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4 BIG Account-Based Problems & How to Solve Them ft. Craig Rosenberg of TOPO

Account-based is the talk of the town these days and more than ever before we are seeing our customers clamoring with a unity of purpose—adopt a best in class, account-based approach.

High touch, high value interactions are not without challenge. In fact, to deploy a really successful multi-threaded process that is purposeful is really, really hard. I rounded up some of the biggest challenges organizations are facing and completely shanghai’d Craig Rosenberg, Chief Analyst at TOPO, with a phone call that was too good not to share. We’re already looking forward to the big TOPO Summit, April 12-13, in San Francisco. This convo really speaks to the kind of content going into what’s already a must-attend event for sales and marketing pros.

Problem#1: Delegation

Me: I want to start with a really common problem everyone can identify with. Everyone’s talking about orchestration plays and threaded approaches but the desire for massive delegation is more predominant than ever. The whole, find a solution, bring it back, put it front of me, let me see it-type stuff. How do we overcome this monster roadblock? It seems that now, more than ever, Executives aren’t interested in talking to lowly “sales” reps.

Craig Rosen-revenue: This the classic case for viewing account-based in the long tail. Once you’re in the sales process, it’s not impossible. It can be done, but it’s harder. It all depends on your business. If you’re LeadMD, it begins the minute you start engaging with a champion.

Think about long term, high value, more expensive plays you run that could take years; making sure you’re building one-on-one relationships with key executives. An easy example is a live event such as high-class dinner. These are plays that have been run for years but have been left in the hands of the individual sales reps or field marketing. It should be a planned, orchestrated effort to build relationships with key executives.

Typically, if you have a big event, the only executives that attend are speakers and those with booths. To get executives to attend, you have to think about providing an exclusive experience. At the TOPO Summit, for example, we have a track just for executives and we host it at a separate venue. You want to be thinking about how you engage with and build actual relationships with executives.

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Problem #2: Control

Me: It seems to me that with Account-Based, inbound can almost be a problem. When you get inbound, there’s a self prescribed nature to it, there’s already a need. The buyer has narrowed things down in terms of priority. Now they control the conversation.

Craig “Account-based” Rosenberg: Once they’ve determined how they’re going to buy, it’s hard to break that. Meanwhile, Sales generally wants tricks to overcome this. There are no more tricks. Barriers to reaching executives are really up now.

Ultimately, the truth is, in today’s world, big budgets are delegated, purchasing is delegated, and executives want to know exactly what they’re going to get—particularly around tech.

We met with one company that was doing pretty well. They had just made their foray into marketing, and were actually getting CMO meetings because they were bigger than a startup.

And then their sales reps were telling us they’d get an hour-long meeting with these guys, but 20 minutes in, the CMO just walked out. The issue was, the sales rep was jumping right into the demo. The reality is, 80% of the time, executives don’t want to talk about tactical, nitty-gritty stuff.

Problem #3: Re-tooling Sales to be Account-Based

Me: Account-Based is a very new muscle for some organizations. If you’ve got a target account list of 1,000 accounts per rep in a hybrid model, you might be able to afford to whiff a couple times. However if you have a narrow, highly selective list—and we’ve seen them as small as five accounts per rep—you can’t afford to screw up.

“Funnelholic”: Totally. You have to covet those accounts in your narrow target list. Everything you do should be deliberate and thoughtful—sales and marketing. My favorite of the bad plays is people sending webinar invites to CIOs. A CIO is going to attend an hour-long webinar? No. And that really degrades the potential of a relationship with that buyer.

A lot of the rules we talked about in the demand gen model still apply. We knew these tactics didn’t work, but everyone kept doing them. All this hype in the blogosphere—batch and blast, get as much as you can get. You have to take a hard look at the offers that actually resonate from a sales AND marketing perspective. If you’ve got 100 accounts and whiff on 10%, you’re down to 90 and that really starts to stack the deck against you. Bottom line, you should pay more for great sales reps. The same reps that thrived in volume and velocity wont be able to transition quickly into account-based, not without a big learning curve. One size doesn’t fit all, the way we think about the profession of sales is so critical here.

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One of the things we’ve internalized at TOPO, in terms of organizations, we’re modeling our strategies after the best sales reps in the world. When you talk to sales reps with million-dollar W2s, you find they have complete control of the account. Everything’s strategically in place. They know where all the bodies are buried. They know all the stakeholders. They want to know about every interaction and how it’s delivered. They want to make sure it’s positioned right. They are the model for account-based. Can we learn from them and deliver this with more scale? Can we enable the other reps to efficiently deliver something remotely close to these top reps? By the way, the answer is yes.

We had an amazing call once with one of these guys. He was so prepared, he told us he spends 30-40 minutes on a single follow-up email. That’s context. These reps, the way they tackle things, it’s all about important things like tone and impact. Why take a chance on something mediocre? With Account-Based you literally can’t afford to.

Everyone hates having to pay the reps, but if you’ve got someone who made a lot of money selling to C-level executives at big companies, they’re worth it. You don’t run into those problems. They might be maniacs and yell at everyone, but they’re impeccable when they engage the client.

Problem #4: Shiny Objects

Me: Tech seems to always be the lead action these days and that’s led to a lot of regret and lost opportunity. It’s the “We want to get better at X so let’s buy Y software,” only to discover that running that software requires process that should have been in place way before purchase. As you’re out there and organizations are asking you what to invest in from a tech perspective, to reinforce account-based go-to-market, what do you tell them? Is tech really necessary for ABE?

C-level Rosenberg: How dare you. (Laughs) We did a study for the ABM Leadership Alliance that consisted of hour-long interviews with VPs and only 10% or so were in their position for under six months so they had a strong understanding of their environments. It was interesting, surprising even. Most were focused on how CRM and marketing automation is going to support the business and how they are going to fill the contact database.

Everyone wants toys. And, we both know we really want to stop them and say, “Hey. Let me get all the other stuff, the basics, fixed first and get you going before we add those toys on top.” It was really revealing and encouraging to hear this group of executives, which for so many years were the biggest proponents of buying “stuff”, concentrate on the basics. Especially after so many years of buying first and figuring it out later (see the marketing automation movement for reference)

Ultimately, from an Account-Based perspective, the ultimate foundational app in the space will be something that helps manage multi-channel, multi-threaded alignment within accounts. It’s hard to manage today. That will be the killer app.

Once you build the process and tech foundation, you can then layer in other tech over time. Think about account-based advertising. In a volume/velocity lens and you’d fail, but if you think about it as one of the many things you do getting into target accounts, it’s different. It allows you to do Account-Based at scale; advertising, branding, marketing, of course you want to do other things like that.
I’ll be boring, let my grey hair show, and say start with the foundation and build on it.

Me: Last question and it’s a hard hitter. Who’s the big keynote speaker this year?

Craig: It’s a big surprise. I can tell you it will be like last year. When we choose keynotes, we try finding people with unique perspectives to surprise you. We still get people asking how to reach Jeff Ma from last year. We’re not going to pay for Tony Robbins. We’re going to find someone you’ve probably never heard of before—but will be thinking about for a long time.

TOPO Summit hit San Francisco, April 12-13th, 2017.

If you’re in marketing, sales, or any role responsible for driving growth in your organization, you should check it out. If you missed the show in 2017, make a note to attend next year!

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