Complete Guide to Account Based Sales Development

September 23, 2016

Across B2B sales, the hottest topic in the last 12 months has been account based sales development. With an increasingly complex sales and buying process, getting organizational alignment is imperative. In this excerpt from The Clear and Complete Guide to Account Based Sales Development, we’ll cover coordinating and aligning all of your customer facing teams.

Success with Account Based Sales Development is directly related to your ability to align all of your customer-facing teams in a coordinated strategy. If you want to shorten cycle time, close more deals, and provide a better experience for the buyer, you must get this piece right first.

We can learn a lot by looking at how individual players on a team work together to pursue a common goal.

Your Account Based Team

Think of your Account Based Everything program as an organized team. No individual player alone can win a game. It takes multiple players executing multiple “Plays” to accomplish a goal.

  • The Coaches design the Plays.
    These are often Marketers or SDR managers – ideally in partnership with each other.
  • Coordinators call the Play.
    This is usually the Account Exec, but might be the Account or Relationship Manager (for existing customers).
  • Players run the Play.
    And you need lots of different positions. You wouldn’t field a team with eleven wide receivers (they’d get crushed); or eleven linemen (the ball would just sit there).

If you really want to move the ball down the field, you need players in multiple positions working together as a team: SDRs, Marketing, Account Execs, Senior Execs – the whole line-up. Let’s look at a few of your teammates.

Working with Marketing

As outbound Account Based Sales Development and Account Based Marketing go mainstream, the bar gets higher and higher. Without question, the winners will be those who best synchronize their sales and marketing teams.

In her book, Snap Selling, Jill Konrath talks about the ‘harried buyer’ who has too many demands on his time to be able to make yours a priority. Throwing a new problem on to his list is the last thing he wants to do.

Disrupting an existing list of priorities is not easy. There’s just too much resistance. So trying to do it alone, as an SDR, is a low-probability exercise. Instead, you need the coordinated activities of marketing and sales to challenge the prospect’s priorities and make room for yours.

“You want software that helps align Marketing and Sales. You don’t want to bake in silo-thinking.”
– Matt Amundson, Senior Director of Sales Development, Everstring

Beyond Hand-offs

There are no ‘hand-offs’ in an Account Based Everything (ABE) model. Instead, Marketing and Sales work together from the very start, and throughout the revenue cycle. Unlike traditional demand gen, which has a sequence of hand-offs from Marketing to Sales Development to Sales, ABE functions are intertwined at every step. It’s not just a more effective way to sell – it’s a much better buying experience as well.

In the big picture, your company doesn’t care about ‘marketing generated opportunities’ or ‘sales generated opportunities’. The important thing is opportunities. Period. The best teams work together and take credit together. At Engagio, Marketing and SDRs earn quota credit for the same opportunities. This encourages collaboration, not in-fighting.

According to research by SiriusDecisions, buyers want Marketing and Sales involved equally at EVERY stage of the buying process.

Marketing’s Role in Account Research

Marketing doesn’t just help in the WHERE part of Account Based Everything, they also help in the WHO and WHAT stages: sourcing account data, finding contacts within accounts and researching accounts to generate the commercial insight that’s so important.

For many B2B companies, Marketing owns this important function (working closely with Sales and SDRs). It makes sense: Marketing should always have an eye on the wider market, the big trends, the pressing issues and the emerging pain points. Harnessing this perspective to build richer, better-informed account profiles and personas will always empower the SDRs to have better conversations with the right people.

Marketing may also see contacts within a target account before they appear on the Sales radar screens. Web, email or content consumption activity within an account can give a valuable heads-up to SDRs that something is going on.

Again: an integrated effort from a tightly aligned team is what works.

Marketing Channels for Account Based Plays

The SDR Plays outlined above should also include marketing touches, often across a few key channels.

  • Events
    Owned events such as dinners and meetings at third-party events are ideal for Account Based Plays. Or hold a workshop for the whole buying team – at the customer’s offices or at yours.
  • Direct Mail
    Simple personal letters sent by post or high-value, dimensional mail pieces are a great way to supplement the Play with tangible touches. Just think of how many emails you get each day, compared to how many packages show up on your desk. We’ve seen ABE teams send iPods pre-loaded with audio content, remote-control cars (where you need to take a meeting to get the controller), cases of wine, coffee gift cards… and simple, hand-written notes. It’s the resurgence of the VITO (“very important top officer”) letter.
  • Display advertising
    With techniques like IP-lookup and retargeting, account-targeted display ads can reach only the people inside target accounts. And sponsored posts on LinkedIn, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter let your micro-target right down to the persona level. Use display ads to promote your account-specific content and messages, choosing content on the issues that sync with your play and persona.

Personalized Content

Turn generic marketing content from your content marketing programs into highly-targeted or even personalized content for use across your Plays.

These can be important touches – and, when they come and get it, you get important signals about what each buying team is most interested in.


Working with Account Executives

Quota-carrying Account Executives (AEs) are expensive resources. The whole idea of sales development was designed to keep AEs focused on closing deals instead of chasing prospects. But in Tier 1 and Tier 2 accounts – the big deals that will make or break their targets – Account Execs don’t just appreciate being included, they insist on it (and for good reason).

Yes, there are still old-school ‘sales animals’ that hate to collaborate or will resist new tools. But these are quickly giving way to enlightened sales professionals who understand the value of an integrated, Account Based approach.

That’s why today’s Account Execs have increasingly become the coordinators of the ABE team. They care about these accounts and they want to manage the relationships – while at the same time, getting the most value from their sales development and marketing team members.

Once you have organizational alignment, the next steps are managing your players, orchestrating plays, and getting the right technology. We cover all of this and more in The Clear and Complete Guide to Account Based Sales Development.

In it, you’ll discover:

  • The Who, What and Where of Account Based Sales Development
  • The incredible power of Account Based Sales Development “Plays.”
  • What truly personalized and relevant outreach looks like (hint: nothing like “robo-spam”).
  • The real role of data in building profiles and personas.
  • Why “human email” is the must-have weapon in your sales development arsenal.
  • How team selling concepts will take your prospecting to the next level and beyond.

Download the full book for free!

Marketing Leader

Jon is a marketing entrepreneur and thought leader. He is currently Chief Evangelist of Demandbase. He previously co-founded Engagio, acquired by Demandbase, and Marketo (Nasdaq:MKTO), a leader in marketing automation.