What Does an ABM Leadership Team Do (And Why You Need One)?

In part one of the Target Account List series, we explored how to get a target account list up and running. In part two, we’re going to explore who should be involved in the target account list.

We here at Demandbase have a specific interdepartmental group of folks who play a role in our Target Account List, from creation to maintenance to scale. We call them our “Funnel Working Group” or FWG for short. Sales and Marketing are obvious participants, but our cast of characters has a few surprises as well.

We’ll be the first to admit that our FWG is larger than most ABM Leadership teams. Learn who’s who and why they participate in our FWG:

Jay Tuel – VP of Sales Development
Jessica Fewless – VP of ABM Strategy, Field and Channel Marketing
Mark Siciliano – VP, Sales Productivity
Ronan Lyall – Finance Manager
March Liao – Director, Marketing Operations
Alanna Grant – Senior Manager, Sales Operations
Katie Layng – RVP, Mid-Market Sales West
Jennell Dill – VP, Enterprise Sales
Mimi Rosenheim – Senior Director, Web Marketing
Lisa Ames – VP, Demand Generation
Peter Isaacson – CMO

1. Jessica and Jay, you two are the most veteran members of the FWG. How did it come about?

Jay: Our CRO and CMO wanted to have a meeting where we look at where our pipeline was and how we pacing towards goal. This would help them in their forecasting to the board. We had placed a greater emphasis on building out our SDR team and wanted to see how our Marketing strategy and inside sales functions were working.

Jessica: I remember it a bit differently. Our FWG came about because we were embarking on ABM and we knew it needed to be a team effort. We decided that everyone Director level and higher needed to come to the table once a week. It was a big shift in how we did business. Through the meeting, these stakeholders developed our ABM strategy and now we use it to keep tabs on our pipeline.

2. What did FWG look like in the early days? Any roadblocks along the way?

Jay: The early days of FWG were kind or rough. The meeting had a ‘finger-pointing’ tone of “where is the pipeline, SDR team?” We were only looking at pipeline for that quarter, and we didn’t really look at Marketing or Sales contributions to the funnel. In this sense, I don’t believe we were looking at the full funnel, marketing mix, or sales process as closely as we could have. The meeting has evolved over the years with each group taking ownership and accountability.

Jessica: In the early days, not everyone was bought into ABM, which made funnel conversations very difficult. For example, our former Mid-Market leadership didn’t believe in the target account list or methodology. We compromised by allowing those reps to add accounts to the target account list. Marketing then went back to the data to prove whether or not the marketing-selected accounts perform as well as the rep-selected accounts. Sure enough, the ACV was 50% higher. So we limited how many accounts the reps were able to add to the list. For example, if a territory was 150 accounts, the AE could add 20 accounts on the list. We maintain that ratio to this day.

3. Ronan and Mark – When people think ABM, they think Sales & Marketing. When and why did you join the FWG?

Mark: Sales Enablement & Productivity joined the FWG about a year ago. It was important for my team to be a part of the FWG because we’re all about creating the proactive step. Marketing and Sales come to the table with what is or isn’t working. My team takes that feedback and enables solutions.

Ronan: Finance joined in the early days of the FWG— about 4 years ago. We joined because we quickly realized that we needed to know the context between our committed pipe vs. our actual pipe. We are communicating with investors and the board so that context is key.

4. How do you contribute to the FWG?

Mark: It’s easy for Sales & Marketing to point fingers when things aren’t going right but my team is fairly unbiased. We bridge the gap between Sales & Marketing. People on my team are looking at the business in two ways. First, we look at it historically. “Where were we this time last year?” “What processes got us there?” We’re also looking at it proactively. If our goals are X, what and who do we need to activate to get us there?

Flipping the tables, the FWG gives me insights into Salesforce. My team loves the dashboards and data, and the FWG is our window to that information. As other Sales Enablement teams may know, we get very “vanilla” responses without data. A rep may say “Yes I’m prospecting” or a marketer may say “Yes this campaign was successful” but without the measurement and processes behind those things, how does your Enablement team know you’re improving?

Ronan: Let me give you an example. Let’s say your top of funnel pipe is slowing down. And the board comes to Finance and says “You need more SDRs.” As Finance, how do we know that’s the solution? The answer is the FWG. FWG gives Finance a picture of how Sales is operating. That complete picture helps us answer the boards questions about headcount, budget, factors that the FWG doesn’t even really thinking about. It allows Finance to form contextualized, data-driven recommendations for the business.

