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Managing Sales’ Expectations For Account-Based Everything

Account Based Everything is more than just the latest marketing industry buzzword. Here’s how to get buy-in from your Sales team.

It’s a highly strategic coming-together of your entire organization to hone in on your best accounts and deliver personalized content and communication that comes from marketing, sales, customer success and even executives.

Quality leads haven’t been dropping in your sales teams’ laps all these years, and they’re not going to start now. Instead of taking the brunt of the blame from frustrated reps wondering why their lead lists aren’t turning into closes, marketers have a golden opportunity to align with sales and solve a decades old problem while learning from the insight that reps have at their disposal to create true buyer engagement.

All it takes is the trust and buy-in from your teams, and the willingness to change. Your salespeople may already have some preconceived notions about ABE, and it will take work to manage some of those common sales expectations.

First sales expectation: We already have the target accounts list.

The reality: No, what sales normally has is a fairly one dimensional list of large accounts in their territory or “patch.” Lots of potential, but also lots of room to go before we can term this truly account-based.

The truth for marketers is that we usually don’t have a good understanding of sales’ accounts anyway. It’s a matter of access—marketing isn’t privy to the signals necessary for an account to end up on that target list and its details aren’t clearly denoted within most CRM platforms. But that’s okay, because once armed with that data, marketers can educate sales about account intelligence and validate those best accounts.

Maybe there are accounts you don’t have that you should, or vice versa. Maybe the list is targeting an incomplete buying committee at those accounts. Remember, the list won’t just have company names, it will be broken down into buying centers within those companies. (One-to-one communication is the hallmark of any great ABE strategy).

Add data intelligence

When curating a target account list with your sales team, add data intelligence to validate a list of truly ideal accounts. To do this you’ll want to gather those lists from sales, pull historical data from CRM and marketing automation and create an overlay that uncovers where the list is right, and also where it’s wrong. Often due to the incomplete nature of CRM data you’ll have to tap additional data sources and interviewing subject matter experts such as customer success or the executive team is also a key activity.

In the end you’ll not only have a highly data driven list of best accounts and also an understanding of what buying centers within those accounts look like. Welcome to your new database. Quality over quantity, every time.

Second sales expectation: We’re going to get fewer leads with ABE.

The reality: They’re right. But they’ll get true engagement in a pre-qualified list of buyers, and a lot less garbage to filter through. Lead conversion rates are abysmal—for every 400 initial inquiries, only 1 becomes a closed opportunity—and quantity is to blame. Sales needs to be reminded that just because they’re busy, doesn’t mean they’re being effective. The goal is not simply activity.

What you need to run a successful ABE strategy is full team buy in on a truly threaded approach. We’ve been doing the baton pass between marketing and sales forever, with marketing generating leads and handing them off to sales to close.

Strategic sales

With ABE, sales participates in strategic outreach from the beginning (once you’ve agreed upon your list of targeted accounts). While marketers are providing air cover and targeted outreach, sales is talking to decision makers and influencers. Even your executive teams should be communicating with the C-suite within those accounts. And all of this activity is aggregated and measured. The old mindset of “thanks, we’ll take it from here” has no place within the ABE structure.

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Third sales expectation: We’re going to be doing marketing’s job for them

The reality: Many siloed marketing activities are being decentralized, not because sales is doing marketing’s job but because buyers want to be educated throughout the entire buying process. The sales cycle is extending, ABE simply reflects what buyers want—value at each stage of the journey. Because your teams won’t be sifting through the muck of junk leads, sales has the invitation to push further and go where the customer is, not just sit back and wait.

It might get uncomfortable—but it’s worth it the effort.

Both marketing and sales may have to live in an uncomfortable place for a little while as they get used to participating in different areas. Sales probably moreso, since they’re active content creators within ABE.

Creativity and social media are no longer the strict domain of marketing. Salespeople with blogs and podcasts have become commonplace and it’s good for business. While the focus may shift, sales teams should at least start realizing that everything they do on a daily basis is worth their time—and the company’s as well. You can help Sales see this by managing their expectations for account-based everything in these three areas.

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