Let’s Get Real About Account-Based Marketing and Social Selling

As you know, I love talking about account-based marketing (ABM). In fact, I’m putting an event together called FlipMyFunnel right here in Atlanta to promote that idea.

But I don’t think it’s an accident that there’s so much buzz around account-based marketing right now. As a matter of fact, right around the corner in the sales world, there’s a new phenomenon happening called social selling.

What’s the link between the two? And why now?

Great questions — and of course, I have an opinion.

I have to share that I first heard about social selling from the queen herself, Jill Rowley, during an interview we did. At the time, my main excitement was centered on account-based marketing. After spending some time with Jill, we found that we were both talking about the same thing: the customer experience.

Here’s the reality: the reason these two trends are happening right now and rocking the sales and marketing world is because customer behaviors have fundamentally changed.

Here are two amazing stats that show why account-based marketing and social selling are driving the next generation of tech, strategy, sales, and marketing:

[Tweet “92% of #B2B marketers say #ABM is extremely important to marketing. – @SiriusDecisions”]

[Tweet “90% of B2B buyers say when they are ready to buy, they will find you.- @DG_Report”]

Let’s now examine both strategies in turn, and take a look at a few of the reasons that they appeal to the marketing and sales audiences, respectively.

Account-based Marketing

This goal here is to identify the right companies, expand your reach to all of the relevant influencers/decision makers within those companies by exposing them to your messaging across any channel possible, and turn them into advocates. This is what I call the #FlipMyFunnel movement.

Historically, B2B marketing has been all about lead generation, which is all wrong since no one really closes a lead. Every business in B2B closes an account.

Lead metrics are extremely archaic and almost worthless if the lead is not from the right company, doesn’t fit your customer criteria, and doesn’t have the exact job description and purchasing power that you need to close the deal. That combination is almost impossible to find in one lead unless you are selling to a one-person company.

Why are B2B marketers excited about account-based marketing?

B2B Marketers never had a chance to earn a seat at the decision-making table — until now. Marketers are still the ones who write e-books, design eye-catching event booths, respond to sales for support with collateral, and create tons of internal messaging that no one uses (okay, that’s a bit dramatic — but it’s the ugly truth of marketing that most CMOs hate to admit).

Now, imagine that — all of a sudden — marketers can impact the bottom line and see the results of their efforts in the same way that the sales team does.

As the sales leader talks in a boardroom meeting about the top ten accounts they are trying to close, the marketer in the room can chime in and tell the story of how the account — not just one lead — has been engaging with the content and brand as a whole.

That is incredibly powerful (like wearing an Iron Man suit, as my 5 year old would say). It’s no wonder that marketers are excited to try account-based marketing for themselves.

Social Selling

Jill put it best when she said:

Social selling is all about relationship-building and engaging with customers on their terms.

It requires understanding your various personas and needs of your prospective customers. Also, it involves doing the Gary Vaynerchuck-style jab, jab, jab before you throw the right hook.

This means that you should provide so much value to your prospects up front that you practically guilt them into doing something for you without really asking for it. As a sales person myself, this is really hard to do, but when done right, it’s magical.

Why are sales professionals excited about Social Selling?

Sales has been doing the same old phone and email catch-up game since the late 90s. No matter how many stats prove that this strategy is depleting sales resources and annoying the heck out of others — just like climate change — some need to disagree.

But the fact remains, no one likes cold calls or emails! And if that’s the reality, then why would you do that to others?

With social selling, sales finally has a better way to engage with their buyers on their terms by talking about things their prospects care about — not on the phone — but on Twitter or LinkedIn. They can view their prospect’s interests and send them content that they will appreciate without having to rely on cold calls.

Finally, sales can talk to someone. It’s ironic, but true!

To put it candidly, making hundreds of  cold calls each day with little response has to suck. On the other hand, having a Tweet reply that goes directly to a buyer and having insight into whether the buyer favorites it — now that’s refreshing. No wonder all sales wants to do is be social! It takes them back to how they were before technology took over.

The Bottom Line

The reality remains that both B2B sales and marketing are going through some incredible changes. I’d venture to say that it’s because of one big reason: our customers have evolved and they expect different — and more — engagement than usual.

However, it’s not about emailing or calling them, it’s about engaging them on their terms. It’s not about making a great sales pitch, but about telling a story that drives results.

Both account-based marketing and social selling are here to stay. That should not only make sales reps and marketers happy, it should make customers happy too.

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