Target the Right Accounts

Q4 is an overwhelming time for most sales leaders. Not only are you working toward end-of-year revenue goals, but you also have to start planning for success in the new year. With this much pressure to drive sales, what can leadership do now to set their teams up for success in 2017? The answer lies in developing an account-based strategy, one of the hottest B2B trends in 2016 and one that doesn’t show signs of slowing down any time soon.

What is Account-Based Selling?

Account-based selling (ABS) is a B2B sales strategy that takes companies into consideration, as opposed to just leads or contacts, to predict which organizations have the greatest likelihood of purchasing so that organizations can appropriately allocate both sales and marketing resources to those individual accounts. The result is a set of highly-targeted, high-value accounts to focus on via multiple sales and marketing channels. But an account-based strategy goes further than just looking at companies to consider what actions you will take to land those deals.

In the past, more traditional one-size-fits-all approaches prioritized high volume activities such as cold calling and mass emailing. An account-based selling strategy places quality over quantity, enabling sales to be methodical, maximize their efforts, and extract the greatest value from their sales activities. And as the industry continues to see a rise in the prevalence of consensus sales, an account-based strategy simply makes sense. Engaging multiple decision-makers within an organization increases the rep’s likelihood of connecting, turning the account into an opportunity, and closing the deal.

Developing an ABS Plan for the New Year

Let’s take a look at six steps sales leaders can take to successfully execute an ABS strategy within their organization and drive sales in the new year.

1.) Target the Right Accounts

The premise of an account-based strategy is to focus 100% of your effort on the right accounts – those that are most likely to convert into a sale. Segmentation is also important, so that all communications and engagements can be as relevant to the prospect as possible.

One of the most important steps is to identify and profile the right accounts. First, review your current personas and then profile your ideal customer – is there a match? Consider factors such as demographics, psychographics, geographics, firmographics, pain points and challenges, and buying behavior.

One exercise many successful companies find useful is profiling their current customers and reverse engineering to identify common factors that could predict winning prospects. Similarly, take a look at the customer lists of your closest competitors. Use this information to update your buyer personas to accurately reflect the kinds of customers who will help you meet your sales goals. Next, match accounts, i.e. the names of companies, to these profiles.

2.) Map the Buyer Journey

Map out each persona’s buyer journey. Determine where there are points of interaction and then identify types of content and messaging for each engagement that will add value to the conversation. Also determine what the CTA is for each stage in order to advance the prospect. Together, these steps will help to minimize or eliminate friction points, where deals can stall or fall out.

3.) Review the Sales Process

The beginning of a new year is a great time to review process and implement any new changes or updates. Evaluate your current sales processes to determine if there are areas to increase efficiency and / or effectiveness. Is every member of your sales team consistently following the same process for qualifying and nurturing leads? Are they talking to the right people with the right messaging? Are they sharing relevant value-add content at each stage of the buying process?

4.) Align Sales & Marketing

An account-based approach isn’t a sales-specific or marketing-specific initiative; it is a comprehensive, organization-wide strategy. Both sales and marketing teams should take an account-based approach to maximize efforts, as well as even the operations and customer success departments. It’s key to have this alignment for process, goals, messaging, and feedback and to collaboratively identify, nurture, and close deals.

5.) Budget for Success

Invest in the tools that can make the biggest impact in 2017. Sales technology has come a long way in the past few decades and now enables an efficient and effective approach to ABS. Although account-based selling typically reduces the number of points of contact, the right tools are still required to scale appropriately and drive company growth. Sales enablement and customer experience technologies can be leveraged by multiple departments and can impact the sales process from beginning to post-sale and enable sales teams to work faster, smarter, and more efficiently.

6.) Use Data to Drive Decision-Making

With an account-based selling approach, sales activities are performed at the account level, reducing the amount of noisy, en masse activity. For this reason, it is easier now than ever before for sales leaders to track rep activity, identify what’s working and what’s not, and determine areas for improvement.

ABS also takes into consideration factors from multiple departments, offering a full view of the sales process and offering improved funnel and forecasting accuracy. But it’s important to have key performance indicators in place and to regularly refer to these metrics to make sure that you are on track with strategic goals. This sort of data-driven decision-making helps organizations to meaningfully refine their strategies and continually improve.

ABS changes sales processes and the way that sales teams and individual reps sell. Need another reason to consider account-based selling in 2017? According to Sales Hacker, an account-based approach generates higher win-rates, shorter deal cycles, and larger deal sizes, as well as increases sales efficiency and productivity.

Shelley CernelToday’s post is by guest author Shelley Cernel, Senior Marketing Manager for KnowledgeTree, a sales enablement software tool that predicts and pushes best practice sales enablement content for sales and marketing teams to drive sales productivity.