When Aligning Sales and Marketing Isn’t Enough

In a highly competitive business environment where customers are looking for increasingly bespoke solutions, account-based marketing strategies must draw on all areas of a business to optimize opportunities and value.

It’s not news that a successful account-based marketing (ABM) campaign depends on aligning sales and marketing functions. You can’t get beyond page 2 of any ABM “how to” guide without this point being driven home. But is it enough? And what does sales and marketing alignment actually mean? From the outset, both sales and marketing teams must:

  • Have heartfelt belief in the campaign
  • Be pulling in the same direction
  • Understand what their dependencies are and what they are responsible for
  • Share relevant insight and context into the challenges facing their target customer and the sector overall

Of course, they need to get their heads together to identify and research key stakeholders, and agree what makes them tick from both a personal and business perspective, as each can bring very different perspectives.

Toward this aim, marketing agencies spend a lot of time working with client sales and marketing teams to understand where the current skill sets, relationships, knowledge, and other contextual insights sit within each area of expertise. A cunning plan is then hatched that weaves both their activities nicely together, so that when the ABM activation is developed, the role each team plays is distinct, clear and optimised.

Shifting Perceptions

For example, JPC was approached recently by a major technology business with a highly complex, high-value offering to help build relationships and generate more business within one of their highly prized key accounts. During workshops with the sales team, we found we needed to change their customer’s perception of them significantly. We decided the best approach would be to identify and engage those individual stakeholders with the greatest influence and decision-making power – many of whom had been previously overlooked, because our client had an over-reliance on the technical buying team.

Working closely with the sales team, we then created a suite of forensically focused content they could deliver personally to each target. This ensured they believed in the value of each asset and felt the content earned them the right to have a conversation and follow up by canvassing stakeholders’ thoughts to spark a dialogue. We also created sales enablement tools, to maximise the chance of the assets reaching their targets, including messaging for social selling, inmails and emails, while also coaching the sales team to engage with their client in completely new and more innovative ways.

Although sales were driving the main thrust of the campaign, particularly some of the more “white glove” tactics (1-to-1), the marketing team were primed to widen the stakeholder audience to drive awareness and shift perceptions across other key influencers in the business by delivering broader messaging that helped our client to land and further expand influence within the account (1-to-few). We also worked with marketing to create related assets that would launch the concept to the sector overall with a consistent message, adding further value (1-to-many), while still retaining a very personal approach across every tier of the vertical.

Building Long-Term Relationships

This ticks all the classic ABM boxes and some, by also aligning with a broader vertical marketing push. Job done? Well perhaps it would have been had our customer sold a series of distinct products the sales team could easily negotiate their way around. But this was a large matrixed technology business looking to craft and co-create unique bespoke solutions for its customer to add value and stand out as a long-term strategic partner – the holy grail position that delivers ongoing revenue, trust and loyalty.

This meant sales and marketing could not maximise the opportunities and ensure success alone. Following initial engagement, they needed to bring together key solution specialists, strategists and innovation teams from across the business to come up with personalised, disruptive ideas and perspectives, while also building practical solutions to address customer’s specific needs.

Shifting from being a supplier to strategic partner by building valuable long-term relationships should not be left solely to sales and marketing. It’s about drawing on experts across an organisation to surround the customer, developing targeted account-based experiences – ABX – that deliver personalisation at every stage of the sales journey.

It demands breaking internal silos and bringing everyone together towards a common cause. You must deliver a truly personalised offering, incorporating a roadmap for your target customer that solves their business challenges and aligns with their goals and objectives. This is the route to true ABM – or rather ABX – success. And much coverted strategic partner status.


  • James Mollard

    James Mollard is client services and growth director at JPC, a strategic marketing agency that has helped its clients secure an ICV of over £12bn in the past six years by developing and delivering a forensic and pre-emptive integrated ABM and DBM strategy targeted at their most high-value enterprise accounts.

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