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How to Define Your Target Accounts for Account Based Sales Development

The whole point of account-based sales is to focus your efforts on a smaller and more narrowly defined number of high-value accounts that have the greatest potential impact on your bottom line. That's why the most important piece of the account based sales model is to select and target account.

The term account-based sales development could refer to a wide range of strategies. Since we wrote our last ebook (The Account Based Sales Development Playbook for Revenue Driven Teams), we've had a chance to talk to other leaders who are implementing this approach as well as learning from honing our own processes. Most companies don't approach account based is an all-or-nothing strategy.

In fact, most organizations that are doing account-based sales development are also still implementing contact-based sales where they spend less time prospecting and personalizing their outbound efforts. We’ve even talked to teams that have three tiers of accounts they are going after. No matter which way you cut it, it all starts with defining the right accounts.

Defining Your Target Accounts

There are three types of data inputs that will help you target and pre-qualify accounts: firmographic data, technographic data, and behavior data.

Firmographic Data

What demographics are to people, firmographics are to organizations. We want to identify the characteristics of organizations that will best predict a positive result.

Firmographic data might include:

  • Company size
  • Industry and vertical
  • Financials
  • Growth trends
  • Number of locations
  • Status or structure
  • Market share or industry position

The best sources of this information are:

Technographic Data

Technographics is a relatively new form of data but highly relevant in today's high-tech environment. Knowing what technologies an organization is using can give you great insight into how that organization functions. It's becoming common for companies to build technology that sits on other platforms. A typical example is a company that interfaces to Salesforce.

Technolograhic data might include:

  • Competitive technologies
  • Complementary technologies
  • Technologies that indicate relevant information (e.g., a startup won’t be using Netsuite)

The best sources of this information are:

Behavioral Data

Behavioral data is less concrete and often more timely. There are certain events or triggers that will push individuals or companies into buying mode. For example, it's a company just raised a large series A round of funding, it's highly likely they will be looking to bring on new talent.

There are also events or triggers that will make decision maker at a organization more open to buying. For example, research shows that 28% of vendor changes are a result from a change in personnel.

Behavioral data signals intent, and skews towards the predictive and automated side of data.

Behavioral data might include:

  • Interactions with your content (eBooks, webinar, whitepapers, etc.)
  • Job postings
  • Funding
  • M&A

The best sources of this information are:

Those are three different types of data, and you will have to figure out which one or combination will give you the most accurate data to predict which accounts you will have the most success targeting.

The more data you can incorporate into your account selection process, the more accurate you can become at selecting target account. Once you figure out which data points are the most important to you in your company (which we will cover in the next section). You can then select the technology or service that will give you that data.

Won Sales Analysis

If you are starting from scratch and are putting together your first list of target accounts, the best place to start is looking at the largest deals you’ve already closed. This is where a Won Sales Analysis comes into play.

Just as executing ABSD is a team effort, planning ABSD is also a team effort. When going through this Won Sales Analysis, include not only your SDRs and AEs but also your AMs and CSMs. Your AMs and CSMs are underutilized assets in the planning phase because they usually have the best insights into the successfully close target accounts.

When we’re looking for the firmographic, technographic and behavioral data the first two are relatively straightforward. Collecting the behavioral data from your best customers is a little trickier and will take more thought. One of the best guides I’ve seen to collect behavioral data in a Won Sales Analysis comes from the book SHiFT by Craig Elias and Tibor Shanto.

Some of this information you’ll be able to get from the sales reps who closed that account and account manager. However, I suggest that you actively get on the phone with the decision-maker of your 10 best accounts and ask the questions in each section below. Don’t assume you know why the deal closed -- assuming is dangerous. If you’ve done a good job closing the account and managing the relationship thereafter, the DM will have no problem jumping on the phone and helping you out.

There are five parts which we will cover here: identify, find, clothes, improve, and classified. Let's dive into each.

1) Identify.

The first step is to identify the events, triggers, and pain points that led to the purchasing decision.

