account-based experience (ABX) 7 ways to successfully align your sales and marketing teams

account-based selling

What is account-based selling?

Account-based selling (ABS) is a strategic sales approach in business-to-business sales and marketing that centers around building highly personalized and targeted relationships with specific high-value accounts.

Instead of pursuing a large volume of leads, ABS identifies a select group of ideal customers and tailors sales and marketing efforts to address their unique needs and challenges. The process begins with identifying target accounts that align with the company's ideal customer profile (ICP), followed by in-depth research to understand the individual account's goals, pain points and decision-making processes.

With this developed knowledge, ABS involves crafting customized outreach efforts -- including personalized messaging, content and solutions -- designed to resonate with key decision-makers within the target accounts. The approach needs collaboration between various teams within the organization, such as sales, marketing and customer support, to ensure consistent and customer-centric experiences.

Account-based selling model and framework

The ABS model and framework include several key components that guide the strategic approach to engaging and closing deals with target accounts. While different organizations might tailor their specific models to fit their unique needs, the following are the common elements typically found in an ABS model:

  1. Account selection. The first step in the ABS framework involves identifying and selecting target accounts that align with the company's ICP. These accounts are chosen based on criteria such as revenue potential, industry, size and fit with the product or service offerings.
  2. Account research and profiling. Once the target accounts are identified, in-depth research is conducted to understand the account's organizational structure, key decision-makers, pain points, business objectives and current challenges. This information helps in creating personalized sales and marketing strategies.
  3. Cross-functional alignment. Successful ABS relies on collaboration and alignment between different teams within the organization. Sales, marketing, customer support and product development teams work together to ensure a cohesive and personalized approach for each target account.
  4. Personalized messaging and outreach. ABS involves crafting tailored and relevant messages that resonate with the specific needs and pain points of each target account. Sales representatives reach out to multiple stakeholders within the organization, from executives to department heads, with personalized content.
  5. Account-specific campaigns. Rather than generic marketing campaigns, ABS uses account-specific campaigns that address the unique challenges and objectives of each target account. These campaigns can include personalized content, events, webinars and other forms of outreach.
  6. Relationship building. ABS programs emphasize the importance of building strong, long-term relationships with key decision-makers within the target accounts. Regular communication, follow-ups and providing value to the customer are vital in this phase.
  7. Sales and marketing orchestration. The most important element of cross-functional alignment is that between sales and marketing. This alignment requires effective coordination between the two teams. Marketing efforts are aligned with sales strategies to ensure consistent messaging and engagement across all touchpoints.
  8. Measurement and optimization. Like any sales strategy, ABS requires continuous measurement and analysis of key performance indicators (KPIs). This data-driven approach helps identify areas of improvement and optimize strategies for better results.
  9. Customer success and post-sale nurturing. After deals are successfully closed, ABS teams focus on customer success and post-sale nurturing to ensure customer satisfaction, retention and potential upsell opportunities.

Overall, the account-based selling model and framework are centered around personalization, a deep understanding of customer needs and collaborative efforts to engage high-value accounts effectively. By focusing on building strong relationships and providing a tailored experience, ABS aims to increase sales effectiveness and foster long-term customer loyalty.

Is account-based selling right for you?

Determining if ABS is the right fit for an organization involves thoroughly evaluating various factors. Several key considerations can help determine if ABS aligns with the organization's goals and customer engagement approach, including the following criteria:

  • Understanding of the ideal customer profile. ABS excels when dealing with high-value, enterprise-level customers. If an organization's products or services cater to a specific group of well-defined target accounts, ABS can be a suitable approach. It's crucial to assess whether the customer base aligns with the characteristics of a well-defined ICP.
  • Sales cycle length and buying process complexity. If the sales cycle is more extended and involves multiple decision-makers or stakeholders within the target accounts, ABS can be advantageous. Organizations with a high customer lifetime value (CLV) stand to benefit significantly from ABS. Investing in personalized strategies to acquire and retain high-value customers can yield substantial returns in the long run.
  • Potential for cross-selling and upselling opportunities. ABS enables a deeper understanding of each target account's needs and pain points. This understanding can facilitate cross-selling or upselling additional products or services to existing customers by strengthening customer relationships.
  • Data-driven decision-making and performance measurement. Organizations need to assess whether they possess the necessary data and analytics capabilities to support ABS effectively.
  • Customized content and solutions. Organizations need to evaluate whether they can create and deliver personalized content that addresses the unique needs of individual accounts.
  • Investment in specialized technology and tools. These tools enable personalized outreach and efficient account management. Therefore, organizations should consider whether they are willing to invest in such technologies.
  • Available capacity and resources. Implementing ABS can be resource-intensive, particularly in terms of research, planning and execution. Thus, organizations must evaluate whether they have the capacity and resources to devote to ABS effectively.

