mechanism for self-preservation. The fear of the unknown is real and understandable. But, as Peter Drucker (arguably the greatest management philosopher of our time) famously 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 that 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 Sales and Marketing teams is their embrace of the new, unified 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 with quantifiable and qualitative results.

Once you’ve proven some early success, ongoing progress will reinforce 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!

Thought Leader, B2B Marketing & Sales Strategy

I possess extensive experience helping organizations create and orchestrate strategic programs that help to retain customers and power sales execution. I'm passionate about the intersection between tech and psychology, especially as it applies to growing businesses. I enjoy reading, playing hockey, and most outdoor sports. Check me out on twitter @brandon_lee_09 or connect with me on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/brandonredlinger/.