In the Spring of 2011, Aaron Ross started a movement that would forever change the way we sell. After Predictable Revenue hit the shelves, traditional cold calling began to die and Cold Calling 2.0 was born. Now, after nearly five years of generating pipeline with “spears, nets, and seeds” the magic is wearing off.
A new trend is emerging. A trend that is changing the way B2B sales teams operate and individual reps sell. It was a big focus at the 2016 SaaStr Annual conference and will also be front and center at the TOPO Sale Summit in April 2016. It’s been talked about on countless sales blogs and it’s been predicted as the future of sales by leaders in the sales world, such as Trish Bertuzzi, Lars Nilsson, John Barrows, Max Altschuler, Craig Rosenberg and many more.
This new trend is Account-Based Sales Development.
Simply put, account-based sales development (ABSD) means selling at the account level rather than the lead or contact level, though it’s complexities go much deeper. Overall, it’s a more focused prospecting process for selling to targeted accounts by strategically aligning and your team. This ABSD team must be comprised of sales, marketing and customer success reps to collaboratively find, nurture and close deals.
In 2015 CEB found that, on average, 5.4 decision makers now have to formally sign off on each purchase is a complex B2B sales. This means that nurturing multiple contact across the entire account is more important now than ever before.
Simply asking for an intro to the decision maker no longer works. It’s time to become more strategic by starting to leverage different technologies across the sales stack and hunting targeted accounts rather than chasing individual contacts.
The account-based sales development model has caused a fundamental shift in the way prospecting and outbound sales is performed. Previously, reps had to meet their goals with high volume efforts: engaging in more sales activities, sending more emails, making more dials, and moving on to the next prospect as quickly as possible.
However, now since the average contract size of a targeted account is much larger and more valuable, the focus is on high-quality efforts; targeting high-value accounts by following up multiple times, using numerous channels, and moving across decision makers within the account. Reps are now focused on creating new qualified pipeline. This approach not only allows for more time researching and creating highly personalized messaging, but demands it (click to tweet).
Why You Should Switch to an Account-Based Sales Development Model
If you haven’t already jumped on board the ABSD train, you may be wondering why you should consider account-based selling when your business seems to be doing fine. In short, the bottomline is revenue. For example, there is a huge difference between closing a deal worth $5M and closing a deal worth $50,000. Yes it takes more planning, skills, and resources to close these larger accounts, but not 100X more.
There are many benefits to ABSD.
Being more strategic leads to higher effectiveness. First, it’s a much more organized approach to selling. Instead of prioritizing volume in your strategy, with ABSD you can take the time to be more strategic and methodically plan out every step. In fact, in order to be successful at ABSD, you must be more strategic. Another benefit is that your results become easier to measure. Simply put, it’s easier to track, process, and manage fewer account transactions, giving you more visibility into what is working and what’s not.
Teams and individual reps are held accountable to metrics that actually matter. When you hone in on what’s working, management can begin to hold individual reps and entire teams more accountable to their numbers. The metrics and KPIs will be different, which we discuss in this ABSD playbook, but all managers know that an increase in accountability and responsibility directly correlates with an increase in performance.
You maintain brand reputation. The spray-and-pray model is what gives sales teams and companies a bad reputation. The combination of impersonal messaging directed at leads that may not be qualified, sent out at a high volume, burns your brand’s reputation. When you’re selling at the account level, you mitigate that risk and avoid the actions that burn reputation. Since accounts are pre-qualified and you’re taking more time with messaging, you are no longer interrupting prospects at every turn and you’re creating more value with each interaction.
It forces organizational alignment. There’s a misconception around ABM and ABSD. The misconception is that one function is responsible for the activity of targeting and breaking into accounts. It shouldn’t be thought of as a marketing campaign or sales campaign, but rather a strategic business initiative that involves your entire organization. Everyone on the revenue-generating side of your business is responsible for helping execute an effective ABSD approach (click to tweet).
