Account Based Sales
...and what is Account-based Salesforce?
The Traditional Sales Process
The traditional B2B sales and marketing approach is that marketing runs relatively unfocused campaigns which are supposed to generate inbound leads. Such inbound leads would then be routed to the sales rep in charge. They try to qualify the lead and hopefully convert it to an opportunity.
The issues with this approach are:
- Unintentionally, marketing wastes a lot of money on generating bad-fit leads that will never qualify.
- The sales rep (usually an expensive resource) spends a lot of time qualifying leads instead of driving opportunities.
- Unfocused lead generation can harm the brand’s reputation (especially mass-email campaigns).
Ultimately, all these hurt the effectiveness and efficiency of the sales organization. However, Salesforce’s sales cloud (CRM) is designed for exactly this traditional B2B process.
The Account Based Sales Process
Account-based sales (ABS) is a B2B sales approach that seeks to solve these issues. It typically goes like this:
- Sales and marketing agree on a list of target accounts. These are a set of companies that look like the ideal customer for the company’s product/service. Target accounts are usually based on company size, industry, geolocation or technology stack.
- Once on the list, these accounts are targeted by marketing and by the sales development team (SDRs) in parallel.
- Marketing runs target account specific sales campaigns (e.g. social media ads or email campaigns). Notice that such campaigns usually generate inbound leads (e.g. white paper downloads) - but these are identical to the contacts and accounts you already have in Salesforce.
- In parallel, the SDR team sources persona-specific contacts and touches them continuously with highly personalized emails, phone calls, social media connects, etc.
- The goal of these activities is to book meetings with decision makers at these target accounts. The account executive (AE) takes these meetings and the meetings are likely to convert to a forecastable deal, as most of the qualification has been done already.
- While the AE is driving the deal forward, decision makers are silently targeted by persona specific ad campaigns, which continues to build credibility and a positive brand reputation.
- For target accounts where no progress can be made (for example, not receptive or with a competitor), the SDR team pauses their activities for a few months, but marketing keeps touching the account with nurturing campaigns.
As you can see, ABS has these key aspects:
- Focus on target accounts
- Personalized outbound prospecting
- Specialized sales roles (notice the “division of labor” pattern)
- Team orchestration
The issue is that Salesforce doesn’t really support this approach. And here is where it falls short:
In order to orchestrate the activities described above, each involved party must understand the account status at any point in time. E.g. Marketing controls the type of campaigns they are running, based on how far along the account is in the ABS pipeline.
Leads and Opportunities have standard fields that reflect the life cycle of such records - but Accounts don’t. It would be easy for you to just add a custom field, but manually setting that field would be prone to being outdated as all team members contribute to an account’s progress.
This is why ABS Pack adds two custom fields to the account object in your org:
- “Life Cycle Status” and
- “Activity Status”. Both are automatically updated by analyzing activities, opportunities and cases.
As a positive side effect, you can also run reports on how you are advancing your target accounts over time. Sales leaders should monitor the progress the team is making with target accounts on a weekly basis.
One of the key aspects of ABS is to target the right contacts with messaging that’s relevant to them. Which means:
- you only spend time reaching out to contacts that are influential in the buying process
- you send messages/content that’s relevant to them, according to their job roles
That’s why you define “personas”, which represent the various job roles and job levels you are targeting. E.g. if you are selling sales software, you probably want to reach out to sales leaders, sales ops, and the IT staff. Each of these personas have a different agenda and different incentives. Therefore, you must reach out with content that addresses each one’s point of view.
You should constantly gauge whether you have all these personas covered on a specific target account, so you are penetrating it from all possible angles. Otherwise, the SDR team should source more contacts so you reach maximum persona coverage.
Salesforce has no concept of personas, which makes delivering the right message difficult. That’s why ABS Pack adds two custom fields:
- Job Level represents the level of seniority and it is automatically populated with C-Level, VP, Director, etc.
- The field Persona is populated after you have configured your persona descriptions and trained the system in a process that takes only 15 minutes.
After that’s done, you have a persona signal on each contact so you can control what content you share with that contact. You can also gauge the “persona coverage” on each account. If you have reports in place on the effectiveness of your marketing and sales outreach, you can now break it down by persona.