This Week’s Big Deal: Account-Based Selling

October 7, 2019

Salesperson Talking to Buying Committee

There’s a giant stack of papers on your desk. Each one contains a different contact for outreach. 

With a seething sense of dread, you size up the task. You brace for rejection and indifference, knowing that many of the people and companies in this unfiltered batch will have no need for what you’re selling. It’s simply the name of the game.

Or, at least, it was. Many B2B organizations are bringing greater focus and precision to prospecting practices. Those big lists of indiscriminately compiled contacts are being whittled down with the help of data and deeper insight. As a result, sellers are reducing the amount of time wasted chasing irrelevant leads, and putting their energy where it matters. 

Account-based marketing (ABM) is at the forefront of this movement, but that name is misleading. ABM is far more than a marketing strategy, and in fact, you could argue the sales department is most instrumental in making it work. 

So for today, let’s flip the script and take a sales-centric look at ABM. Here’s how modern teams are maximizing efficiency and wins through an account-based selling framework.

How B2B Organizations Are Tackling Account-Based Selling

First, a primer on the “why” behind this fast-growing trend. George Deeb of Red Rocket Ventures recently put together a helpful overview at Entrepreneur on The Rise of Account-Based Marketing, and it’s a good place to start for the uninitiated. 

“The goal has always been to make everyone and anyone that could be interested in your product or service aware of your company,” Deeb writes. “The problem is not all companies in an industry are created equal. You may need to better focus on companies of a certain revenue size that can afford your product or service, or others within a certain geographic region.”

Quality over quantity: This is the foundation of an account-based approach. Deeb adds: “If you are not using ABM marketing techniques today, you probably should reassess your entire B2B sales and marketing strategy and execution efforts. My guess is, you may be wasting a lot of time and money.”

Businesses seem to be getting wise. For example, LinkedIn recently polled hundreds of B2B marketers and found that more than half (54%) are currently using the approach, with 80% saying they plan to grow their ABM budget in the next 12 months.

The popularity is undeniable. But with more companies leaning into ABM, it becomes all the more vital to gain an edge by doing it better. These insights can help guide your efforts.

Focus on the Buying Committee

This is a key principle as laid out by Brandon Redlinger at Business 2 Community last month. “There’s been a shift from a single decision-maker to a group of people within an organization who collectively make the business decision to purchase a product, service, or software,” he explains. “The buying unit is comprised of stakeholders, decision-makers, and influencers across the account, and many of them have their own agendas that you have to keep in mind when communicating.”

This is part of a critical shift in mindset, from thinking about leads to thinking about accounts. The former refers more to individuals whereas the latter refers to functional groups containing a variety of different voices. 

Redlinger adds that in account-based selling and marketing, “success comes from orchestrating relevant interactions that span multiple personas (on both your team and theirs), across multiple channels to land new accounts and expand existing customers.”

Earlier this year, we took a look at selling to larger buying committees and the nuances it entails. 

Centralize Your Tools and Tech

A new era of selling requires a new toolkit. Does your software and technology align with an account-driven approach? Is it streamlined and centralized?

Latane Conant writes at Forbes that AI integration can be highly valuable for scaling ABM programs. “Because buyers are often anonymous, fragmented and resistant, revenue teams’ efforts must be driven by real buyer intent and activity data,” she asserts. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other emerging technologies can help shine a light on these frequent ambiguities.

It’s all about bringing insight to your prospecting and outreach. There are many different tools that can be integrated with Sales Navigator to this effect, and Sales Nav itself supports account-based selling efforts by surfacing lead recommendations and offering accurate detail around buying committee structure.

Grow Your Existing Business

Sales reps can get so caught up with seeking out new opportunities that they often overlook the ones right in front of them. “Land and expand” is a cornerstone of account-based programs and an area where sellers can carry the torch. While marketing plays a pivotal role in the awareness and nurturing of select accounts, sales reps are able to solidify relationships and bring them past the finish line.

If you’ve delivered a great experience and developed trust within an account, the barriers are lowered for referrals and introductions — both internally and externally. Are there other business units or partner organizations that might benefit from your solution? 

Foster Organizational Alignment

Naturally, it all comes back to alignment. Team orchestration is an essential linchpin in an effective account-based strategy. The more cohesive and aligned your organization’s movements, the better your results will be. 

Kevin Payne served up some tips for driving sales and marketing alignment in the name of accelerating B2B sales cycles: “Hold alignment meetings or send out important memos for your marketing team to talk about new campaigns, funnels, and lead generation techniques they might be rolling out. Your sales team can also share insights from current customers and leads to help your marketing team improve their campaigns.”

Keep in mind that orchestrating your strategy isn’t just about sales and marketing. As LinkedIn’s Ty Heath put it in her recent ABM interview with TopRank Marketing’s Lee Odden: “It’s about having your entire team oriented to connect with customers wherever they are in their journey, wherever they touch your business and have them make that the best possible experience.” 

Ty will be delivering a session at B2B Forum later this month on How to Combine Account Based Marketing and Social Selling on LinkedIn, and for those who can’t make it, we’ll be sure to round up some takeaways here on the blog. With experience and expertise in both sales and marketing, she brings a great perspective on this convergence. You can watch her entire interview below:

Scale the Account-Based Selling Mountain

The concepts behind account-based selling and marketing are fairly straightforward. But as you continue to refine your methods, identifying stronger prospects and superior outreach strategies, you can move a step ahead of the many other organizations embracing these concepts. Minor tweaks that expand buying committee coverage, streamline technologies, enhance growth of existing business, and orchestrate cross-functional efforts can go a long way.  

Here’s to never having to dive into a heaping pile of irrelevant “leads” again.
 

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