Account-based efforts are all about aligning sales and marketing around personalized outreach to a target set of accounts. This outreach requires a slower, more focused approach to reach as much of the buying committee as possible. The whole idea behind an account-based strategy is to engage all the stakeholders and key influencers who are involved in a B2B purchase decision.
This model can be more effective and efficient than a volume-based approach, but much of the conversation around developing an account-based strategy has been about top-of-funnel tactics to generate more meetings or opportunities. While demand generation is an important piece, if you’re thinking about just the top of the funnel, you’re missing the point.
There are three key goals of an account-based strategy:
1. Demand Generation – Turn qualified accounts into opportunities instead of generating new leads. For example, you can launch an account-based advertising campaign at a group of 100 accounts you know match your company’s ideal customer profile (ICP).
2. Pipeline Acceleration – Turn opportunities into new revenue, faster. Thinking about the formula for velocity (distance/time), it’s about winning more deals and creating new customers.
3. Customer Marketing – Retain and expand customer relationships. With account-based efforts, you’re going beyond the typical B2B buyer’s journey to continue marketing to your customers as well.
In this post, I’ll focus on the one strategy that I believe is heavily underutilized in most B2B organizations: Pipeline Acceleration. We also have a brand new worksheet on account-based selling to help get you started.
A true account-based program doesn’t stop when an appointment is set. Its objective is to generate more revenue for your business. This means it encompasses the entire buyer’s journey and even the customer journey, as retaining and expanding relationships with customers heavily impacts overall revenue.
An account-based sales and marketing strategy should support the entire customer lifecycle. In the traditional B2B sales cycle, marketing typically steps back after an opportunity is generated, leaving sales with just one or two contacts and no straightforward way to reach the entire buying committee. Often, a lack of visibility and understanding of value within the organization can kill a deal.
It’s important to continue thinking about how to win the account so this doesn’t happen. Just like with demand generation, this requires reaching as much of that audience as possible with personalized messaging.
At Terminus, to maximize conversion rates through the funnel we’re focusing on a smaller set of target accounts. Instead of going after 2,500 companies, we select a group of 250 accounts to run through various marketing campaigns. These account-based efforts include direct mail, personalized videos, display advertising, and inviting people to webinars and in-person events. These activities create more energy, excitement, and velocity to impact how quickly we can get an account to become customer, shortening the length of time from “click to close.”
6 Keys to an Account-Based Sales Strategy
First, we try to maximize the number of stakeholders that we can engage with directly. We do this by following six key account-based selling best practices:
1. Plan. Research the account and all stakeholders in the organization that may be involved in a purchase to see who may need to be included and create a plan to involve them. At Terminus, we use Everstring to find accounts, Bombora to prioritize based on intent and LinkedIn and ZoomInfo to find contact data. Then, we validate and expand this information using LinkedIn. At the end of every call, our reps are trained to ask which additional stakeholders need to be looped in and discuss why it may be valuable to include them.
2. Show Value. Earn the right to ask the initial point of contact to bring additional stakeholders into the conversation by showing value. If you can provide a solution to a challenge or show how your value proposition will help to meet their objectives, your contact will want to get your product or service implemented and will loop in the right parties.
For example, our AEs will start building an executive summary on call 1, so that by call 3 or 4 he/she can provide a document that spells out the buyer’s objective/goals and how Terminus can provide value. This builds credibility with the buyer and makes it easier for him/her to convince other stakeholders to join the evaluation.
3. Give to Get. Give a compelling reason for your champion to include others from their team in the next meeting, such as including an executive from your team, a customer, or an expert on a topic of interest that will bring them value. When you can help the prospective customer create a strategy for seeing success with your offering, it's a win-win.
At Terminus we have an executive who built an ABM program at his previous company. This experience makes him an incredible resource to bring into a conversation with a prospect who is on the fence about moving forward or needs additional support thinking through their own strategy and how our solution fits into the bigger picture.
4. Blame it on the Account. Gartner says that it takes five to seven decision-makers to make a B2B buying decision. At Terminus, we use this statistic to facilitate the question about who else at the organization would help our contact to use and/or support Terminus if they were to bring our solution onboard. When we cannot reach all of the stakeholders involved, we try to maximize the ability of our champion to sell our offering internally.
