Account-based marketing (ABM) is a game-changer, but it’s not uncommon for sales to push back against implementing it as a new strategy. It’s understandable. On the surface, it appears that ABM is asking sales to work with fewer leads, and that kind of change can be a scary proposition. In my previous blog post, I touched on this very subject when discussing outbound prospecting. The reality is, the sales team is not only holding marketing back from a necessary evolution, they are holding themselves back if they’re not getting on-board with ABM. Account-based strategies require input from across the organization because they work for, and benefit, the entire organization.
Alignment needs to happen across the board and if your B2B brand is targeting named accounts but hasn’t yet implemented an ABM strategy—your competition is getting a head start on your customers. ABM’s popularity has been rising and for good reason: coordinating your resources to focus on pursuing and converting specific accounts works.
So, Why ABM?
Inverting the traditional B2B strategy of lead generation-based marketing brings in bigger, more valuable accounts and increases engagement with target and existing accounts. But what do marketers and salespeople need to do in order to ensure ABM success? Align.
In this blog, I’ll cover the key to successful ABM as well as how to get your sales team on board and how to achieve alignment.
Alignment between sales and marketing is beneficial for any organization, but if you want to get the most out of ABM (and what marketer doesn’t?), it’s crucial.
The good news is that ABM by its very nature brings the two teams together—as long as both sales and marketing can agree to work together. If you’re finding it challenging to get sales to buy-in at first, you’re not alone. Ultimately, you are working toward a sales and marketing partnership but the first step is, of course, alignment.
So, you’re a marketing team leader who needs to convince sales to buy in or a sales team leader who needs to get the rest of the sales team on-board. Where do you start? First, make sure the sales team understands the dramatic benefit that ABM brings to their lives. Then, demonstrate how a successful ABM strategy hinges on their input.
Whether you’re meeting one-on-one with the director of sales, writing an email, or pitching the entire sales department, ask a few questions:
Most honest sales reps will take the opportunity to express their frustrations because it’s just statistics that sales departments are commonly frustrated by what they feel are unqualified leads and by not being able to find the content resources they need.
But those are two of the best reasons that sales should be excited about an account-based strategy.
ABM starts with selecting target accounts, which is very much like qualifying leads at the beginning. There is almost no chance for an unqualified lead to land on a sales rep’s proverbial desk because sales and marketing have selected target accounts together from the very beginning. How would the sales team like to only talk to highly qualified, ready-to-buy leads?
After selecting target accounts, account-based marketing hinges on strategic, personalized content that marketing develops for specific personas, accounts, and even—sometimes—individuals. How would the sales team like to be able to deliver a case study in the same industry as a prospect, or a report generated especially for his/her company?
It might force sales out of their comfort zones at the beginning, and it might be a little longer before they start seeing new ABM-generated leads, but most sales reps won’t turn down a much greater percentage of qualified leads, at much bigger accounts, and the content they need to close the deals.
Everyone wants to be needed, right? Even though it’s called, “account-based marketing,” ABM involves more than just the marketing department. Alignment between sales and marketing is both a prerequisite for and a product of an effective ABM strategy.
Consider the five basic steps of account-based marketing. Almost all depend on input and insights from experienced sales reps:
Account-based marketing is not a new marketing trick that sales needs to deal with or help implement. It’s the natural evolution of marketing, sales, customer service, etc., but doesn’t work unless the whole organization grows together—and there is plenty of incentive for sales to be on-board.
With a broad-based marketing strategy, the marketing team attracts leads through avenues such as advertising, email, and social media. Leads come in, and then sales takes over to work to convert them. With ABM, sales and marketing work together throughout the process, but that alignment has to be strategically planned—at least for a little while. Two teams who have worked in separate silos for generations won’t suddenly start playing as one team just because an executive tells them to be aligned. Even the most well-intentioned team members need to break a lot of old habits.
So once both teams are on-board, look at those five steps again, and plan how alignment needs to happen at each one.
What’s happening here is that both sales and marketing have a stake in every step, but it has to be intentional. That alignment makes for a stronger strategy that, combined with a focus on targeted accounts, can make a big difference in conversions.
ABM has proven its effectiveness for a growing number of businesses, but it can only be truly successful if both marketing and sales buy-in. This can seem like a hard sell for sales teams that are set in their ways and feel that what they’re already doing works. You need to drive home that a shift to ABM can work better. Ultimately, you are working toward a marketing sales partnership, but alignment is essential to reach partnership.
Your first step? Sell your internal customer first–the sales team. Write a pitch they can’t resist and present it with confidence. When they see the real potential of ABM, they’ll get on board without hesitation.