Account-Based Marketing (and Selling) is a new and quickly evolving space. There is not set playbook or blue print floating around on the Internet. Companies like PersistIQ and Expanded.io are creating the playbook. That's why I've asked sales expert Chris Conrey of Expanded.io to share his knowledge on the subject.
He has a lot to say, so let's dive right in!
The Peanut Butter Cup of Today’s Sales and Marketing
Today we live in a world where the peanut butter your Sales team is putting out needs to be surrounded by the chocolate from your Marketing team because no one can argue that they taste better together than on their own. As the buying process has evolved from finding the single decision maker and feature-advantage-benefit selling to a more educational focused model, Sales and Marketing are merging slowly into one team.
Thus begins the shift to what is now being called “Account Based Marketing” - where the Marketing team is targeting the accounts selected and driven by Sales, with messaging jointly created to target that specific buying team. The key reasons for this shift are:
- No longer is it a single decision maker. Recent studies show that on an average corporate purchase there are 5.4 people involved in approving it.
- Buyers now have more access to your information, competitors’ information, market pricing, and reasons not to use any solution for their problem than ever before. Google is eating the old school of marketing.
- Truly “cold” sales outreach is losing effectiveness at the same time that “traditional” marketing choices are losing effectiveness in comparison to social recommendations and advocates spreading your word.
So how to you build a Sales engine that can power through these challenges and what role does Marketing play in this? In a perfect world they are as tightly coordinated as the Jaeger pilots from Pacific Rim. Since we don’t have the ability to sync up brain controls just yet, here are some quick wins to help make this transition more effective.
Align The Goals
Sales teams have had a quota from the beginnings of time (and missing them since the first quarter thereafter). Marketing teams rarely have a quota. What if they did? Assign a SQL quota to your marketing team and measure all things against that. If the marketing paraphernalia going out isn’t bringing in qualified leads you are just building on vanity metrics. Tie their bonuses into this somehow to ensure that they are feeding the right sort of leads into your funnel. Additionally Sales needs to have their own reason to provide information back to Marketing. The Sales team is the one that should be generating not only the accounts that they need Marketing to target, but should be providing the initial intelligence into what they know about those accounts.
Have your sales team meet regularly with your marketing team to discuss target accounts, messaging that is working and messaging that isn’t, and who specifically within those accounts needs to receive it. Remember, it is rarely just one person that will be your target here - make sure you are hitting the surrounding team as well.
Be where the buyer is
This is not new advice to anyone. However the implementation of it will be new. You need more than just having ads where your buyers will see them. You need more than just having your sales team at a conference where your buyers will be attending. You need to be in their conversations regularly. Jill Rowley has built a huge following by evangelizing Social Selling and with good reason - it works. You need to be monitoring the social channels of not only the companies you are targeting but the people as well. AND the people they are interacting with professionally. AND the other companies they are interacting with. Once you’re doing that, you can start to interject into the conversation a little. Gently at first by retweeting something insightful or even just throwing a favorite on a tweet. But start to interact before you start to sell.
Remember Sales is not B2B or B2C it is H2H2H
The adage that people buy from people they like has never been more true than it is today. Even more importantly people buy from people their friends like. When a peer at another company can tell someone that you solved their problem you get a 2 mile head start in the marathon of sales. You can still trip up and fail, but the advantage is a great start. People ask for recommendations before they buy - either directly or by searching things like “What is the best… “. When they can hear about how your product made someone look great in front of their boss, or how it made customers happier, they feel a little bit of assurance that what you’re selling won’t be a waste of resources.
In a corporate purchase, often the decisions are made not for maximum reward but for minimum risk. Therefore the social proof of another company’s purchase goes a long way. Too often we get caught up in the need to hustle up a deal that we forget to keep the human side in mind. People don’t want to buy something cool, shiny, or inexpensive - they want to buy something that won’t make them look bad. Your marketing can support this by focusing on the social proof and your sales team can leverage that with testimonials and references hand picked to build on top of the marketing efforts.
Stirring it all together
You can see how sales and marketing are aligning already, and how you can get started in that direction. This is your chance to be ahead of the curve and get that head start that is so valuable. In the next 20 years I would expect more forward thinking organizations to all but merge their sales and marketing and customer success teams into one super team focused on the customer journey. Ultimately that is a win for everyone involved.
- The customer gets better education, timely support and a sales process that fits their buying cycle.
- Sales gets to be in front of the customers “just in time” and ready to help them buy.
- Marketing gets to build on a laser focused target list instead of trying to hit as many targets as possible.
As with any of the great combinations of history, Sales and Marketing go better together than they do on their own. No one can argue the individual merits of Chocolate and Peanut Butter, but when they’re combined the real magic happens.
Chris Conrey took a less direct path into sales after starting in the development world before applying those skills as a “Geek To Human translator”. After a decade of professional selling, Chris published the Post Modern Sales Manifesto and began to focus on the future of selling. Currently he is running the sales and marketing efforts for Expanded.io.
Stay tuned for more of the latest in outbound sales best practices and methods.
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