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9
minute read
March 29, 2021

Account-Based Selling: What is it, and how can you use it?

Written by
Nat Parkes

Account-based selling is the most effective way to increase your engagement with the decision-makers that you’re targeting. Adopting an ABS approach will help your team hit quota, close more deals, and see higher ROI on your sales campaigns. 85% of B2B marketers say that ABS campaigns outperform other marketing investments. But, it’s hard. Account-based selling requires in-depth research into your prospects and careful planning if you want to see results.

In this guide, I’m going to walk you through exactly what account-based sales is, and how you can use it to generate engagement and close more deals. Let’s jump straight in.

What is Account-Based Sales?

Account-based sales is a targeted approach to B2B sales that involves investing your teams’ resources to targeting multiple stakeholders within an account. It's pretty much like account based marketing wherein each account is treated as a market of one, as opposed to the conventional one-to-one sales approach. While your marketing team might relish the challenge of taking on a new strategy by themselves, and your sales reps want to take responsibility for closing deals, a successful account-based approach requires that your marketing and sales team are in sync. Collaboration is key.

Your sales process should be completely tailored to the accounts you’re targeting. Everything needs to be customized to your target prospects — from your initial outreach emails to your sales call deck. For example, let’s say you run a SaaS company providing a solution to help with marketing attribution. When you identify a company that looks like it would be a good-fit customer, you’ll engage with multiple members of the buying team there.

For example, instead of sending a single outreach email to the Marketing Director, you’ll reach out to them, but at the same time, engage with other people on the marketing team in a way that's tailored to their own pain points around marketing attribution and build demand for your product. Engaging with multiple decision-makers in a tailored fashion will increase the likelihood of them engaging with you and your organization as they move towards product consideration.

Who Should Use Account-Based Sales?

While ABS can significantly boost your ROI, it can do more harm than good if it’s not a fit for your company. Before you completely change your current sales and marketing strategy, you should determine if ABS is the right fit for you.

It depends on:

  • What you sell
  • Your average deal size
  • The length of your sales cycle
  • What type of customers you sell to

For example: if you’re selling a short-term transactional$49/month product to small to medium-sized companies, ABS likely isn’t for you. The campaigns will cost too much, and it’ll take too long to see ROI on them. However, if your contracts typically involve a minimum of five-figure investment (or more) from your customers, and you have long, complex sales cycles, ABS is a perfect strategy to try.

Benefits of Account-Based Selling Over Traditional Sales

There are numerous advantages to taking an ABS approach. Here are some of the best:

Boost Initial Reply Rates with Personalization

A large percentage of sales and marketing focus has shifted to personalization over the years, explaining the rise in popularity of ABM. According to a study by Statista, 47% of B2B marketers said personalization will play a key part in their upcoming campaigns.

Marketers get the best results using ABS and ABM

Today, personalization in your outreach is table stakes. Everyone is doing it, and to stand out, you need to go the extra mile. ABS provides you with a framework to take a highly targeted, multi-touch, and personalized approach to your sales and marketing. You’ll be personalizing your outreach to multiple contacts at a company, so even if one decision-maker isn’t convinced, you’ll have other people on your side.

Adapts Sales KPIs for Modern Buyer Journey

B2B sales involves selling to multiple decision-makers. Because of that, you’ll need to focus on different metrics. By focusing on basic metrics like email open rates or reply rates, you’ll miss what’s important. For example, a KPI in ABS would be Target Account Coverage. It refers to how many contacts at a company you’ve managed to engage with compared to your expectations. If you have high Target Account Coverage, you’ll have a higher chance of success.

For example, you can target a CFO with messaging that highlights how your product reduces operational costs. At the same time, you’ll run campaigns focusing on how your product gives your sales and marketing teams a competitive advantage, which will be more compelling to a CEO.

Build Trust with Decision-Makers

Now more than ever, building trust is an essential part of the sales process. Even in B2B, people don’t buy from companies. People buy from people. With ABS, you can build trust by having an engagement plan with multi-touch points and content tailor-made to your target account’s needs. When done correctly, it’s the perfect way to build relationships and trust at scale. You’ll prove to your prospects that they’re not just another row on your prospect database, and you genuinely care about helping them succeed.

How to Define Your Ideal Customer Profile for ABS

The success of any marketing and sales efforts relies on good targeting. If you’re running account-based sales campaigns, you’ll be spending more resources to close your accounts, which makes targeting even more important. When you're getting started, you need to define your ideal customer profile. Combine demographic, firmographic, and technographic information first.

For example:

  • Job title: Sales Director
  • Company revenue: $10M - $20M+ per year
  • Software stack: Salesforce, Gong

Then, build a map of other decision-makers they interact with, and who else has influence on them in purchasing decisions, and what they care about, such as:

  • Reports to: CEO
  • Influenced by: CEO, CFO, Head of Growth, SDRs
  • What they care about: Number of deals closed, total revenue won per quarter

Finally, you can start to go even further by using intent data.

  • Are they in the market for a solution like yours?
  • Have they researched similar solutions?

