Selling to big companies can be a challenge, particularly if you sell a complex product or service. Determining who the buyer is and gaining their attention while you navigate a sea of decision-influencers can seem near impossible. This is where account-based sales can be highly effective.
A concept that has evolved from Account-Based Marketing, Account-Based Sales is a highly effective strategy for complex B2B sales, mainly for its reinforcement of collaboration between marketing, sales, customer service, and product development.
What Is Account-Based Sales?
ABS stands for Account-Based Sales, a sales strategy that enables collaboration between sales, marketing, product development, and customer service to capture strategic customer accounts. It involves developing and deploying a multi-touch, multi-channel strategy focused on a handful of high-potential customer accounts.
Who Should Use Account-Based Selling?
Account-Based Selling also referred to as Account Selling, Account Sales, Account-Based Sales Development, or simply by the acronym ABS, isn’t practical with every customer. To determine if Account-Based Selling is the right approach for selling your product or service, use the following criteria:
- The complexity of the sale
If you sell a product or service that is highly complex or technical, then Account-Based Selling might make sense. The more complex the sale, the greater the need for support from multiple customer-facing roles to educate the buyer, respond to their needs, and, in some instances, customize the product or service to satisfy their needs. It’s for this reason that ABS isn’t typically a promising approach for B2C sales.
- Size of your customers
If your customers are large, there is often a need to educate and respond to multiple questions and needs before selling a product. Additionally, large companies have more significant needs in terms of ongoing product or service support. Account-based selling ensures all departments that support your product or service’s marketing, sales, development, and support align with your customer.
- Clarity around your ideal customer
If you don’t sell B2B, your products or services aren’t overly complex, or you sell to small companies, account-based selling isn’t your best sales strategy. Before introducing Account-Based Selling, get clear on exactly who your ideal buyer is to ensure you get the most from your sales strategy.
- Number of decision-making influencers
When many decision-makers influence the purchase of your products or service, then Account-Based Selling might make sense. Typically in these instances, you’ll need support to respond to a wide variety of needs and questions, from engineering to operations to purchasing. Account-Based Selling brings all necessary internal working groups together to ensure decision-makers have the answers they need to move forward.
- Customer support required
If your product or service requires ongoing customer support, Account-Based Selling can make sense. It aligns all key stakeholders to support customer needs, rather than responsibility falling on the shoulders of a single department that may not have the expertise or resources to support the customer completely.
- Customer turnover
If there is a high degree of customer turnover, you may be able to slow or eliminate the turnover using Account-Based Selling. In addition, by aligning various departments to support a complex or large customer, Account-Based Selling can ensure a wide array of timely customer satisfaction outcomes.
Benefits of Using Account-Based Selling
If introduced in the right circumstances and done correctly, several intangible benefits can result from Account-Based Selling. The most effective uses include:
- Customer insights that enable better prospecting strategies and lead generation campaigns.
- Customer intelligence that supports nurturing and sustaining stronger customer relationships.
- Critical data that supports predictive analytics for sales pipeline growth and health.
- Technographic segmentation data that can identify and profile characteristics and behaviors of your customer accounts.
Effectiveness of Account-Based Sales
If you’ve determined that Account-Based Sales development is right for you, you need some measures to ensure your strategy is effective. The most common key performance indicators used are:
- Length of your sales cycle. Account-Based selling intends to reduce the duration of your sales cycle by involving more of the appropriate departments upfront. For this reason, you’ll want to monitor and track the length of your sales cycle to watch for downward trends.
- Sales revenue. The goal in ABS is to increase sales revenue, allowing for more significant insights around customer needs and value, so tracking sales revenue is essential.
- Buyer feedback and objections. Using surveys to obtain buyer feedback is an important measure to ensure the money and time you’ve invested in ABS positively impact your buyer relationships.
- Customer satisfaction. The benefits of ABS extend beyond buyers and remain intact through the customer life cycle. For this reason, tracking customer satisfaction rates during their life cycle is an essential measure of the success of ABS.
- Customer retention or churn. Providing a positive customer experience should result in reduced churn or longer retention. These are also important metrics to track.
Considering that Account-Based Selling creates stronger internal collaborations, there are also several internal measures of success for introducing Account-Based Selling, including:
- Increased employee retention. As customer-facing departments work more closely to find, nurture, close, and support customers, there is less infighting and disagreement. This collaborative atmosphere can lead to higher retention.
- Increased creativity. One of the natural outcomes of ABS is greater collaboration between customer-facing roles to drive creativity in support of closing and retaining key customers accounts.
- Increased productivity. Increased alignment between customer-facing roles also supports increased productivity. As a result of strong collaboration, initiatives or activities are more likely to be done right the first time to achieve their objective.
Account-Based Selling Framework
The most effective framework to use for introducing an Account-Based Selling model is as follows:
- Identify critical roles for the ABS team. Functions will depend on your product or services. However, they typically include account management, outside sales, inside sales, marketing, customer service, and product development roles.
- Define the responsibility of each role. For the team to work cohesively, it’s critical to define roles clearly. When you do, each department understands how their role contributes, and employee performance can be measured relative to supporting the team’s success.
- Target account criteria. Information such as company size, location, number of employees, and critical features valued will serve to inform the key accounts you include in your ABS strategy. These form the basis for your target customer profile.
- Create an ideal buyer persona. To determine the shortest path to reach the decision-maker on each new account, define the persona of the buyer or decision-maker. This includes their demographic, title, position, needs, influences within their company, etc.
- Target customer accounts. Using the information collected above, identify key target accounts the team should pursue and then the sales funnel stages for each customer.
- Determine your content marketing strategy. Lead generation for your target customer accounts will depend on your ability to add value and support your ideal buyer in researching and selecting new products or services.
- Brainstorm entry points. To align the content and maximize the team’s effectiveness, the account manager should lead the team in brainstorming entry points to new customer accounts. This includes identifying both the ideal buyer and all other roles that may influence the buying decision. For example, these influencing roles can include operations, engineering, and finance.
- Design your target outreach strategy. For example, it may be easy to connect with some ideal buyers, whereas others may be sheltered or protected by gatekeepers. The ABS team will design the most effective outreach and marketing campaigns for each target customer.
- Confirm metrics for success. To ensure your ABS strategy is on track, identify the key metrics that are most important to you. Then, ensure data to support those metrics is readily available.
- Define an internal communication strategy. The frequency and focus of internal meetings and communication will determine collaboration amongst the ABS team members. Take time to define how often you will meet and how to share information.
- Incorporate lessons learned. Like any sales strategy, ABS success will result when you seek to improve your ABS strategy continuously. Incorporating regular meetings where successes and challenges are openly shared allows for capturing internal best practices and lessons learned.
- Select sales enablement technology. To enhance the effectiveness and productivity of the team, make sure to select the appropriate sales enablement technology.
What Is Your Next ABS Move?
Account-Based Selling can be a challenge to introduce, particularly in a company where customer-facing roles have typically worked independently. It also requires educating customers who are unaccustomed to a collaborative approach to supporting their business. Communication then, both internally across the team and externally with existing and new customers, is critical to success.
If your customers are significant, if they have a lengthy or complex decision-making process, or if you sell complex products or services, ABS is likely your shortest path to growth.
Start by identifying the key roles that need to work together, your target customer pain points, and an ABS introduction strategy. Then, call together the appropriate working groups and discuss how Account-Based Sales can support your sales growth objectives.
Your existing and new customers will appreciate your approach, and seeing sales opportunities closed in shorter periods will result.