5. Empower Your Champion. Create a detailed use case, executive summary, or ROI case using the information your champion has provided to clearly demonstrate the value and impact that your product or service can provide.
This can then be used by your contact to build a business case and sell your solution internally. As explained above in #2, at Terminus we use what we call an Executive Summary. This is a living document that we build with our champion throughout the sales process. It outlines the marketing team’s objective and highlight how it impacts overall business goals, then speak to how Terminus can help them to accomplish that objective. Then we detail the strategy that the company could use with our platform and the potential ROI. Ideally, this enables us to loop in additional stakeholders, but often it instead empowers our champion to share our value proposition.
6. Be Creative. When you cannot reach all the decision-makers in an account, improve your odds of getting the right message in front of them. To maximize the chance that your message is shared and actually absorbed, find creative and unique ways to drive home your point.
At Terminus, we’ve found that video is one great way to stand out. Instead of sending over a screenshots deck or just an executive summary we will send a video of the AE explaining the content in the email. Vidyard’s ViewedIt is the tool that we use to create easy videos via email. This enables the rep to add color and to humanize themselves and our company.
Account-Based Marketing to Support Pipeline Acceleration
Having marketing provide “air cover” to an opportunity in the pipeline is essential. Your marketing team can do this using:
Content and Messaging. In an account-based model, personalization is incredibly important. Marketing is responsible for creating broad messaging and content relevant to customer segments and personas, and sales has the burden of the responsibility for personalizing that in their outreach to individuals. For example, blasting marketing content in emails is not a personalized effort, but sending a video customized for one account or stakeholder explaining the marketing content you have shared would be.
During a long sales cycle, it’s important to provide strong content for the entire buying committee across each stage of the sales cycle, such as white papers and customer stories. At Terminus, we created The Terminal with curated content for the three stages I mentioned before — Demand Gen, Pipeline Velocity, and Customer Marketing — to show how we’re “drinking our own champagne” with ABM.
Email Marketing. Like most account executives, the AEs at Terminus are protective of their opportunities. They don’t want the accounts that they are actively working to receive correspondence that may not align with the conversations that they are having.
Our marketing team does on occasion email contacts at companies evaluating our software, but it’s typically related to an event or high-value webinar, and the messaging is shared with sales before it’s sent so they can exclude certain accounts at their discretion.
As a result, our marketing team has been able to earn the trust of sales by delivering valuable and appropriate content for potential buyers.
Display Advertising. Display is a great channel for proactive outreach as it can be a mass multiplier. Much of marketing’s efforts are reactive or limited to the marketing database, but display advertising provides a way to reach an audience outside of your database. At Terminus, we leverage retargeting through LinkedIn and Facebook to reach known contacts in our database and proactive targeting through our own platform to reach the entire buying committee at target accounts, including contacts not in our database.
Direct Mail. Snail mail is a powerful way to create a personal touch. So much of our communication is automated that a letter or package can really stand out. We use PFL to automatically trigger a copy of our CMO and Co-Founder Sangram Vajre’s book, Account-Based Marketing for Dummies, to be sent to contacts at accounts
Terminus is an account-based marketing company, so from our early beginnings we’ve tried to focus on target accounts. And we’ve learned a lot along the way. A key challenge that we’ve had to work through is perfecting the ratio of personalization versus quantity.
It’s tempting to lean in the direction of scale instead of true customized outreach, but prospects know the difference between automated and personalized messaging, and the personalized approach is always much stronger, especially since so much terrible automation is happening. Finding the balance between personalized messaging and automated touches can enable you to provide a great buying experience for potential buyers.
In summation, creating personalization with your account-based efforts can be accomplished by:
- Getting laser-focused on a group of best-fit target accounts, allowing for 1:1 personalized content marketing efforts instead of batching and blasting emails.
- Thinking of creative ways to engage all the decision-makers in an account throughout the entire buyer’s journey by aligning with marketing on campaigns using activities like direct mail, account-based advertising, and hosting events.
- Remembering the why. Your company exists to provide a solution to a pain point your audience is experiencing. Always remember you’re here to resolve that pain, not create more stress for your potential customers.
Want to learn more? Put this advice into action using the Account-Based Selling Worksheet produced by HubSpot + Terminus.