In early 2017, our marketing and sales teams were going through all the motions of ABM. We had a shared target account list, and we working together to engage the decision-makers at those accounts.
But we had a problem: our sales development team had no way to prioritize the accounts they were working. Sometimes, this lack of direction would result in our team pursuing big logos instead of the accounts that were most likely to close.
And we weren’t alone in this challenge. Prioritizing and personalizing sales outreach can be a struggle for even the top sales development reps. According to Richardson’s 2018 Selling Challenges Study, creating a targeted outreach strategy is the #1 prospecting challenge that B2B sales teams face.
We knew there had be a better way — and we found it in the form of data. Now, our sales team uses account engagement insights to prioritize and personalize outreach. As a result, we’ve dramatically increased our opportunity creation rates, and our sales cycle has decreased by 20 days.
Want to replicate these results at your organization? Here are the lessons we learned that helped our sales team put engagement data into action, align with marketing, and demonstrate success (as one team) to the C-suite.
Turn on Account-Based Prospecting
Our ABM transformation began when we implemented an approach we call Fit + Intent + Engagement to identify and prioritize target accounts. We look at:
Fit data – We use an AI-assisted model in EverString to help identify accounts that match our ideal customer profile (ICP).
Intent data – We use intent data from Bombora to see what they’re researching across the web and get a better understanding of their intent to purchase.
Engagement data – This is where the magic happens. Engagement data from Terminus shows us which accounts are actively engaging with our content and what specifically they’re engaging with. We track both known contacts and anonymous visitors at an account level so we have the full picture.
All accounts we go after must fit our ICP. From there, we look at intent and engagement signals to help us focus on the hottest accounts and tailor our outreach.
Replace Lead Generation Metrics with Engagement Metrics
For ABM to work, marketing and sales need to share the same metrics. In the past, marketing would hand leads over to sales based on a single activity, such as event attendance, a white paper download, or a webinar sign-up.
But we now know the majority of a buyer’s research happens before a form fill ever occurs — and a form fill does not necessarily indicate interest in your product. This is where aligning around engagement data becomes key.
With engagement metrics, you’re better equipped to prioritize accounts that are engaging with your brand in a meaningful way. Our SDRs and sales reps use key engagement insights like:
- Web engagement data – Track engagement metrics like number of pages visited, last visit date, and number of visitors per account to understand which accounts are most engaged.
- Spikes in engagement – We developed Engagement Spike to alert sales when an account is interested in your product based on a spike in engagement with your most valuable content.
- Web behavior – By looking at which webpages were most visited by an account, salespeople can see when they’re leaning in on specific product pages or topics, even if they visited the site without filling out a form.
Personalize Sales Outreach with Engagement Insights
Traditionally, sales reps have had to rely on data captured through form fills and old-fashioned research to gain insights on individuals they’re targeting. But to make a real connection with future customers, you need to be able to go deeper than, “Hey, we have the same alma mater.” And, what do you do when prospects are not filling out forms?
Engagement insights arm our SDRs with everything they need to engage those accounts with the right message at the right time.
Engagement is no longer a checkbox in Salesforce. It’s looking at a meaningful increase in activity, then developing a personalized message that provides real value.
For instance, one of the first things we look at is which accounts that visited our site didn’t fill out a form. Which pages did they visit? What content were they searching? How can we better support them with additional relevant content that may address questions they have?
With this approach, you start with your future customer in mind. As a result, you’ll have higher quality accounts in the pipeline, and you’ll be able to close them more quickly.
Reach Out at the Right Time to Increase Pipeline Velocity
When you know an account is the right fit and have insight into what they’re digging into on your site, you can personalize and prioritize your outreach. This starts the sales cycle earlier and helps close deals faster.
By the same token, you won’t need to wait around to see if an account has ghosted you after multiple unanswered calls and emails. Instead, see based on their activity when they’ve gone cold or when they’re heating up, even when they visit your website anonymously.
In other words, the entire process becomes more efficient.
- Increased conversions
- Decreased time to answer because you’re hitting accounts at the right time
- Opportunity creation within your target account list becomes a shared KPI between marketing and sales
- Visibility into how fast accounts are progressing through the sales pipeline
Data-driven outreach leads to better results. Remember, we shortened our sales cycle by 20 days using engagement data to help our sales team target their outreach.
Let’s take a look at two of our secrets to putting engagement data into action.
Identify Accounts with Spikes in Engagement
According to a survey of B2B researchers commissioned by Google, although 64% of the C-suite have the final authority on purchases, 81% of non-senior staff have a say in purchasing decisions. Knowing how much of the buying committee — known and unknown — is engaging with your brand is truly one of the best signals you can have. This data allows you to prioritize accounts and invest in outreach and campaigns that will pay off.
We do this by closely monitoring account engagement spikes.
What does this mean? In a nutshell, it’s a meaningful increase in the amount of engagement coming in from the buying committee of a particular account.
For instance, they may have gone from two people to 15 people actively visiting our site. Or, it could mean those two people have started looking at significantly more high-value content, like product and pricing pages.
This data indicates it’s an optimal time to reach out. When we see this, we know it’s time to put together a high-touch marketing campaign to support our sales outreach.
Identify Accounts that Need More Engagement
On the flip side, you can also better identify when it’s a more appropriate time to put them in a nurture program to take them from engaging with your brand content to engaging with your product content.
At this point, the entire buying committee is likely not involved, so, the goal is to get more of them engaging with the brand to gain more internal advocates. Engagement data enables you to better allocate your time and resources so you’re not focusing all your efforts on one decision-maker, but rather on everyone in the buying committee.
When we see that there’s no engagement, this indicates we need to deploy awareness campaigns. Either those accounts don’t know who we are, or they don’t yet understand the value we can provide them. In this stage, we reach out with informative, thought leadership content to establish credibility and build trust.
Report Your Results to the C-Suite
Another challenge we faced before our ABM transformation was communicating the value of our sales efforts to our executive team. They believed in the value of an account-based approach, but demonstrating ROI was still a challenge.
That’s because we were still using lead-based metrics. When you’re focused on a list of a target accounts, pure lead metrics are no longer the leading indicator of success. Proving success became infinitely easier when we transitioned to using engagement data.
Using account engagement data, we’re able to show:
- How many accounts we targeted.
- How many of those are actively engaging with us.
- How we are accelerating those opportunities.
- How many target accounts have signed on as customers.
It’s now about marketing and sales working in lockstep toward the same goals — engagement — to ensure you’re closing the right deals, closing more revenue and doing it faster. Sales is no longer waiting for marketing to turn over inbound leads that, frankly, may or may not be garbage.
Now, we measure success as one team and can report to the C-suite as one team. We do this using a shared ABM scorecard. Later this year, the Account-Based Scorecard will be built into the Terminus product, but your marketing and sales teams can create something similar using a spreadsheet and some elbow grease.
By leveraging engagement insights, you’ll be able to see who’s ready for outreach and who’s not. This is where account-based prospecting comes into play.