Closing the gap in enterprise sales

Stephen Waddington

13 May 2019

Account-Based Marketing (ABM) closes the gap between sales and marketing. Its a win for both disciplines.

Sales and marketing are moving closer together in enterprise organizations. The driver is the relentless drumbeat of sales and margin.

The two disciplines have frequently had an uneasy relationship rooted in a lack of common objectives, a limited understanding of each other’s discipline and poor management.

Marketing focuses at the top of the funnel. It’s a volume game that aims to generate as many leads as possible. Sales works at the far end of the funnel, building one-on-one relationships.

Marketing moans that sales don’t treat leads with due reverence. Sales complains about the lack of both quality and volume. A programmatic approach to ABM closes the gap.

Structured approach to ABM strategy

ABM success requires you to identify and target companies and contacts that are likely to buy your product.

This means bringing sales and marketing functions together to identify and prioritize accounts that will move the business forward – and to identify the motivations and pain points that the target individuals are facing.

Advances in technology including predictive analytics are helping here. A growing selection of vendors let organizations match in-house customer data with a wealth of third-party data sources to identify high priority, in-market prospects – and the topics they are interested in. Metia track and use at least a dozen of these vendors, each with different strengths in their capabilities for different purposes.

These new capabilities help brands prioritize how effort and investment are applied but generating impact from ABM is more nuanced. Knowing who to target is only the first part of the challenge.

Techniques to drive engagement

When building an ABM program, prioritize accounts into tiers: with a clear plan to engage individuals on a one-to-one, one-to-few, or one-to-many basis.

For each tier, conversation starters need to be based on a fair exchange of value – and aligned to the potential value of the target to the business. The research phase should determine the best approach.

The means of engagement include any, and all, marketing channels – with account-targeting applied as a filter, either manually or through technology. Think display advertising and targeted social media when targeting many accounts. Email, direct mail, and phone become more prominent when targeting a few. Blending online and offline tactics typically improves your chances of success.

The orchestration of a campaign needs competency in running integrated programs across multiple channels, and an appetite to operate close-up when one-to-one contact is important.

As soon as a conversation is underway the role of sales is to develop the relationship and sell – but this typically requires support.

Conversion of leads into revenues

ABM campaigns require military level discipline. Success relies on engagement between marketing and sales, even with a modest target list.

Take a direct mail campaign targeting 20 organizations – with follow up by email and phone. The number of engagements quickly escalate depending on the sophistication of the campaign: you’re seeking to engage with numerous individuals across multiple touch points. Even a small number of targets, many need many touch points.

Governance is an important part of a campaign. Sales teams have a lot on their plate. It’s important to load balance outreach so they aren’t overwhelmed and see the benefit from participating. Even with the best intentions, some policing is required – ensuring commitments are lived up to, so the investment made to start a conversation isn’t wasted.

Sales enablement is also key – ensuring sales teams have adequate understanding of the audience’s pain points to capitalize on conversation as it unfolds. Creating materials to help sustain and evolve the conversation is critical.

Using data to gain consensus

Certainly, confidence in executing ABM comes from experience and solid, proven processes. But data is always the clincher.

Moving sales and marketing from combatants to collaborators needs an evidence-based approach. One that collects and uses data at every stage of the process to demonstrates efficacy and value. Data closes off arguments and achieves consensus.

ABM is one reason, among many, Metia is designed around a data smart approach to marketing. The by-product is a wealth of accumulated wisdom and aggregated benchmarks.

We use this data to help clients plan and optimize their campaigns. And to fuel our conversations with marketers and sales functions that share these common problems. If that is a conversation you’d like to have, contact us.