By carefully analyzing these factors and understanding the specific characteristics of the organization's customer base and sales process, informed decisions can be made regarding whether account-based selling is a good approach. It's crucial to remember that ABS might not be suitable for all businesses and industries, so assessing its fit within the unique context of the organization is essential.

How to create a customer profile

Creating an ideal customer profile is a strategic process that involves delving deep into the target market and understanding the specific characteristics of a company's most valuable customers. Consider the following tips on how to create a customer profile:

  • Examine the existing customer base and identify the most loyal and profitable clients. Look for patterns and commonalities among these customers, such as demographics, industry, company size and pain points they seek to address with the organization's product or service.
  • Conduct market research to gain broader insights into the target audience. Use surveys, interviews and focus groups to gather data directly from potential customers. Analyze trends in the market, industry reports and competitor analysis to understand the needs and preferences of the ideal customer.
  • Create a detailed and comprehensive profile of the ideal customer with gathered data. This profile should include information such as demographics, job titles, responsibilities, challenges, goals, preferred communication channels and buying behavior.

By consolidating all this information into a cohesive ICP, teams can effectively tailor their marketing strategies, product offerings and customer support to meet the specific needs and preferences of their most valuable audience, ultimately driving success and growth for the business.

Table with three different examples of how to target a customer based on their demographics, interests/attitude, behavior and preferred content

How to create buyer personas

Building off the work done to develop an ICP, teams can then create buyer personas that can be used for understanding and connecting with the target audience on a more personal level.

It is essential to highlight the distinction between buyer personas and ideal customer profiles. While ICPs provide an overview of the characteristics of the target market, buyer personas take a more detailed and humanized approach. Buyer personas go beyond demographics and industry information to delve into the motivations, behaviors and preferences of individual customers.

The following tips can help to create effective buyer personas:

  • Focus on individuals rather than organizations. Apply the research done on the existing customer base and potential customers. The continued use of surveys, interviews and data analysis to gather insights into the pain points, goals, challenges and decision-making processes of those individuals will be valuable in this exercise.
  • Create fictional representations of the typical customers with collected data. This includes their place within the buying process and giving each persona a name, face and backstory. Include specific details about their preferences, communication styles and buying behaviors.

By developing rich and nuanced buyer personas, teams can deliver more personalized marketing messages, product offerings and customer experiences to resonate with the diverse needs and preferences of the personas, fostering stronger connections and driving business success.

How to build and use content in account-based selling

Content plays a critical role in engaging target accounts, establishing credibility and nurturing relationships with key decision-makers within an ABS program. Building and using content effectively in ABS requires a personalized and tailored approach that addresses the unique needs and challenges of each target account.

Use the following tips to help build content for your ABS strategy:

  • Conduct thorough research on the target accounts. Understand their industry, pain points, goals and current challenges.
  • Create highly relevant, valuable and personalized content. This content should speak directly to the specific needs of each account. Content can take various forms, including personalized email campaigns, case studies highlighting successful outcomes in similar industries, whitepapers addressing industry trends and thought leadership articles from your organization's experts.
  • Focus on sharing content selectively. Using content strategically in ABS involves thoughtful distribution and engagement tactics. Instead of casting a wide net, share content with the key decision-makers within the target accounts. This might involve personalized emails or direct messages through LinkedIn, ensuring the content reaches the right individuals.
  • Distribute content in different ways on different channels. This can be done by using the alignment between sales and marketing. Sales teams can use relevant content during conversations with stakeholders to provide insights and address specific pain points, and it can reinforce the messages that marketing sends out.
  • Measure the engagement and effectiveness of the content. Use data analytics and feedback from the target accounts. This data-driven approach enables organizations to fine-tune their content strategy and optimize their ABS efforts for better results.

