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How to Build a Strong ABM Program That Scales Successfully

Author ryan.drawdy Category Uncategorized

This week’s #TakeoverTuesday episode is hosted by Steve Watt, an ABM Strategist. He interviews Shellie Smith, Americas lead for account based marketing at Autodesk. If you’d like to listen to the full episode, you can check it out here and below.

What if one day your newly appointed CEO announced to Wall Street that your company was going to become account based?

You’d probably set up some teams and start some pilot programs to figure it out.

But then, what if you learned that, you’re not just going to be focusing on a couple hundred accounts anymore — you’re going to be focusing on 8,000 accounts?

How do you even begin to form a program that can be scaled quickly and successfully?

That’s exactly what happened to Shellie Smith, Americas lead for account based marketing at Autodesk. In a recent #TakeoverTuesday episode of the #FlipMyFunnel podcast, I (Steve Watt) interviewed Shellie to find out how she and her team accomplished this daunting feat so well.

Here’s what we’re unpacking today:

  • Why Shellie’s background prepared her to tackle this challenge
  • How to achieve alignment between sales and marketing
  • Why emphasize people and hire all-stars
  • Why getting the metrics right is so important

You were in sales and sales management before you went into marketing and ABM. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Shellie: All of my careers post-college have definitely been focused on the sales side. I was an account manager at a telecommunications company. Then I went to work for a very small software company where I was asked to go sell our services to Autodesk resellers. Eventually, Autodesk acquired that small software company, and I came into Autodesk in a sales role, responsible for selling one of our product lines. I also managed an inside sales team for a couple years, did some sales execution roles, some sales enablement roles, and then finally made my way into marketing.

I had no marketing background, but I thought, “wow, they’re really equipping me as a salesperson with a lot of really cool tools to go sell at scale.” And that’s really what I’ve always thought of marketing as, an ability to sell at scale.

Today I have a couple different hats that I wear. One is leading the account based marketing team for the Americas. And I’m also part a core team that’s responsible for rolling out our ABSM program globally.

You said ABSM, account based sales and marketing. Is that the preferred terminology within Autodesk?

Shellie: It absolutely is. We’ve been very distinct in that from day one because obviously this is a joint effort between marketing and sales.

How do you do meaningful ABM across 8,000 accounts?

Shellie: It has a lot to do with using a data driven approach and segmentation. But I would also say it’s very much about getting great alignment with sales to know which accounts that highly personalized approach is going to make the biggest difference with.

Day one we recognized in order to scale this, one of the very first things we had to get really good at was sales alignment. Because if we’re not getting information from them, and we’re not onboard with what they’re doing, again, we’re going to be doing irrelevant marketing, and marketing that’s quite honestly no different than what we’ve always done.

We did a lot of education around, what is account based marketing? And as a seller, what is this going to do for me? Why do I want to invite you to my account review calls? Why do you care about my account plan?

The sales teams had not had that level of engagement before. They’d received leads from us, and maybe worked them, but they’d never had somebody sitting down and really trying to understand their account to know what kind of marketing they should be asking for to move that account forward.

What are some of the keys to your success in really developing that alignment?

Shellie:  Number one is hiring good people — and good people that have the skill set necessary to do this job. I would get thousands of resumes that were just amazing in terms of great digital marketing experience, or a few that were great salespeople. But we were really looking for that mix of sound digital marketing skills and a true understanding and empathy of the sales process.

A lot of companies run into problems when they’re getting going with ABM because they fail to think differently about their metrics. Right from the get go did you design different metrics for ABM?

Shellie: We were very intentional from the start about leveraging different metrics. And for us, it was all about contribution to pipeline and contribution to closed ACV. So we were very intentional about what we wanted to measure. However, we weren’t necessarily at the point where we can effectively measure it. So it was a six to eight month process of figuring out how to get our data and systems in order so that we could effectively measure contribution versus leads.

Emphasizing alignment, great people, and the right metrics has clearly paid a lot of dividends for Shellie’s team and company. By getting these issues right from the start, they avoided a lot of the hardship other companies have run into — and they’ve been able to achieve and scale a great program.

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