Sales Productivity

The Anatomy of a Target Account

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November 17, 2021

5 mins read

The Anatomy of a Target Account

The Anatomy of a Target Account

It’s easy to miss your quota when your sales goals are aspirational instead of concrete, but the right ABX strategy can make all the difference. How do you reach the lofty sales goals often set by ABX-savvy sales teams? The answer is an oldie but a goodie: target accounts. Yeah, that’s right. Dust off the old target account list and get ready for round two, right? Wrong. In the past, target accounts have been chosen based on gut instinct instead of data, but things are different these days.

A target account is one of a fixed set of accounts that you’ve determined are a good fit for your solution based on an ideal customer profile (ICP), and who you are committed to landing. As opposed to canvassing a vast territory of zip codes, ABX sales reps target a fixed number of accounts. And rather than send routine outreach to all, they send bespoke, personal outreach to some.

There are many factors that qualify an account as a target and it varies by company. It could be the prestige factor of a household name brand, a high enough number of business units to present a land-and-expand opportunity, a minimum employee count, or a basket of custom metrics.

A core tenet of ABX is that you do not select your target accounts idly. If you’re going to narrow your focus from a territory of thousands of accounts to a smaller number, you better be certain you’ve picked the right ones.

Criteria for selecting target accounts

Your team may already have a strategic list or named accounts list, and that’s a great place to start. If it’s something that sales and marketing have agreed upon, and there was a method to the selection that was based at least in part on data in the CRM, much of the work may already be done.

Account selection must involve marketing, and be approved by both teams. Otherwise, you risk selecting accounts that don’t satisfy the metrics both teams are measured by. Together, build upon any existing target account list you have with the existing criteria, assuming it’s proven successful. If no list exists, order pizza! It’s time for an all-hands whiteboarding session where leaders from both teams bring data and use this post to build it from scratch.

If you want the best results from creating your ICP, establish an official ABX leadership team with stakeholders from sales, marketing, finance, and operations who meet regularly to discuss cross-functional ABX initiatives. This team lays the groundwork for the ICP and target account list and runs them by sales. Once they’re agreed upon, the team gives approval and places them into use.

As your ABX practice matures, codify this selection process. Tighten your requirements based on the attributes of current or desired customers. If you have enough customers, you can use data providers that offer predictive and intent-based scoring (or a combination of them) to programmatically identify lookalike target accounts. Lookalikes are companies that share all the same characteristics as companies that have purchased your solution, but whom you haven’t engaged yet.

Below, a list of common B2B ICP characteristics:

  • Revenue potential is relatively high
  • Sales cycle is shorter than average
  • Industry is a good fit
  • Company size is a good fit
  • In the right geography
  • Aligned with the company’s objectives (e.g., net new logos, upsells)
  • Aligned with the company’s topline strategy (e.g., break into healthcare)
  • No recent changes in the market would disqualify the account (e.g., new regulations, recent acquisitions, divestments)
  • Not disqualified by sales (e.g., the account is loyal to a competitor)
  • Customers of competitors

The more mature the ABX sales team, the more stringent they can afford to be about the ICP. Mature teams may also be looking to target accounts who sell certain products, have a certain amount of web traffic, and already own certain technologies. Oftentimes, finding such accounts requires research, which we’ll cover in another post.

Aligning on ICP

A great sales-marketing exercise is having sales reps describe their ideal customers to marketers, who then try to identify data points and signals that correspond with those characteristics.

Target account qualification

When building your list of ICP characteristics, look for simple ways to immediately qualify or disqualify an account. It’ll speed up the selection. What are your deal breakers? What would make a prospect unable to or highly unlikely to buy? For instance, a B2C e-commerce company is unlikely to buy from Demandbase, as the platform is designed for B2B buying cycles. One of our sales team’s criteria is “must be B2B.”

On the flipside, we have criteria for what makes a great account. If it’s a B2B company with significant web traffic, that’s another key characteristic.

The Demandbase revenue team calls our target account list of 4,000 or so accounts “DB4K.” To make it onto the DB4K, an account must meet specific requirements.

But wait, there’s more!

To learn more about the requirements an account has to meet to make it onto the exclusive DB4K list, get our Target Account Checklist, and learn how to go from a reactive, lead-based model to a proactive, engagement-savvy, account-based model, download The ABX for Sales Playbook.

And for more helpful blogs, insightful episodes of DBTV, educational podcasts, and much, much more, roll on into our Resources Center – your content hub for all things B2B go-to-market.

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B2B Go-To-Market Suite, Demandbase

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