How to structure your sales team for account-based sales

The standard ABS team brings together members from various departments that are typically separate, such as sales, marketing, customer support, and solutions and implementation. The primary roles within the ABS team are as follows:

  • Account executive. The account executive is responsible for leading internal meetings, shaping the account strategy, acting as the primary liaison with the prospect and striving to become their trusted advisor. This role also is primarily responsible for creating opportunities for the pipeline and closing new businesses.
  • Sales development representatives. These team members research the account and update the customer relationship management system, working with marketing to create personalized messaging and content tailored to build relationships with multiple customer stakeholders. This role also does a lot of support work for the account executives, such as with outreach to book future meetings or prequalification activities.
  • Marketing resource. This role develops the overall playbook and messaging strategy, coordinates marketing campaigns and tracks the success of the ABS program. This resource would work closely with the account executives and sales development representatives on the conversations they are having with the accounts in order to create new campaigns or optimize existing ones that are in market.
  • Support representative. This team member keeps the ABS team informed about the account's latest developments and promptly brings up any issues that arise. This role also can act as the source of additional research and customer survey distribution when a relationship is maintained and the high-value accounts are engaged with regularly.
  • Subject matter expert. In cases where a company serves multiple industries, a subject matter expert educates the entire team and ensures that messaging and strategy remain relevant, accurate and reliable for each industry. They often also assist in the content creation process with marketing and can sometimes participate in sales calls, demos or webinar presentations.
  • Product manager. This role ensures that both the team and the customer are kept informed of future product updates and changes that could have a potential impact on the messaging and outreach opportunities.
Graphic listing the six stages of the sales pipeline: generate a new lead, qualify the lead, engage with the lead, build a deeper relationship, negotiate a deal, close the deal

Account-based selling KPIs and metrics

Implementing account-based selling requires careful monitoring and measurement of key performance indicators and metrics to assess the effectiveness of the company's efforts. Some of the KPIs and metrics teams use to evaluate an ABS program's success include the following:

  • Account engagement score. This KPI measures the level of engagement with the target accounts. It considers factors such as email opens, click-through rates, website visits, social media interactions and other touchpoints to gauge how actively the accounts are engaging with the company's content and brand.
  • Opportunity conversion rate. This metric calculates the percentage of target accounts that have progressed from the initial engagement stage to becoming qualified sales opportunities. It indicates the effectiveness of the ABS strategies in moving accounts through the sales pipeline.
  • Account expansion rate. This KPI tracks the rate at which a business successfully expands its relationship within existing target accounts. It includes upselling additional products or services to those accounts, indicating the ability to capitalize on new opportunities within the current customer base.
  • Deal velocity. Deal velocity measures the average time it takes for a target account to move through the sales pipeline from initial engagement to a closed deal. A faster deal velocity signifies efficient and effective ABS practices.
  • Customer lifetime value. CLV calculates the total revenue generated from a target account throughout its entire lifecycle as a customer. Monitoring CLV helps understand the long-term value of engaging specific accounts through ABS.
  • Win rate by account type. This metric breaks down win rates based on different types of target accounts. It enables teams to identify which segments of accounts are more likely to convert into customers and where there might need to be adjustments to the ABS strategies.
  • Account retention rate. Account retention rate measures the percentage of target accounts that remain customers over a specific period. A high retention rate indicates that your ABS approach is effectively nurturing and satisfying customer needs.
  • Deal size by account. This KPI analyzes the average deal size for each target account. It helps identify high-value accounts and understand their potential impact on revenue.
  • Customer satisfaction score. The CSAT score measures customer satisfaction within target accounts. Surveys or feedback mechanisms can gauge how well the ABS efforts meet their expectations and address their pain points.
  • Marketing qualified accounts. MQAs represent target accounts that have shown significant interest and engagement with marketing efforts. Monitoring MQAs helps identify which accounts are most likely to progress through the sales pipeline.
  • Sales-qualified accounts. SQAs are target accounts that have been vetted and qualified by the sales team as potential opportunities. Tracking SQAs allows for prioritization of the most promising accounts in the ABS efforts.

By measuring these ABS KPIs and metrics, organizations can gain valuable insights into the effectiveness of their account-based selling strategies. These metrics provide data-driven guidance for optimizing the approach, identifying high-value accounts and developing longer-term customer relationships.

This was last updated in August 2023

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