Go-to-Market Strategy

Account Based Marketing (ABM) – Sales & Marketing

B2B Account Based Marketing (ABM) has been the catalyst to force marketing to become integrated into the sales process and correlated to revenue.

The graphic below summarizes the involvement of traditional B2B marketing organizations in the sales process.  Historically, marketing has provided some value but the interactions were distant, contained and spotty.  Typically, the focus was not on the sales cycle and the mindset was not geared to how to help a salesperson achieve quota.

B2B Account Based Marketing (ABM) – Traditional Marketing

When marketing truly becomes part of the B2B sales process there is a tremendous need for a B2B Account Based Marketing (ABM) Model.  Specifically, a lot of homework has to be completed upstream in the sales process as opposed to figuring out who has responded to a campaign and if they are worthy of a direct salesperson’s time.  An Account Based Marketing Model takes time and effort to determine what companies would benefit from the solution, how to message the offering and how to access the individuals that are part of the buying process.  However, it is much less expensive to complete this work upfront than after spending time and resources to spray and pray marketing programs.  And, when marketing works with the sales team towards a common goal the work and rewards are much greater.

Below is a framework for an B2B Account Based Marketing(ABM) Model that will successfully contribute to the sales process.

B2B Account Based Marketing (ABM) – Integrated Sales & Marketing

Account Based Marketing (ABM) – Sales Process

Long before marketing was incorporated into the B2B sales process, salespeople were responsible for doing it all. This meant salespeople were the ones developing a list of suspects, prospects and qualified leads to build their sales pipeline. In truth, a small percentage of sales people today still do it all. However, this is the exception and not the rule.

When tension surfaces between sales and marketing it is usually because marketing does not embed the field marketing, demand generation and demand management functions into the sales process. Instead, marketing uses discrete processes that sporadically interject into the sales process. Usually in this case the end goal for marketing (delivering a lead or MQL) totally differs from the goal for sales (a qualified sales opportunity or a closed/won deal).  Once the forecast is missed, the analysis into the sales pipeline (and finger pointing) begins.

Account Based Marketing (ABM) – Sales Planning

Strategic sales planning is the forum for the sales and marketing teams to sit down and agree on what to do, how to do it, when to do it and to decide who will do what. Note that this is not the same as the sales team providing a list of conferences or events to attend the events team. An effective, strategic B2B sales plan requires both a top-down and bottoms-up approach.

In order to create an integrated sales planning is is imperative to document the revenue or annual contract value (ACV) targets by geography, product, industry and any other relevant criteria.  Details on whether the revenue or ACV is new, upsell or expansion also need to be taken into account — and this must occur at a macro level.

However, the best B2B sales plans go beyond simply dividing the revenue or ACV target by the average sales price to get the needed number of deals. These plans will also stipulate dividing by the number of deals required by the close rate to calculate the number of qualified sales opportunities (QSO’s).  The number of QSO’s will provide a gauge of how many accounts need to be harvested each quarter.  For instance, there may be 250 targeted accounts but the mandate may be to get an at bat with 25 for the next quarter and that may require a full court press on 75 accounts for the quarter if the close rate is 33%.

Next, marketing needs to sit down with each rep, to review specific targeted accounts and develop both horizontal and vertically integrated campaigns to penetrate and expand those targeted accounts.

Then, sales reps, field marketers, demand generation, sales enablers, content and product marketers need to review and develop an integrated sales and marketing plan to acquire and penetrate accounts.

Account Based Marketing (ABM) – Database

More often than not, sales and marketing integration goes off the rails before it ever gets started. Marketing buys, rents or builds a database that becomes the foundation for all outbound marketing campaigns. On the other side of the equation, the sales team (sales ops, head of sales, sales managers or sales reps) select accounts that they will target based on their personal history, knowledge of or interest in — and those become the focus (database) for sales reps. An audit between the sales list and the marketing list usually reveals a pretty wide delta in terms of companies and contacts — and that is where the problems begin.

