A Short Guide to ABM Engagement, Part 1: Sales

Fiona O'Connor

Senior Content Marketing Manager

Part of a three-part guide exploring some typical areas of difficulty organizations experience on the ABM development journey. Part 1 covers Sales, Part 2 covers Marketing and Part 3 covers Sales Development.

Sales engagement for ABMAt TechTarget, we think, talk and write about account-based marketing (ABM) a lot because we’ve seen it be an incredibly effective part of a strategy to drive improved revenue from a defined set of target accounts. Unfortunately, when we look at how many companies are putting ABM into practice, we still see fundamental ABM concepts being applied inconsistently. As a result of basic errors made at the outset, these ABM programs aren’t achieving the strategic success their sponsors hope for.

Find and create more opportunities in target accounts

In the presence of a robust demand gen capability, Sales-owned lead qualification can be a major source of pipeline. LDRs or similar staff catch and assess MQLs delivered by Marketing. But that’s a model built around putting people in place to process high volumes of lead outputs. An ABM list is never going to create a high volume of lead outputs, because the list isn’t particularly large. And furthermore, high-volume processing methods are inherently insensitive to nuances around quality, insight, proper next steps and so on. So, in contrast to high-volume methods, an ABM program is all about ways of looking for and then creating higher quality engagement with the targeted accounts. These accounts have been pre-selected – essentially pre-qualified – because you’ve chosen to care more about them. Even as they look to create meetings, high volume processes do lots and lots of disqualification. That can be exactly the opposite of the work needed to probe and to find productive ways in. In ABM, to drive more revenue from the accounts on a target list, Sales is going to have to first create more opportunities in each account. Marketing and SDRs need to help work on that, instead of focusing on the low-touch processing that leads to so much disqualification of leads.

Creating more opportunities requires better sourcing and leveraging of sales intelligence capabilities, data and the like – because if Sales is to create more opportunities it first needs to understand the available buying centers and then have the insights and enablement necessary to prioritize and better penetrate them. Instead of relying on SDRs to hand them meetings and ignore everything else, within an ABM program, Sales needs to be enabled to better seek out the potential that put these accounts on the list in the first place. Certainly, when a buying group has become active, Sales must be inspired to act on that information confidently (whether a classically qualified lead is present or not!). When a buying group is known, but they are not in a buying process, Sales needs help building relationships with that group. This will aid the seller in their work to inspire new buying initiatives and it will increase the likelihood that the buying group will reach out to the seller proactively when they begin such actions.

Moving past a leads-based approach

For ABM to work properly, Sales and Marketing both have to move past a leads-based approach –because leads alone will not be sufficient to deliver the impact desired, and they may even have negative effects. This means it’s incumbent upon Sales management to understand the subtleties here and sponsor the necessary changes in mindsets and motions.

To learn more about how volume-oriented demand gen thinking creates barriers to successful ABM outcomes read, Stop playing ‘Pin the Tail on the Donkey’ with your marketing efforts.

Re-orienting ABM selling around buying centers

With an ABM selling concept reoriented around buying centers, Sales needs to be enabled with technologies that allow them to better monitor at the group and individual level. Quality purchase intent data can provide the required level of insight if, inside the target accounts, it can illuminate the behaviors of the individuals involved. Appropriate sources of intent data can show the specific solution and purchase-relevant topics that are resonating with each player on a buying team. Armed with this, ABM Sales and Marketing teams can create tactics and outreach that accomplishes better engagement.

To learn more about how to evolve Sales behaviors within an ABM motion, read Ramping Territory Revenue in Strategic Account Selling Using Intent Data.

Evolving account-based sales approaches with better insights

That said, even in the presence of better insights, Sales still needs to adjust or evolve its typical motions as part of a target account-based strategy. And in doing this, Sales will need more assistance than it has in the arms-length, classical demand gen model. Even armed with insight into accounts’ buying centers and their interests, to build buying momentum, Sales still needs help coalescing this group in order to stimulate a buying motion or accelerate a nascent one. One way to accomplish this is by implementing an additional tactic, in particular, a new type of meeting. Rather than being a reactive discovery session in response to a prospect account inquiry, this new meeting is about proactivity. Its purpose is to present something of real value to the buying center players that will help them in some way. Gartner has called this concept the High Value Offer (HVO). It can be executed by bringing together insight on the interests of the buying center members and their business with expertise. Creating a sustainable HVO capability represents a need specific to the challenges of ABM. It requires that Marketing, Sales Development, account executives and their management alike collaborate together to build the requisite processes, roles and responsibilities.

For more insights on how to bring together and engage buying teams in target accounts, read, Growing Sales Revenue Using HVOs for ABM Engagement.

How we can help

At TechTarget, we’re focused on delivering the very best in enterprise tech buyer insight from our opt-in audience of some 30 million members. Building on our intent data core, we deliver a wide range of service capabilities that help solve the most critical GTM challenges. We work with thousands of tech companies end-to-end – strategically, from product concept to in-market content, and executionally, from click to close. To learn more about how we can support your ABM evolution, speak to a TechTarget representative today.

ABM, Account-Based Marketing, account-based selling, b2b technology buyers, opportunity management, sales and marketing alignment

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