Account-Based Selling (ABS) is the hottest strategy on every marketer and sales leader’s mind. But, as with any successful strategic change, you don’t just wave a magic wand and “ta-da!” it magically works.
The growth of ABS is largely due to the organizational shift to larger buying groups. Running a successful ABS strategy requires planning, organization, alignment between functional groups and, ultimately, a strategy for execution.
In this post, we’ll walk you through the key steps to implementing an ABS strategy within your organization.
Define your Ideal Customer Profile
It’s important to keep in mind when executing an ABS strategy that you’re focusing on a handful of key accounts. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck trying to boil the ocean – you can’t send highly targeted, expertly personalized content to all of the thousands (or tens of thousands) of contacts in your CRM.
When you’re evaluating your accounts, you’ll first need to define the characteristics of your ideal prospect account, or Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). Mine through your active pipeline to find the accounts that meet those criteria. Targeting the right companies dramatically boosts sales; increasing lead quality by only 10% can translate to a 40% improvement in sales productivity (Marketo). This isn’t to say you completely ignore those “non-ideal” accounts (and likely, the majority of your pipeline). Instead, continue with an outbound nurturing campaign utilizing some custom fields for personalization, but allows you to focus the majority of your efforts on your ICPs.
Define your Buyer Personas
Defining your target buyer doesn’t end after you’ve found the accounts. One of the defining features of ABS is that you’re touching multiple job roles within one ICP. The goal is to provide these contacts with compelling, useful content. Gartner found the typical B2B buying group now has, on average, seven different buying influencers. Mapping out the defining characteristics of each potential influencer provides a solid foundation for the messaging that will go to each.
In addition, these new contacts will play an important role if your long-term plan is to “land and expand” within accounts. Building these relationships early, and defining where your product or service adds value beyond the target buyer makes for an easier expansion into wider functional groups. In fact, when surveyed by Alterra Group, 84% of marketers said that Account-Based Marketing (ABM) had significant benefits to retaining and expanding existing client relationships.
Develop your content and messaging
If you’ve spent all of that time and energy defining your target accounts and individuals within those accounts, but don’t tailor your message to them, your ABS strategy will fall upon deaf ears and may even damage the relationship.
In this step, you need to put yourself in the shoes of your potential buyer: What are their pain points? What types of content would they find useful? How can our product solve their pains? These conversations should be about how this specific buyer can experience the most value in their role, not the high-level benefits of your product.
The good news is that you likely already have some content that can be repurposed to fit the specific personas. A good starting point is to map out your existing content and determine which pieces are relevant to a given persona and at which stage of their buyer journey. From there, decide which topics need to be tweaked and expanded upon, and which topics need to be created from scratch.
In addition, reach out to your team members in different functional groups, as they are subject matter experts in various aspects of your business. A member of your marketing team might be willing to put together a blog post for the CMO on your prospect’s side, or your Director of IT will be able to combat some of the potential barriers to buying your technology. Capitalizing on your internal resources not only takes some of the pressure off of the project leader but may provide insight unique to a person in that functional role.
Make the connection and diversify the messaging
Breaking through the noise and reaching prospects is a challenge most organizations go through. But once the initial connection is made, diversification of channels is vital to the success of your ABS strategy. While the message itself may be more targeted, endless emails and voicemails begin to lose their impact.
In a survey by Bizible.com, 87.5% of companies leverage email marketing, and 84.2% leverage social media marketing, making it a heavily saturated environment. Including personalized social media outreach, phone calls, and direct mail can help reach your prospects in a more personalized and effective way. For an even more memorable message, include physical mail and packages, or a video email that is customized to that individual recipient. These types of interactions are hyper-personalized in nature, leaving a lasting impression with your prospect.
As with any effective sales strategy, persistence through multiple touches is key – only now, you need multiple touches with multiple people. Only 2% of sales occur within the first meeting, and 80% of sales need 5 follow-ups to get the job done (Marketing Donut). Multiply that by the other influencers in the buying group, and that’s a lot of content to distribute and interactions to take place. A series thoughtful follow up connections with valuable content will strengthen the relationship, and ultimately be key in closing the deal.
This step is truly where the “sales” in ABS comes into play, and where the importance of team collaboration is imperative to the success of the interaction. At this point, it becomes necessary to look strategically at the players involved in the conversation – on both the prospect and internal sides. Having accurate visibility into the key accounts and relationships allows sales leaders to see the progress and sentiment surrounding the deal as a whole. For example, if your Business Development Representative hasn’t talked to a given account in several weeks, it may be time to encourage them to reach back out and re-establish the conversation. SalesWise allows you to see the complete and organized view of your Account-Based Deals, and quickly intervene when necessary.
While the principles behind ABS may not be new to the classic enterprise sale, the return on investment that this strategy can bring is well worth the organizational shift and groundwork to implement.
Not sure if ABS is right for you? Read our blog post, Four Signs that Account-Based Selling is Right for You.
Learn how SalesWise can provide greater visibility to your sales leaders and drive additional incremental revenue when shifting to an Account-Based Sales strategy (see how it works). Or, schedule a quick demo to see how SalesWise enables ABS teams.