Going Beyond Sales and Marketing Alignment: The Key to True ABM Success

July 9, 2019

For many years, we have heard about the importance of marketing and sales alignment – yet in many cases this essential relationship doesn’t seem to have improved much. It is critical to agree on goals at a high level (aligning, great!) but creating a valuable day to day working relationship is what teams should strive for. But how?

ABM helps marketing and sales work more effectively because it clearly requires a shared goal – but to drive success, teams need ongoing collaboration. Teams doing ABM for a small set of target accounts know this today. Often, field marketing works very closely with a sales representative to understand the goal and how BOTH of their efforts will drive meetings and ultimately, a deal. When this type of working relationship exists, the conversation switches from sales vs. marketing sourced deals to company sourced deals. When you have team alignment, marketing doesn’t have lead commits, and sales doesn’t have daily dial numbers. An entire company sources the deal and closes the account together.

A shared goal is a good first step, but here are some other tips we have found really help the revenue team become unstoppable.

Three Elements of Revenue Activation: People, Processes and Systems

People: Structuring Your Team to Ensure Success

ABM is a team sport. But the roles and responsibilities of your team members are going to be different than traditional roles within sales and marketing. Let’s start by first taking a look at an overview of the roles that key departments play in ABM.


      • Ensure clear lists of accounts are identified and prioritized
      • Work with sales on account entitlements and program roll-out
      • Allocate budget
      • Provide insights and intelligence for accounts plans
      • Have goals and reporting for each buying stage


      • Select accounts by tier
      • Build out account plans
      • Lead outbound efforts for target accounts
      • Collaborate with marketing on programs
      • Report on account progress

Once you have a clear understanding of your departmental roles, you can go one level deeper and look at the responsibilities of individuals within each department. The good news is that you can leverage a lot of your current team and their strengths to bolster your ABM initiatives for quick wins and ongoing success.

For your ABM team, most of these roles exist within your current organization already. If your company has a heavy ABM emphasis, you may want a Director of ABM. Yet, if you are just getting started or have a hybrid role, you may leverage current team members to run some ABM programs.

You can also evolve your team over time if that makes sense for the business.

Processes: Setting Up Key ABM Operations

As with most things in business, saying something doesn’t always make it so! We can’t just wake up and decide to have our revenue teams be more aligned. Beyond ABM stand-ups, which we’ve written about before, here are a few select (and more tactical) points that can make coordination and running ABM more successful.

Set Clear Goals and Definitions: At the onset of an Account Based Marketing program, have a hypothesis and establish a goal.

Here is a simple example:

It is also ideal to have a Plan of Record (POR). Simple aspects to cover include:

    • Define upsell/cross-sell
    • Marketing contributes x% to pipeline
    • Partner or channel contributes y% to pipeline
    • Sales contributes z% to pipeline

    Figure out which accounts to pursue. Want to spend less time prospecting cold accounts? Start by selecting the right accounts. Want to have higher close rates? Start by selecting the right accounts. Want to close larger deals? Start by selecting the right accounts. Want to shorten your sales cycles? You guessed it – start by selecting the right accounts.

    Selecting the right accounts is too large and important of a topic to try to tackle in one post. That’s why we’ve written an entire ebook on the subject, How to Select Your Target Accounts to Ignite Your ABM.

    Establish Service Level Agreements. We’ve talked about roles and responsibilities, and we’ve covered definitions and language. Now, we must break down the silos and align your team with Service Level Agreements (SLAs). These are designed to establish agreement across the entire team and, more importantly, align thinking and compensation on comparable business results.

    Example SLAs to consider:

        • Set agreed upon definitions and criteria for key definitions, such as Marketing Qualified Account, Sales Qualified Account, close/lost opportunity, inbound and outbound
        • Set agreed upon KPIs, metrics and benchmarks
        • Establish a dashboard and reporting that key members can easily access
        • Have clear rules around time for follow up and what qualifies as true outbound

    Systems: Using Tech to Streamline Activities

    The best thing about technology for ABM is it helps you automate and streamline manual processes. But be careful – the goal isn’t to automate everything, especially the things humans are better than technology at, like building relationships. Here’s where you can rely on systems to make alignment and ABM success inevitable.

    Have a shared ‘system of record’ to track accounts. It does not help coordination if marketing tracks leads but sales tracks accounts – that is not going to help alignment. For example, marketing automation systems are lead-based. It makes it more challenging to report on marketing impact at an account level, which is what is interesting to sales. Make sure you have an account foundation so you can have a complete account view to track coverage, awareness and engagement.

    Help Sales prioritize their time. One of the best ways marketing can help sales is highlighting the accounts to spend time on. Time is money and you want your sales team to be able to act quickly and sure up their best bets. It helps them to see early stage engagement data and who was involved.

    Make sure Marketing and Sales activities are visible. All teams want to understand what is working and what is not. Make ALL activities visible so revenue teams can see it’s a joint effort (and rarely it’s just ‘one thing’).

    “Sales and Marketing – Both of you desperately need to empathize with the other party. Those are the organizations that win. But that’s up to the head of marketing and the head of sales — to be aligned at the top and create the air-cover for their marketing and sales teams to be able to create a cohesive unit. And that’s what great alignment is.”
    –Gary Vaynercheck, CEO, Vaynermedia


    A functional marketing and sales relationship is important to hit the revenue and growth goals we all have. ABM, due to the focus on accounts, helps teams align around goals more easily. Layering in some of the tips in this eBook can ensure your team is aligned and also well-coordinated.

Director of Growth

Brandon Redlinger is the Director of Growth at <a href="">Engagio</a>, which builds software that helps Account Based Marketing, Sales, and Sales Development teams orchestrate human connections. Previously he was the head of Growth at PersistIQ. He has been in sales and marketing his entire career, leading teams across the country from NYC to Denver to the San Francisco Bay. When he's not growing companies, you'll find him playing any form of hockey, buried in a book or on an adventure exploring the world.