The Latest from the Go-to-Market Experts
September 25, 2018
How to Get Sales on Board with Account-Based Marketing
Rolling out an account-based marketing program requires a shift in the way your team approaches marketing and sales, which can be a challenge for organizations of any size. To be successful, it has to be a collaborative effort between your entire revenue team — from marketing to sales to your executive leadership.
When we got serious about our ABM program and decided to go all-in, we knew it would require quite a bit of change — in mindset, in KPIs, and even in financial structures. And the only way to launch a target account strategy and prove success was to get everyone on the team aligned.
Leading the Change with a Strong ‘Why’
We had reached a point where we were tired of churning and burning through our MQLs. We were a high-volume, high-growth, low conversion company, and that’s not how we wanted to represent ourselves, especially as a company that provides an ABM platform.
It was something we heard all the time from sales leaders in other organizations:
“Revenue needs to be more predictable.”
“I’m tired of my reps wasting time on crappy accounts.”
“We need a better way to identify target accounts.”
“We need to convert better.”
“We need more support from marketing.”
And, truth be told, we were feeling those pains too. Like most organizations, our marketing and sales teams were primarily operating in silos. We had a target account list, and we scheduled weekly cross-functional meetings, but that alone wasn’t enough to drive a cohesive strategy. We knew we had to do better if we wanted to get more efficient.
Our AEs were wasting time on bad-fit accounts and prospects that weren’t truly ready to buy. Our conversion rates were less than desirable. And we were finding that high-volume marketing and sales outreach — even to a list of target accounts — was inefficient, unpredictable, and unsustainable.
It was time to take action.
Redefining Our Sales Strategy
We wanted to better equip our account based sales development team with the insights they needed to better understand the behaviors of their target accounts so they could strike while the iron was hot and progress future customers through the buying process quicker.
We wanted our AEs to be focused on the right accounts.
And above all, we wanted to deliver more value to future customers with highly personalized, relevant, and timely content. No more batching and blasting.
To do this, we needed to operate as one cohesive team. So, we got to work mapping out the key steps we needed to take to prepare for the change. These included:
- Get sales leadership on board. Most sales teams know they aren’t being as efficient as they could be with prospects. They realize they’re wasting a lot of time “hunting” and want to be more personal in their outreach, but they feel they can’t when operating in a high-volume model. We knew that focusing on fewer (but better quality) accounts would cause some growing pains, but everyone agreed that it was worth it.
- Benchmark conversion rates. We looked at how well our accounts were converting throughout the funnel so we knew which stages of the sales process needed optimization first.
- Secure support from finance. We needed to implement a new compensation model for our sales development reps that accounted for lower volume but higher quality. We also needed to reassure the finance team that this shift would benefit us. So, we benchmarked some of our conversion rates and forecasted where we’d end up to demonstrate this program was going to put us above where we were before. (Spoiler alert: we were right.)
- Hand over account identification and prioritization to our marketing team. Sales and marketing worked together to solidify our ideal customer profile, but the selection and prioritization of the target account list is now primarily left up to marketing.
- Get marketing prepared for operational action. We did a mini-overhaul of our marketing operations — adding new CRM fields to give our team insight into account-level data, making sure our tools were tightly integrated, and creating smarter processes for target account engagement.
What We Changed
First, our marketing team went to work defining our target pool of best-fit accounts — in other words, the accounts that are most likely to become successful customers.
We then layered this fit data with intent and engagement data to shape our ABM multichannel campaigns. The fit data helped us build our initial list, and the intent data helped us further prioritize accounts that were in-market for a solution like ours.
Engagement data is where the real magic happened. We use engagement data to provide our SDRs and AEs with deep insights into our target accounts. These insights are based on the content they’re leaning in on and when they were most active on our website, allowing us to reach out to active potential customers even before they reached out to us.
This helped us create a data-driven, dynamic process for account prioritization and sales triggers. We also reduced the number of accounts our SDRs were responsible for and focused on highly personalized cadences and content, including personalized videos.
In the past, it was difficult for marketing to feed actionable information to the SDRs, so we needed to make sure the data was meaningful to them and easily accessible in the place they spent most of their time –– our CRM. (More on this below.) This not only helped ensure everyone on the team was well informed, it gave the sales team a powerful way to personalize and ensured we all had access to the same information.
How Sales Put the Data Into Action
As we moved the SDR team to an account-based model, naturally they were nervous about dwindling down from 600+ target accounts each to approximately 200 accounts while still being on the hook to hit quota. To help set them up for success, we helped them prioritize these new 200 accounts based on fit, intent, and engagement insights.
They now can see, right within Salesforce, which accounts are showing intent to buy and engaging most actively with our website. The more active an account is, the hotter they are and the more quickly we should reach out. Using Terminus Sales Insights, our SDRs and AEs can also see which specific pages each account is engaging with. This allows them to personalize their outreach based on the specific content their accounts are interested in.
(Quick note: this differs from what you can see in your marketing automation platform because MAPs only show you what known visitors are interacting with. The magic happens when you look at anonymous activity mapped to your target accounts.)
Finally, we worked together to orchestrate multichannel campaigns across sales and marketing channels. Read more about effective ABM campaigning in our post, How to Orchestrate Account-Based Interactions Across Marketing and Sales.
What Were the Results?
Within 30 days, we were already beginning to see major improvements. And within 90 days, we were seeing incredible results.
- The win rate from first demos went up 125%.
- Demo-to-interest conversion rate increased 58%.
- Average deal size increased 35%.
- Sales cycle length decreased by 20 days.
We were blown away. For us, it was really about proving to the organization that a tighter target account strategy is right for us and then being able to share these best practices with customers.
With this program, our accounts are better qualified earlier in the process, which our AEs appreciate as they’re only spending time on best-fit accounts. Our team has more time to tailor content and sales conversations for each account, and we’re working more closely as one team toward one shared goal and vision.
Top 5 Takeaways for Getting Sales on Board with ABM
We learned a lot and are still refining our process as we go. And this is the nature of account based marketing solutions — you’ll have to make adjustments as you learn and grow. But for us, these were our top five takeaways:
- Marketers: just do it!
Marketers have to lead the charge and really be brave to get the sales team on board. Believe in the program and sell it. Show the team the impact it will have on them.
- Get executive buy-in.
There are some changes that will need to be made — in mindset, in KPIs, in compensation — so the entire organization from the top-down needs to be on board.
- Get aligned on the right account-based metrics.
Work together as one revenue team. Set benchmarks to measure against so you can show the organization the improvements you’re making — together.
- Arm sales with insights.
Make sure you’re set up to show key metrics and insights in the systems they use on a daily basis. This piece is absolutely critical.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Daily communication is absolute must. Silos simply cannot exist in an organization that does account-based to any extent.