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6 Steps to an Effective Account-Based Selling Strategy

Shifting to an account-based focus isn’t a new concept but there has been a bigger swing towards the strategy over the last few years. This revitalization is being driven by a few different factors but primarily there has been a bigger emphasis on customer-centricity; for many companies, this approach is becoming almost like their new mantra. Additionally, sales processes are getting more complex and are requiring increased buy-in from more stakeholders, making a targeted approach the key to being more effective. Furthermore, by pursuing an Account-Based Selling strategy you can effectively invert the way in which you nurture leads – creating a more targeted approach to driving your prospects through your pipeline; letting the results speak for themselves.

But how you do create an effective account-based sales strategy? Below are the 6 key steps you need to take to be successful.

Account-Based Selling Strategy Framework

1. Building Your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

Firstly, you need to build out your traditional Ideal Customer Profile, this is key to understanding how to communicate with your prospective customers. By designing ICP you are able to understand the needs and pain points of your customer and how your product or service can help them over them. 

While many companies will take the ‘mood board’ approach and pick some key factors that they believe are the most important or fit what they want to be their customer. However, the best ICPs are created from actual data, so analyse your previously closed won/lost pipeline to understand where the best customers are and who they are. Ideally, it would be best to create the profile based on multiple years worth of data and then compare it on a year-on-year basis. If you have a long sales history then we would suggest basing it on the last 3 years of data and no further back. One of the key factors that you want to focus your analysis on is Lifetime Value (LTV) as you want the most profitable customers to form the basis of your ICP. You also want to use metrics such as Time to Close (TTC) and Win Rate (WR) as you want the deals and customer who converted the quickest as well as the most efficient deals. 

Ultimately, you want to get as much data as possible – size, location, industry, technology stack – to build the most comprehensive profile to work from.

2. Collaborate with Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

Sales and marketing are not siloed departments, they should work in tandem to achieve business goals and drive revenue. This is a bigger requirement for companies that are looking to implement Account-Based Selling strategies, as the specific needs for individual accounts are more vivid and therefore require more focused marketing collateral which is targeted to account’s needs or pain points to communicate more effectively. Sales reps and managers need to be the focal point for customer problems and issues, which can then be relayed to marketers so they know where to focus their content creation. You need to be able to answer key questions such as: what material converts prospects to sales better? Speaking directly to customers what is the best tone or language to use to approach your prospects? These are but a few of the questions that sales can provide marketing to optimize their creative processes and ultimately support your sales outreach better.

One of the other key aspects of Account-Based Marketing that can be supported by sales is the nurturing process. Similar to addressing issues with collateral being able to identify when and how to communicate with prospective customers can make or break a deal. The introduction of tools like 6Sense or Terminus to target accounts in your market and help you gain additional data and insight into your market. But Sales Reps are (should) be talking to your customers on a daily basis and thus they have the best insight into how a nurturing process should be conducted. Make sure that your reps feed into your marketing department where contacts have been made from nurture emails and collateral, and where outreach has failed. 

By improving the alignment of your sales and marketing departments you will be able to improve the way that you communicate with your customers, both potential and current, and increase your retention and conversion rates.

3. Build relationships with the best stakeholders

One of the most important elements of any successful sales strategy is building relationships. This is even more so with Account-Based targeting as you need to identify how many people within the target account you need to contact and how best to got about it to form a strong hold with internal stakeholders. By using tools like Ebsta, you can analyze your average sales cycles to find out how many require multiple stakeholders input. Furthermore, you can identify how deep into the organization you have previously needed to go to confirm a deal. 

Once established you can then start to build your organizational chart for your target account and thus start to isolate who you need to target to ensure that you are gaining the right traction within the company. Again, tools like Ebsta, or research within LinkedIn, can help you to contact the right stakeholders to build your reputation and improve relations by helping you to identify parties within the company or key contacts to start conversations with to drive the potential sales forward.

