Account-based marketing (ABM) has taken the world by storm!.
56% of B2B brands now leverage ABM according to a LinkedIn survey of 800 marketers globally. On similar lines, a report from TOPO points out that 80% of marketing teams worldwide have confirmed a higher return on investment from ABM initiatives.
To further amplify this impact, many organisations are trying to make the sales functions play a larger role in executing specific aspects of account-based strategy and rightly so. Research by Forrester suggests that marketing and sales teams that actively collaborate to craft an account-based plan have a higher chance of exceeding their targets compared to groups that are behind the "ABM-collaboration curve."
It thus becomes critical for marketers to get sales excited about an account-based strategy. This has also been a hot topic of discussion here at xGrowth. We spoke to Eric Wittlake of TOPO about how to sell ABM to sales teams in our recent Growth Colony podcast and got some fascinating insights.
With that said, here are four things marketers can do to get the sales teams to formally adopt an account-based strategy in collaboration with the marketing function.
1) Highlight Similarities Between the Current Sales Approach and ABM
In most organisations, sales professionals are already following an account-based approach without even knowing it. They have a list of stakeholders from target accounts; they carry out background research, probably look them up on LinkedIn and based on all of the collected information, they personalise the messaging for their discussions.
A lot of sales professionals also use public news as a trigger to reach out to account stakeholders. An example would be - a sales representative of a data security company reaching out to an organisation that might have been in the news for a data leak.
So sales development representatives or SDRs have already been customising their pitches as per their prospects' interest. To think about this in terms of marketing, ABM is very similar, except instead of pitches, the marketing teams design a lot of other forms of content such as blogs, videos and email campaigns.
Just making the SDRs and the inside sales teams realise these similarities is half the battle won.
2) Work Towards Enabling Sales Teams
It can be said without a doubt that one of the end objectives of the marketing function is to enable sales. However, in most B2B oriented organisations, both these functions have a completely different approach and their own separate criteria for selecting accounts to target.
There could also be a scenario where marketing teams create content for accounts that sales teams do not even have on their radar. This disconnect between the marketing and sales strategy creates an inconsistent experience for the targeted account stakeholders leading to lower conversions.
It thus becomes critical for marketing to take the lead in bridging this gap, which can also be used as an opportunity.
Aligning with the sales team's priorities can provide marketers with an organic opening towards having conversations about ABM. When an SDR sees that the marketing team's content complements a previous conversation they had with an account stakeholder, they would then be motivated to use that piece of content more often and would proactively want to collaborate on ABM initiatives.
3) Talk the Accounts Language
Sales teams typically have aggressive performance indicators (KPIs or KRAs). In a typical organisation, the SDRs will have revenue targets, booking targets and metrics such as the number of meetings conducted in a week, the number of phone calls made in a week etc. All of these evaluation areas that sales teams are gauged on are primarily related to a target account.
On the other hand, the marketing teams have more macro, general level metrics to measure their success. These could be how many people attended a webinar, or how many people downloaded a white paper? What would instead serve well for marketers in reporting their results, is making them account specific.
This helps them in two ways: first, when sales teams see that marketing managers are speaking their language they’re keener on listening in and second, it further strengthens the confidence that sales teams have on the intentions of the marketing team with regards to following an account-based strategy.
Simply put, when marketing uses sales-related metrics to measure ROI on ABM, the sales team doesn't discount it as another fad.
4) Start ABM With a Few SDRs
Another way for marketing teams to demonstrate the efficacy of ABM is by running a pilot program with a small group of SDRs. The pilot program helps both the functions to figure out ways of effectively implementing an account-based strategy. It will also help them identify any areas of improvement and provide an opportunity to measure results quickly. If successful, a pilot program could further serve as a precedence for making the ABM methodology an organisational practice.
Getting your sales teams to adopt an account-based marketing strategy formally can be an uphill climb. As mentioned, SDRs may also be following it unknowingly, but getting them to work with the marketing function in close collaboration cannot be achieved overnight. Marketing teams need to take the lead on aligning with sales and think about how they can bring in some tangible business value.
At xGrowth, we have been working with organisations to establish this delicate equilibrium between the two functions. Our experience and learnings have been captured in this Account-Based Marketing guide which you can download. If there is still something you are struggling with, we would be more than happy to help. Feel free to reach out to us!