The gold comes when you can identify the exact moment a prospect decided to proactively seek a solution. The chances are that they were already feeling the pain and aware of solutions, but you are looking for an exact point in time that spurred the prospects to act. When we can tone in on this window of time we can start to uncover valuable information, things like: what changed to make solving this problem the priority? What created the sense of urgency to become proactive? Why isn't current solution no longer viable? Why does their current solution no longer meet expectations, sparking this trigger? What are their current expectations?

There’s a value equation we can use to quantify when a prospect enters into this window of dissatisfaction: Dissatisfaction = value of current solution < expectations

There are two sides of this equation. To get into the window of dissatisfaction, there may be a decrease in the value of their current solution or an increase in their current expectations.

2) Find.

When and how did they find you? The primary objective here is to identify how you can get to highly motivated decision-makers before your competition.

In an ideal world, you will be able to anticipate when a prospect begins to search proactively for a solution instead of wait until they find you. Start by asking questions about the sequence of events happened before the trigger event that pushed the prospect into the window of dissatisfaction. For example, “What purchases made this problem become more of a priority?”

We know that the more emotional people become, the more likely they are to act. So the question becomes what series of events caused the prospect to become emotional?

We also know that emotions change, and over time, the prospect will begin to cool off. Therefore, if we can figure out how to find prospects as soon as they experience the trigger event the more likely we can close the deal.

3) Close.

What made them choose you? Another critical part of this step is to determine the buyers expectations for a solution, and also for you. This provides a strong indication of how long they will stick around and if they will buy from you again.

How did the prospect justify to themselves and their team to purchase from you?

What got you excited about our solution? What is the biggest benefit you see from choosing us over our competitors? What are the results you're expecting with our solution?

4) Improve.

How can you make it easier to do business with you?

By now you know two critical pieces of information. First, the condition, circumstances, and context that a prospect faces causing them to seek a new solution. Second, do you know why someone buys from you? Now we want to close the gap between the time it takes for a prospect to go from A to B.

You have to find a prospect who is motivated to change (rather than stick to the status quo), and you have to create enough value and emotion to get them to change. We can lower the hurdle for our prospects by getting to them faster after a trigger event and making it easier for them to buy.

Questions you want to ask your best customers are: what can we do to make it easier for prospects looking for solutions like ours? How can we make it easier for prospects to understand the value and benefit of our solution? How can we make it easier to buy from us? How can we add more value sooner?

5) Classify.

What are the key characteristics of prospects highly likely to buy from you?

There are many different situations in scenarios in which she will be engaged with a prospect. Here we want to identify the different types of prospects you're dealing with so you can predict with more accuracy the ones that will close.

Here we want to find out information such as:

  • Customer demographics: size of the business, title, and background of the decision-maker, type of business, etc.
  • The source of the lead:
  • The size of the sale
  • The link of the sales cycle

Just as you would in your normal sales process, in a Won Sales Analysis utilize clarifying and probing questions to get a full picture. Say things like:

  • ”Which means…”
  • ”Tell me more.”
  • ”What else?”
  • [Silence]
  • Repeat that last sentence in instead of a period make it a question. For example, if they say we needed to increase rep productivity you say "you needed to increase rep productivity?" You'll often find the prospect has more to say.

By completing a Won Sales Analysis, you will get more insight into events and triggers and bring you the best prospects, what value you bring to customers thus why they buy, and how you can close more deals.

In April, we launched our ebook Account-Based Sales Development Playbook for Revenue-Driven Teams Part I, which received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback. It was very strategic and high-level take on the subject. We’ve talked with countless teams and sales leaders who are building their ABSD programs and got more tactical questions. We figured since we’re neck-deep in ABSD and have plenty more to teach, it’s time another ebook! That’s why we’ve teamed up with the pros at QuotaFactory again to bring you Account-Based Sales Development Playbook for Revenue-Driven Teams Part II.

In Part II, you’ll discover:

  • The data types needed to gather and build intelligence for target accounts.
  • How to map an organization and segment named accounts for customized messaging success.
  • Unique strategies for building your account-based messaging strategy.
  • The best tips for determining the timing and cadence of your prospecting campaign.
  • How to test, analyze, and improve your account-based sales development process.
  • and much more!

download the account based sales development ebook now