I plead guilty to enjoying a cold beer or two, and I’ve watched with amazement as the decade-long bull market in the craft beer industry shows no signs of abating.
Sales and marketing executives like to latch onto trendy initiatives and programs, sounding like a “Buzzword Bob” every time a new methodology hits the mainstream. Every few quarters, the profession of selling is upended by another trend that, for better or worse, promises to be the next pathway to every rep’s accelerators.
Account-based marketing (ABM), however, is not one of those trends. It’s a program you need to get behind and champion at your company. Why? Well, if you’re in sales, here’s the fun little secret of ABM: you’re already doing it! Shhh. Don’t tell marketing. Let them think they invented it.
The big benefit of ABM for reps is having marketing support how you already sell and making you better at it. Modern marketers are moving to more precise, more targeted methods, and ABM is the next step. It’s creating fidelity between sales and marketing, and it’s all based on buyer data and lead intelligence that wasn’t available a few years ago.
Successful ABM has several components and marketing has to take the lead on most of them, but you still need to get behind it. Here are four tips to help make your company’s move to ABM a fast success.
1. Let marketing define the ideal customer profile (ICP).
Marketing, and more specifically, your product team, should already know the profile of your ideal customer. It’s who they target with their messaging and it’s up to them to define it. Of course, you’re selling the product every day and you know who does and doesn’t want it. Your experience can help marketing, but they have to understand the personas, craft the message, and define the buying hierarchy.
Here’s a tip for marketing: ICP can be a three-month research project or five bullets in an email that gets sales 80 percent of what they need. Start small, move fast, and adjust on the fly.
2. Admit that assigning reps to arbitrary geographical regions is inefficient (and ludicrous).
Most sales teams have regional assignments. That’s outdated thinking, and it’s obvious it in no way matches how any B2B industry is dispersed. Give reps a number of accounts to pursue with vigor. Sure, if they live in Boston, give them accounts in the Northeast. But get them excited by giving them real, quality accounts to target.
3. Limit your hunting grounds and use your gut to find your prey.
Your total addressable market (TAM) might show 1,000 potential accounts, but that’s just your starting point. Sales will always have an art-versus-science aspect. Whittling your TAM down to a manageable amount will take some gut feel, even if your gut is informed with market intelligence. Find a manageable number of accounts – 20 or 50 or 100 – to go after first, then tweak your selection process as you learn.
4. Stay focused.
Trying to sell to everyone is a huge point of failure for most companies, and it all comes down to greed. You see a potential deal outside of your ICP and your TAM and you go after it. But then marketing has to craft custom messaging, you have to tweak your pitch, and even if you win the deal, you’ve wasted time on an unrepeatable lark. Stay focused. If an opportunity outside of your target comes along, use it as way to engage marketing and maybe even reevaluate your targets.
Here’s another tip: There should be consequences if a rep sells outside of your ICP and TAM. Smaller commissions for deals outside of the target would be a great start.
ABM helps reps sell more, so let them go!
Reps want to make money. If you’re constraining them to specific accounts, you’d better be darn sure they’re successful or they’ll leave. In the early days of your ABM program, put all of your efforts into making it work. You’ll need to adjust as you go, but there’s no better way for sales to see marketing’s efforts than to have marketing working with them on individual deals.
Also continue to iterate your ICP and your message as you learn more, talk with more buyers, and identify relevant business events.
Remember, both sales and marketing have to do their part. Make sure you’re tightly aligned and reps have the intelligence and resources to effectively engage each and every account. But most importantly, let them sell.
John Kelly is chief revenue officer at InsideView, a technology platform that delivers targeting intelligence through a variety of products, services and APIs to address a range of sales, marketing, and other business needs.