5. Let’s geek out over Operations. March and Alanna – how do your functions differ in the FWG?

March: Marketing Operations owns the FWG at Demandbase. We bring 3 key focuses to the table: Performance, Process, and Technology. Ultimately though, Marketing Ops is responsible for pipeline performance. We need to know what is happening and why it’s happening.

Alanna: Sales Operations is laser focused on the pipeline. We bring a comprehensive, holistic view to the FWG— including close rates, product-by-product pipeline performance, individual rep contribution, and most importantly expected revenue. So if Marketing Operations is focused on the why, Sales Operations provides the what.

6. Getting back to Sales & Marketing. There’s a lot of Sales leaders in the group. How does FWG help you and your KPIs?

Jay: It keeps me honest. I have to come prepared to answer why pipeline is where it is across Mid-Market vs Enterprise, by individual rep, and for our different product lines. If we notice any of those aren’t at or above pace for the quarter, we give those groups extra focus to get them back on track.

Katie: As a Sales Manager, it gives me a holistic view of what Marketing’s goal is and how then that trickles down and impacts Sales. It allows me to drill into how the Marketing activities are running and how well they convert into SQLs and from there, converting into pipeline. It also allows us to see which areas need to be improved.

7. Marketing is no different. There’s a lot of folks in the group. How do you each contribute to the group?

Mimi: Being responsible for more TOFU channels, the FWG is essential in helping me understand what’s happening at deeper parts of the funnel and how I can support that. I generally wouldn’t have a lot of interaction with Sales so knowing what barriers they are coming up against and how they are thinking about their business and where people are getting stuck.

Lisa: If pipeline performance is going well, the conversation is quite smooth and our meetings are brief. But if not, we drill down into certain segments, then we usually expose weaknesses once we do the drill down. This is particularly important when comparing pipeline for different products.

Peter: By having a comprehensive weekly look at our pipeline numbers and all of the metrics that contribute to making that number.

Jessica: I function as a problem solver. If there is a short somewhere, my team can spin something up quickly to fill the hole. People don’t point fingers, even when we’re short. But we all go into problem solving mode.

8. What’s the best advice you can offer a team who is building out their ABM Leadership team?

Mark: Leave your ego at the door. If you can’t measure it, don’t capture it. Too many people are focused on vanity metrics.

Ronan: Ensure your ABM Leadership team has one or more direct lines to the board.

March: Consistency is key! It’s a big time investment for senior leaders. Don’t talk nitty gritty campaign performance—ensure the discussion is about business performance.

Jay: Keep the lines of communication open and meet often. All Sales Managers should have 1:1s and they should regularly (at least once a week) meet with Marketing.I think some of our most productive meetings are when Marketing does a recap of the month and shows us what is going on the rest of the and quarter and the SDRs talk about campaigns and tactics that worked the best for them. This generates a lot of ideas for us to evolve our strategy and get more pipeline.

Katie: Everyone has to be a team player and understand the overall company goal. For me, that translates to clear communication and transparency. I’m asking questions like “As a sales person, here’s what I need. What’s reasonable on your end as a Marketer?”

Mimi: My best advice? Honesty is key. One of the things that impressed me the most was we weren’t hitting our numbers and we all came to the table and felt comfortable explaining areas in our functions that were contributing to that problem. No one finger pointed. We all took ownership. Everyone has to be willing and transparent and vulnerable. It’s easy to take credit when things are going well. It’s harder to be in a room with a lot of strong personalities in a politically charged room.

Peter: Run it through your Marketing Ops team. I say that because Marketing is a big driver of pipeline for most B2B companies. Your Marketing Ops person has a look not just into the pipeline and closed/won business but also all the campaigns and programs that are actually driving those numbers. This is a more end to end look at pipeline generation.

Jessica: Make sure everyone wants to be there. They shouldn’t feel like they have to be there. Don’t just put a meeting on everyone’s calendar, make sure you explain the purpose and justify the meeting. Because it’s more than just buy in; it’s a commitment to execute on it.

Jennell: Don’t forget that everyone is accountable. This isn’t about Marketing having to create a certain number of leads or pipeline. If they haven’t done that, it’s not an excuse for Sales to not deliver. It’s a group initiative. It means that Sales has to be producing pipeline in addition to Marketing and the Sales Development teams. Make sure that your leadership believes that.

Lisa: Keep your rigor. As you establish your playbook and go about doing ABM, it’s easy to believe you have it down. But as you hire new employees, new vendors, new teams, you need to train them. For example when working with a new vendor, you might forget to inquire about the match rate between their database and your target account list. It’s easy to lose sight when the price is really good and things have run smoothly for awhile. Don’t forget the ABM overlay in all things you do.

Hear from other ABM Leadership teams at the Virtual ABM Innovation Summit.