Once you have a clear idea of who you’re targeting, you can create campaigns that are perfectly tailored to their needs. You can focus on agitating the acute pain points they have in their business and role and show them how your product/service can help them solve it.

Building Your Target Account List

Now that you’ve defined the type of accounts you want to target, it’s time to build your target account list. This step is crucial, as the accounts you target directly will be where your team spends their time. Don’t rush the process; invest time and resources into proper research. It can take several weeks. Involve your whole sales team in your process, as they’ll play an important role in converting target accounts.

During this process, you’ll need to identify:

  • Key decision-makers and members of the project team inside each account
  • Best way to engage with them
  • Messaging that will resonate with each decision-maker

As a rule of thumb, aim to find 5-8 decision-makers per account. Finally, when you have a list of accounts, you can score them manually to prioritize your outreach based on likelihood of them converting, their budget, and how closely they match your ICP.

Account-Based Sales Strategies

There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for targeting and nurturing your accounts. Well, that’s the whole point of account-based selling. You need to develop outreach methods that are highly targeted and hyper-specific to a target account. Here are some good strategies to have in your arsenal:

1. Send Targeted Email Outreach

49% of B2B marketers say email is the most effective channel for generating early-stage engagement.

Email remains the most effective channel for generating engagement in target accounts

If done correctly, incorporating email marketing in your ABS approach is one of the most straightforward and effective tactics you can use. In practice, how would this look? Let’s say you’ve identified 15 contacts within a target account. You can identify the best 2-3 people to reach out to and send them a personal email.

Your emails should be focused on:

  • Building a relationship
  • Starting a conversation

Rather than going for a sales pitch immediately, consider sending them recent content you’ve published, or starting a conversation around content they’ve recently published or shared. Remember, you need to personalize your emails as much as you can. 51% of sales teams say they’re sending more emails now than ever before as more companies move towards remote or hybrid-remote work environments.

2. LinkedIn Outreach and Social Selling

LinkedIn is still a perfect place for B2B sales. For the best results, combine targeted outreach with social selling. According to LinkedIn’s State of Sales Report, 74% of B2B sales teams say that they use LinkedIn’s sales tools like Sales Navigator. Considering the platform has 600m+ members worldwide and 50m+ companies listed, it’s easy to see why.

You can run targeted InMail campaigns to syndicate your content and start conversations. At the same time, you can share useful content to your connections to help build trust. As well as that, you can run highly targeted ads using LinkedIn. You can upload your list of target companies and have them see your ads. It’s highly targeted, and highly effective.

3. Host Virtual or In-Person Events

Hosting events for your target accounts is a great way to speed up your sales cycle. You get to be face-to-face with decision-makers at your target accounts. If you’re at an in-person event, you should have a plan on who you would talk to and who can wait during the event.

If it’s a virtual event, make sure you know your target prospects are attending. If the event allows for networking, such as 1:1 breakout rooms, you’ll still have a chance to get to know your prospects. If not, make sure to follow-up after the event and use it to build rapport, like you would with an in-person event.

4. Create and Share Interesting Content

In account-based sales, personalization is everything. When you create content, consider how it’ll be perceived by your target decision-makers.

  • Is it content they’ll want to read?
  • Will they share it with their team?

Create content that is specific to each account, targeting their pain points. This could mean hosting webinars, creating eBooks targeting specific problems, or creating case studies showing how you helped similar businesses see success. Creating custom content is a team effort and will take time and resources, but it’s worth it. It’s a perfect way to nurture prospects by providing value.

Account-Based Sales KPIs

As we’ve already briefly mentioned, you’ll need to make sure the extra resources are delivering the expected ROI. Two important metrics to look at are Average Contract Value (ACV) and Customer Lifetime Value (LTV). If your Account-Based Sales campaigns are working, you should see an uplift in both of these. Your customer acquisition cost (CAC) will likely go up, because you’re targeting bigger accounts.

What’s important is to see how your LTV:CAC ratio compares to your previous one. If your former LTV:CAC was 2:1 and now it's 3:1, you're on the right track. The growth in revenue will justify the rise in time, energy, and resources to acquire a new account. To see if your efforts are worth it, make sure to track your Target Account Coverage: did you engage with the decision-makers you wanted to?

Finally, you can look at content engagement with key assets. For example, did your eBook get downloaded? Did your case study get read? Knowing this will help inform future content creation, and help your team understand how it affected your overall efforts.

Wrapping Up

Account-based selling is a sales strategy worth trying if you target high-value accounts. However, it’s not an easy task. You’ll need to spend time, energy, and resources finding accounts to target, identifying decision-makers, and creating sales assets. But in the end, you’ll reap the rewards.

ABS enables you to land higher-value deals, and focus on accounts that matter. If you need help scaling up your outreach campaigns, are looking for quality leads that fit your specific target profile, or even just want to understand how to build an ABM strategy that works, let’s talk. At Internal Results we help companies run data-driven B2B campaigns. You’ll get access to our actionable intent data, data-driven content syndication campaigns, and a database of millions of B2B decision-makers’ contact details. If you need more B2B leads, we’d love to help.

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