The world of B2B marketing is in the middle of a digital revolution, and it feels like everyone wants to put their two cents into our digital strategy. Every article or conference attendee has an opinion about how we should be implementing account based marketing (ABM) tactics: Buy this product over here! Try these experimental strategies for more reach! Do A or D but definitely not B.
All this advice can leave marketers asking themselves: “Am I doing things right?” Sometimes it’s hard to know in the middle of this information glut what is helping revenue and what may be slowing its progress down.
Marketing organizations that succeed in ABM often start with their relationship with Sales. But before we dig into how to improve that relationship, let’s first assess what is happening with our sales counterparts.
The State of Sales Teams in 2021
At the June 2021 Outbound conference, which focuses on sales, productivity and pipeline, guest sales expert speaker and author Meridith Elliott Powell described the general theme of the conference was the importance of marketing for selling success, more so than any other Outbound conference she had previously attended. According to Powell, “The play of marketing and sales now was the most important takeaway. Sales teams need to embrace marketing and marketing teams need to up their game. Neither party can afford to really be operating in silos. You can’t get back in front of the customer in person without the right marketing message.”
Salesforce.com and RingDNA in November 2020 surveyed sales teams to find what common challenges they faced and found time was an underlying factor in several key issues they struggled with.
It’s been a tough time for many in the sales industry. Sales cycles have become more complex, with buyers committees growing by over 25% since two years ago according to CEB/Gartner. The pandemic continues to complicate the situation, as buyers in the U.S. begin to return to their offices while the rest of the world lags behind — making the face to face meetings sales values so much extremely challenging. Sales also has a minimal amount of time to synthesize the vast amounts of data for the right insights to help them sell. According to a July 2020 McKinsey poll, 87% of sales leaders indicated they needed time to build skills as well as learn new technologies to be effective salespeople.
Related Article: Intent Data and the Gap Between Sales and Marketing
3 Ways for Account-Based Marketers to Help Revenue and Sales
With these challenges in mind, here are three quick tips for marketers to make sure their account-based strategy can effectively help revenue and sales.
Focus on one unit of coordinated emphasis — the marketing qualified account (MQA) — as the handoff between sales and marketing. This approach serves a dual purpose of simplifying what sales needs to follow up on and aligns sales and marketing towards a common goal and methodology.
When an organization defines what engagement constitutes a qualified account and what engagement does not qualify an account, they are in a much stronger alignment position. Legacy marketing qualified leads (MQLs) or newer intent data can be ingredients in the formation of an MQA. This simplification will aid in reporting and will help better define how to use technology to support the strategy.
2. Collaborate With an Eye Towards Messaging
Focus on a (daily, weekly) stand up with sales to calibrate on all things account related. During an interview, Demandbase CMO and chief product officer Jon Miller reinforced the importance of having a regular stand up with a subset of the sales team every two weeks, including sales representative, the SDR, and the supporting marketer.
During these meetings, I’d suggest paying attention to what is needed messaging-wise in this new environment by being nimble on message creation. By having these standing conversation meetings focused on targeted accounts, you are more likely to be able to pivot or adjust in our new global environment based on iterative feedback. An understanding of tailoring your prospect engagement messaging to the different personas, buyers and influencers is really required in this new environment.
Related Article: Why Organizations Should Insist on a Sales and Marketing Kickoff
3. Be Mindful of the Impact of New Tech and Concept on Sales
Marketers have a large blindspot on the impact introducing new technology or concepts into a sales person’s workflow can have. Where we’ve seen marketers fail is believing vendors at face value and not recognizing the downstream sales impact of digesting new technology on their workflow. Tech demos can be enticing, but it’s super important to test any hypotheses in advance, identify what insights or information are valuable to the sales person prior to introducing a technology initiative. Make sure workflow pain points are clearly identified prior to talking to sales and if it is unclear, engage outside help to figure that out.
Brian Shea, VP of commercial enablement for 3 Pillar Global, agrees marketers should be mindful around the introduction of technology: “I’ve learned that an internal commitment to being a data-driven sales organization and leveraging technology to continually refine your ABM Plays is helpful. Effective dashboards that alert you to act on buyer response signals are also extremely important.”
In this post-pandemic era, where digital has become the most important tool for marketers, account based marketing strategies provide a great opportunity to bring in new revenue through the second half of 2021 and beyond — as long as marketing and sales are working together.
Jon Russo is a three-time global CMO in successful public and private SaaS companies in Silicon Valley, New York City and Luxembourg for over 10 years, scaling businesses through three successful exits including an IPO as well as two acquisitions representing over $3 billion in market value. Today, he leads B2B Fusion, a sales and marketing performance firm with an expertise on Account Based Strategies and its measurement.