Once you have established a chart of your target organization, you can review this against your previous benchmarking to see if there are enough potential relationships and contact points within the account to make the conversion. This can be done with simple spreadsheet tracking but these kinds of documents can get complicated and as sales reps research don’t always get updated. Using tools like Ebsta’s opportunity tracking systems, you can more effectively build a pipeline of contacts and track the progress made.

4. Focus on driving revenue with high-quality engagement

Engagement is everything for sales you need to be able to track all your activity (emails, calls, meetings, demos), every point of contact that your team makes with a potential customer. Now, it can be difficult to track each kind of engagement, you are largely relying on your sales staff to continuously update your CRM; something that can be difficult to be assured of. However, there are plenty of tools out there that automatically track each of your team’s engagements, improving your CRM data quality and reducing your sales teams’ administrative time.

Tracking isn’t the only thing you need to do to get a better understanding of how you’re connecting with your prospects, you need to analyze how you’re performing. Benchmarking your engagement over time to give you insight into what tactics or language is effective based on the individual or stakeholder role you are engaging with. By assessing each conversation your team has, you can identify positive tactics and optimize your responses across the team for better returns. This assessment aids you in building a more comprehensive ICP as well; your ICPs shouldn’t be static as your customer’s needs and pain points will evolve over time, therefore so should your profiles. As part of many of these engagement tracking tools, they will provide you insights into metrics around open and click rates, and best sent times. This gives you additional insight to track performance and tune your strategy to be more effective.

With better engagement from your target account, you will also build better relationships. You will need to keep in mind that all engagement statistics need to fall in line with your sales cycle, therefore, depending on the length of your cycle you may need to nurture particular stakeholders with relevant and focused outreach communications to ensure their continuous engagement. Thus fostering a better relationship and increasing the likelihood of conversion.

An account-based selling strategy will live or die by the level of engagement and relationship building it can maintain. Therefore, your ultimate goal to ensure strategic success is to ensure high engagement rates on your outreach and drive better relationships across your team. 

5. Increase accountability with better visibility through the lifecycle

Your strategy should be based on data and feedback from across your sales and marketing departments. therefore, building a level of accountability and reporting is key to not only assessing and updating the strategy but also the foundations that it is built on. To build a better strategy combine different reports types and metrics to gain new insights into effectiveness. For example, review metrics like – intent vs. engagement, to isolate how far a prospect is down the sales funnel impacts the levels of engagement; to build better nurture processes.

Additionally, as we mentioned in point 2, spread the accountability for these assessments across both sales and marketing teams to improve their alignment and cooperative nature. In assessing the effectiveness of your account-based sales strategy, marketing and sales need to have an equal say, while also understanding their individual and collective roles to play.

6. Develop feedback loops to move to market opportunities faster

One of the key aspects of having a targeted account-based sales strategy to being able to apply learnings and reiterate. Iterating on your tactics and approach helps to speed up your sales process and cycle through optimization. Tune your strategy at each stage with insights on what works based on feedback from across sales, marketing and metrics, this will help you to develop optimized processes that are proven to convert. 

Ensure that your teams don’t just report the successes however, failure is a learning point on its own. Make sure that your team shares any bottlenecks or challenges that are encountered and make these discussion points in team meetings. Assess where campaigns didn’t achieve KPIs, review across teams what went wrong and how that can be improved. Make sure that you are assessing every account against your ICP to ensure that you are targeting the right of accounts, improving account coverage and quality. This also ensures that your sales teams are reaching out to the right people and enables quicker identification of new markets and opportunities.

Final thoughts

While account-based selling is no simple matter, it takes a lot of planning and analysis to build a comprehensive strategy that will be effective across your whole organization. Don’t worry if some of it seems like a colossal climb no company adopts a new strategy without problems. However, by following the steps outlined you will have a strong standing to start from.

If you want to find out more about building a targeted account-based sales strategy, check out our ebook.