CAUTION: Why You Should NOT Switch to an Account-Based Sales Development Model
I know we just made an argument for why you should take an ABSD approach, but the truth is it’s not for everyone. There are some companies that, if too caught up in the hype, can easily get sucked in and proceed to drain their resources on an approach that is inappropriate for them.
If you’re in enterprise sales, then there’s absolutely no reason your team should not be taking an ABSD approach. If you’re in the mid-market space, that’s when you’ll be required to take a little more time to decide if this is the right approach for you. If you’re selling to SMBs and startups, the chances are that your average contract value isn’t high enough to transition your sales process to ABSD. Trish Bertuzzi emphatically states that if your deal size is under $50K, then ABSD is not for you (click to tweet).
Every company’s sales structure, sales process, company resources and price point vary. Each section needs to be evaluated to ensure that the time and effort of setting up an ABSD approach will yield the expected results. If you fall somewhere in the middle and are still wondering if ABSD is the right approach for you, here are some reason you should NOT be taking an ABSD approach:
You’re pre-product/market fit (PMF). Don’t kid yourself here. I know it’s hard for an early stage company and the founding team (which if you’re pre-product/market fit is also your sales leadership) to admit they haven’t hit PMF. The result is you don’t have enough information to support your Ideal Client Profile. Today’s modern sales teams are able to achieve rocketship growth by using data to inform their decision. With all the new sales intelligence and predictive tools available, you’re able to pre-qualify a lead without ever having to talk to them.
However, if you don’t know who your ideal client is or you’re just guessing, then you can’t afford to put all your eggs in one basket and narrow your audience. You must get more data points to support your Ideal Client Profile before engaging in highly targeted selling. In fact, by talking to more people and moving in the opposite direction of ABSD, you’ll be able to get to PMF quicker.
You don’t have a predictable pipeline. In contact-based selling, opportunity pipeline value is determined after the first call with a lead. By this time, you’ve already done half the work and you’re only now discovering the value of the opportunity. This is similar to the previous warning that if you don’t have enough data or the right data, then you could be shooting yourself in the foot. In ABSD, pipeline value for an opportunity is usually part of qualifying criteria, therefore, you have a more reliable and predictable pipeline.
You’re not positioned to move up market. Every sales team wants to be able to sell bigger deals. They all dream of the day they close their first $1M deal. But the honest truth is not all companies are setup to handle large deals. ABSD is a sales process, but it requires more than only your sales team. When done correctly, marketing is involved. Customer support and customer success will have pivotal roles as well. Legal will contribute, and likely more. If your entire team is not ready, you could be setting yourself and your team up for failure.
You don’t have the technology required to perform ABSD. Different technologies are better suited for different sales processes. Since ABSD requires a more personal approach, the tools that you have previously used in the past to automate everything won’t give you the flexibility to add the customization and personalization required to sell at the account level.
Luckily, this isn’t a hard fix. There are many companies like PersistIQ, QuotaFactory, LeanData, DataFox, EverString and many, many more to help you become more effective selling at the account level.
However, this should be the last step of implementing your ABSD approach, not the first step.
After you decide ABSD is right for you, but before the buy the tools and technology necessary, you need to know:
- How to prepare & organize your team for ABSD
- How to aligning sales, marketing and customer success
- How to structure your ABSD team to stay on pace to goal
- How to clean up and create your database for this new model
- How to develop your database and identify and pre-qualify target accounts
- How to manage your database for optimal health and visibility
- The new KPIs and benchmarks for ABSD
- ABSD methodology & best practices
That’s why we’ve teamed up with the experts at QuotaFactory to bring you The Account Based Sales Development Playbook for Revenue-Driven Teams. We cover all of that and more in this free ebook download.
Here’s what some of the leaders in sales and the ABSD movement had to say about our new ebook.
If you have any questions, suggestions or just want to geek out about ABSD, leave your comments below!