It is becoming clear that this “account based” sales thing is not a passing fad. Rather, it’s the key process that direct B2B sales should be relying upon. However, the software, tactics, and processes available today are still nascent, so many salespeople are flying blind. In simple terms, account based sales strategy is all about identifying the right companies to go after, then identifying the right people to go after, and most importantly, communicating effectively throughout the entire sales cycle.
Step 1: ICP
Your ICP (“ideal customer profile”) is the criteria that you’ll use to create a strategically curated list of companies to target. These targets should be those that will add the most value to your company, today. As your organization changes over time, the ICP should be adjusted along with it. If you’re an early stage startup trying to get from 0 to 10 customers, your ICP will be different than if you are a growth stage business going for an IPO.
Regardless of your stage, there are a few fundamental characteristics you should take into consideration when developing your ICP.
When gathering account-level data, it’s important you understand what industry, vertical, category, and/or segment you are targeting. Some examples include health care, fashion, software-as-a-service (“SaaS”), consumer packaged goods (“CPG”), and retail.
Segmenting by company size (by number of employees) is a commonly-used technique. You might also use company size to group or categorize customer tiers.
Performance metrics such as institutional revenue or website traffic are valuable attributes in terms of inferring pulse points such as propensity to buy and deal size.
Company headquarters or executive office locations can give you information about where decision making takes place and is commonly used for territory assignment.
In addition to account-level data, it’s also important you determine the type of stakeholders you will need to engage with as part of your sales cycle.
To identify stakeholders, start by looking at department names, titles, and hierarchy levels. You must understand how your solution impacts each individual. For example, if you are selling prospecting software used by sales development reps (“SDRs”), how will you determine who the decision-makers are? There are a variety of possible titles, and you want to be as strategic with your outreach as possible.
Step 2: Communication strategy
Your communication strategy needs to be laser focused on one thing: effectively reaching the right employees within the accounts you’re pursuing.
Successful sales organizations align themselves with marketing teams to generate and manage inbound and outbound communication efforts. At the top of the funnel, these efforts are typically divided into two buckets: inbound and outbound.
When someone from one of your target accounts arrives at one of your marketing channels, you should begin building a profile that tracks their every interaction and characteristic. Many marketing automation systems have useful methodologies for building profiles and syncing them with your CRM.
Once an inbound inquiry or signup is generated, the appropriate salesperson should be notified and provided with all relevant context about that person and his or her company. This should also intelligently update your CRM in real time.
Be mindful of what information you push to the sales rep. You want to send them information that is current and relevant—helping them move to the next step in the sales process. It’s critical not to duplicate data, and you should have a process in place to prevent duplication.
Typical outbound channels include phone, email, social media, and snail mail. Understanding the organizational chart and where each of the account’s stakeholders are positioned is essential to your process. Establish your call and call-back cadences as well as the messaging that will be communicated across each channel and employee role so that your message is delivered in a consistent and measurable manner.
You must understand the purpose of each sales channel and how to leverage them to successfully drive prospects towards the next step. SDR can use social media in their strategy, targeted advertisements directly to prospects will create awareness of your company when first contact is initiated. Closing sales reps might use social media to “remind” prospects about the deal further along in the cycle.
As you conduct outreach, be calculated and understand who you are contacting. When you have a deep understanding of each relevant stakeholder, you will be able to calculate how much headway has been gained.
Step 3: Measure results
It is imperative that you plan to derive insights from all the activities your sales and marketing teams are engaged in. You should look at this from both a holistic sales team and individual rep level. How can you use the data you’re collecting to improve systems for the entire sales organization, while also optimizing day-to-day processes for individual contributors?
Tools like InsightSquared provide data visualization dashboards for both leadership and reps to help measure progress.
Step 4: Coaching strategy
To be successful, new strategies must be taught effectively—this includes both teaching the “why,” as well as the “how.” In order to initiate successful change, you need to ensure all members of your team understand what an account based approach entails, and why you’re implementing it.
It’s important that leadership is able to explain the difference between a lead based approach and this new account based approach. Reps need to understand why the account based approach is more strategic and how they can leverage today’s advances in the data and software to overcome the limitations they’ve experienced in the past.
Step 5: Software
Below, you’ll find a list of some of the tools you can incorporate as you create your account based sales strategy. Keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all strategy and process. Experiment with different approaches to validate that the tools you’ve selected are actually performing. Continue to tweak variables (and measure results!—otherwise, tweaking is pointless) to ensure your process is performing optimally.
2016 will be a watershed year for the account based sales approach. With so many new technologies entering the marketplace, it’s likely the sales process a couple months from now will look completely different from the tried-and-true process we know. Consume as much content as you can and demo as many new systems as your schedule permits. This will help keep you up-to-date on the strategic nuances that are the foundation of this account based approach.