The first problem that sales reps point out is that marketing is working an account that is not on their radar. Marketing’s response is that the account fits the MQL profile and this starts the “us versus them” battle. Marketing will often refer back to the definition or to lead scoring (i.e. activity-based versus based on correlation to a target account profile) to justify the lead.  If sales and marketing are on the same page (an agreed upon database of companies and contacts) then any response to an outbound campaign will be an individual that the sales team is interested in following up with.

Account Based Marketing vs Lead GenerationAn Example of an Account Based Marketing Plan

  • Flip the funnel upside down and focus on fewer accounts
  • Know more about each company and individual
  • Get marketing and sales on the same page


Account Based Marketing vs Lead Generation

The sales team then contributes to the problem by adding new reps, firing sales reps, sales reps quitting and realigning territories which may alter the targeted list of companies and or contacts. If marketing is truly integrated with sales then there is daily communication so these issues can be minimized. However, the best approach is for sales, sales ops and marketing to agree on a target account profile to use as the criteria for selecting specific accounts. Then, together they review companies and build a list of targeted accounts.

But wait, there’s more. After the accounts are mutually selected , sales and marketing must then document who specifically within each account would be ideal prospects – i.e. who does the sales team believe would be worthy of their time. It’s important to document title (c-level, vice president or some variation, director and manager) and keywords (cloud, mobile, analytics, informatics, etc.) that should be found in each title.  The result will be a database full of potential MQLs.  Scoring then is not to determine MQLs but to prioritize MQLs.

Account Based Marketing (ABM) – Integrated Customer Acquisition Plans

At this point there is enough information for sales and marketing to jointly develop the framework for a customer acquisition, upsell and expansion plans.   Analyzing each account and making assumptions about what that account may buy provides the quantification of revenue or ACV by geography, industry and size of company. And this provides a budget guideline for marketing spend.

Also, a mutual understanding of what to sell and to whom it will be sold provides the context for demand generation campaigns, content marketing and sales tools. This integrated, account-based approach will drastically increase the probability of developing meaningful and engaging content to the individuals expected to perceive value from the offering. The key to making account-based sales and marketing work is for the entire team (sales, sales ops, enablement, field marketing, demand generation, demand management and content marketing) to remain proactive and engaged in the sales process.

Account Based Marketing (ABM) – Beyond Fly Over Marketing

All too often the main sales complaint about marketing is that their goal is to create a lead or MQL and to simply “rinse and repeat.” Effective B2B marketers do not look at the sales process as a series of discrete steps on which they interject or hand-off and then bow out. Account-based marketing is diametrically opposite to the mindset of getting someone to fill out a form, justifying that it is a “good lead” and routing it to sales. Account-based marketing requires marketing to be partners with sales. As such, marketing must focus like a laser on how to get a targeted company / individual to engage with a sales person and with a high probability of closing.  This requires proactive involvement throughout the entire sales cycle to provide marketing resources to find, attract, engage, close, onboard, retain, upsell, cross sell and expand within each account.

Account Based Sales and Marketing

To fully embrace account-based sales and marketing means marketing must stop simply passing leads and justifying why they are good leads. Marketing must embrace the concept of helping sales engage with individuals in targeted companies with the goal of turning them into customers. In short, marketing and sales must work together and resist the temptation to work in silos and have discrete, intermittent interactions. Having the same goals, proactively working together on a daily basis to execute an integrated plan, systematically running plays and pragmatically bringing closure to every company on the targeted list is a recipe for success.

Additional Go to Market Resources from Four Quadrant – Designed for B2B Sales & Marketers

View Go to Market Sales Charts >>

QBR Presentation Template >>

Free Sales Quick Reference Card Template >>

Download a Strategic Account Plan Template >>

Go to Market Strategy Templates

By Peter

Peter is a strategic and visionary marketing executive and brand champion who has leveraged his unique combination of classical training and entrepreneurial experience at start-ups and F500 companies to transform technology innovations into multimillion-dollar revenue streams. His experience spans all areas of marketing, including go-to-market strategy and execution; brand identity and brand positioning; product development; sales and marketing leadership; customer acquisition and retention; and influencer and analyst relations. Peter consults with c-level executives, teaches at USF’s EMBA program and serves as an advisor to start-ups.

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