Is your sales team ready for account based sales development?

Over the past few weeks of this new year, you’ve probably told yourself, “out with the old, in with new” at least 10 times by now. Well, we’re here to make sure that you include your sales process in that saying too, and not just your addiction to late-night Oreos. 

Typically, sales efforts include sales development reps (SDR) or account executives being individually assigned to customer accounts to reel in those prospects with separate marketing strategies. 

But what if we told you that there’s a better way to fill up your pipeline and increase your close ratio?

In the past, we’ve written about how account-based marketing (ABM) is an approach that scores new prospects with hyper-personalized experiences. Similarly, account-based sales development is a strategic prospecting process where one or more SDRs simultaneously run multi-touch campaigns into pre-qualified target accounts. 

Here, it’s less about the volume of leads and more about the quality. 

To coordinate multiple touchpoints that reach your ideal customers, all members across product and customer success must share the same goal. (No hand-offs here!)

Account-based sales development 101

The 🔑 to this approach is to align marketing and sales teams and target more high-value accounts through personalized strategies instead of a high number of lower-quality accounts through mass marketing.

In a study conducted in partnership with the ABM Leadership Alliance, ITSMA found that 87% of B2B marketers believe ABM delivers higher ROI. And for revenue, 69% reported their ABM programs already delivered gains. Plus, 35% said they’ve seen significant improvements in revenue growth. 

Since it emerged a few years ago, this framework has become a go-to for sales reps and marketers in B2B enterprise. 

We won’t make you guess, so here’s why: Snagging high-value accounts requires nurturing and personalization through each step of the sales cycle, and most traditional campaigns can’t keep up with that demand.

Still, account-based selling isn’t for just any kind of business or funnel – adopting these strategies for the wrong business model will easily lead to disaster.

We’ll tell you what you should know about your business before prospecting using an account-based sales development approach, but first, what’s all the hype about it?

Well, there are loads of benefits to account-based methods:

  • More targeted marketing. Because of personalized outreach, you get to enjoy a higher close rate.
  • Growth of your brand. When you sell in a strategic, customer-centric way that doesn’t rely on volume, your qualified leads automatically increase. 
  • More room to find new business. The highly targeted marketing strategies of this approach help you find the best-fit target companies, and their decision-makers.
  • Improved email response rates. When you know who you’re talking to, you can better personalize your communication. That’s why email open rates tend to improve with account-based selling methods. 
  • More $$$ potential. Because the focus is on B2B companies, deals are bigger, and so is the revenue!
  • Increased deal size. The tools in your ABM tech stack provide the intel you need to pre-qualify leads – with background information like purchase history, buyer behavior, and more. 
  • Achieve more with shorter sales cycles. When coordinated efforts are on a target you’re confident you’ll close, you can expect a W –  (as long as your efforts are data-driven).

Not so fast – what to consider first about account-based sales 

Because account-based sales development isn’t the best move for everyone, you have to think about a few things first.  

You should make sure that your company has integrated these five elements:

1. Needle-like focus on your customer’s needs

There’s an entire universe out there of B2B companies who could become your customers, but that means diddly without knowing who your ideal customer profile (ICP) is and what they need. 

But don’t you need to know your target customer’s needs for any sales process?” Nice catch, sales rep. 

Here’s the difference: Account-based selling requires alignment between sales and marketing teams through each step of the sales cycle – you need laser accuracy of your ICP to perfect the digital marketing strategies that engage the needs of massive, distributed target markets

Without data on existing customers plus intel on your ICP to inform account-based sales development outreach efforts, you can’t maximize your conversion rate or create the rocket fuel to ignite growth. 

There’s nothing wrong with being in the pre-product/market fit phase, or even the discovery stage of your business… Just hold off on employing highly targeted account-based strategies until you identify the core characteristics of your niche. 

2. A sales cycle that requires patience

The time you take to convert a prospect is your sales cycle length – starting from your first touchpoint to when a contract is signed, sealed, and delivered. 

account based selling

If you take at least three months to get your prospect across the finish line, account-based sales development could be the best approach for your business

Why? The bigger and more complex your business deals are, the more you can expect a longer, multi-stage sales cycle that requires the in-depth strategies of account-based selling. (Especially since it demands multiple team members to run the plays of your outreach strategy.)

Plus, with more resources for your accounts, you can nurture potential clients faster and more effectively. And hell, you might even shorten your sales cycle while you’re at it. Win-win-win!

3. High-value only – average deal size

Whether account-based sales development makes sense for you depends on the type of customers you serve. 

Here’s a litmus test: Author of “The Sales Development Playbook” and CEO of The Bridge Group Trish Bertuzzi says account-based sales development makes the most sense for your business when your deal size averages $50,000 or more.

That means folks who sell to individual prospects and small- to medium-sized businesses may need to rethink dedicating (pricey) resources to account-based strategies for less substantial accounts.

If you’re in the mid-market space or you sell enterprise or complex solutions, you likely already target high-value accounts – but keep in mind that account-based sales will work for businesses that prioritize team-selling through various sales-related roles.

4. Products and services you can upsell

Selling a one-time-purchase product? Unfortunately, you won’t get far with this approach. 

high valued accounts

The product you sell or the solution you provide is a major factor in your ability to succeed with account-based sales development. For instance, these business models are a good fit:

  • Subscription-based products
  • Solutions made of multiple components 
  • Combinations of products and services

Think of upsell opportunities like tiers, add-ons, free services; the choice is yours.

These types of products are worthy of high returns with account-based selling because they can maintain customer relationships through consistency of excellent service – which you can’t achieve without synergy between sales, marketing, product development, customer success, and legal departments. 

5. Stakeholders – the more the merrier

Does your prospect require tons of stakeholders involved in the purchasing decisions? 

If you can’t get a John Hancock without the CFO, marketing director, and the head of IT, consider account-based sales development to take your business to the next level. 

With this approach, several reps across departments deliver your value proposition to each stakeholder and decision-maker in their preferred language – AKA you increase your likelihood of inching closer to the sale.

More people involved means more opportunities to succeed. So, when you target your high-value prospects with a streamlined omnichannel approach that targets everyone involved, you also minimize the risk of your deal stalling. (Or worse, falling through!) 

“It also helps you facilitate consensus,” writes Aja Frost, HubSpot’s head of content SEO. “You can identify potential blockers and address their concerns before they stop the deal in its tracks.”

Do you know how to sell like a marketer? You need to, especially with account-based selling! After this article, watch our webinar to learn how to keep your messages from getting lost in the digital noise.

sell like a marketer