7 Effective Strategies for Gaining Sales Team Buy-In for ABM

Account-based marketing (ABM) is not only changing B2B marketing strategy, but also B2B sales as a whole. When marketing and sales come together, they form what is known as account-based selling.

The basic idea of account-based selling is that instead of trying to attract a broad base of prospects, the marketing and sales teams work together to reach out to a specified set of accounts.

80% of marketers agree that ABM produces higher ROI than other marketing activities. But for ABM to succeed, sales must be involved in the process from the beginning.

Here are seven ways sales can help support an account-based marketing strategy and turn it into an account-based selling strategy.

1. Driving Sales Team Engagement with Account-Based Marketing

While a lot of the work associated with ABM lies on the marketing side, the sales team needs to be involved throughout the entire process. Some sales team members may be reluctant to get on board with yet another new initiative that they don’t entirely understand. To get full buy-in from the sales team, managers need to explain how account-based selling directly benefits sales representatives.

First, talk to your inside sales representatives about the leads they’re currently receiving. Chances are they’re not happy with the quality of their leads. Next, explain how a well-executed ABM strategy results in higher-quality B2B leads. Walk them through a few case studies if available. Once representatives understand how they benefit, they will be more willing to devote energy to ABM.

Developing a small core of young sales representatives on board with ABM can have far-reaching effects. When these reps start to succeed, their peers will become more interested in ABM.

2. Building a Joint SLA for Successful ABM Implementation

ABM depends on cooperation between sales and marketing. While this is the biggest hurdle to overcome in an ABM program, it’s also one of the biggest benefits because it forces the two teams to work together.

Friction arises when expectations are unclear. To head off this problem, the team responsible for implementing an account-based sales strategy should create an agreement that clearly outlines each department’s major responsibilities.

Some issues to hammer out in the agreement:

  • What deliverables is each team responsible for and what’s the timetable for delivery?
  • Which KPIs are the marketing team responsible for tracking and improving upon? Which KPIs will fall under the sales team’s purview?
  • How will the sales team contribute to ABM efforts before the lead transfer process? (Mention specific activities here!)
  • How will the marketing team help the sales team to implement the ABM strategy? (Again, specificity is key.)
  • How will the sales team credit the marketing team in ABM successes?

The agreement may need to be revised over time. Nevertheless, it’s an important early step for establishing a truly collaborative relationship between marketing and sales.

3. How to Identify Ideal Customers for Account-Based Marketing

A successful ABM strategy is dependent upon being able to identify good customers. Since the sales team has more direct experience with customers, they have a lot to contribute to this discussion.

The ABM team should brainstorm ideal buyer personas together. Encourage sales representatives to contribute knowledge of buyers and existing clients.

The key is not just to identify customers who are likely to buy, but customers who are likely to contribute high revenue and stay with you in the long term.

Once the ABM team identifies target accounts, they should review them with the sales team who can provide insights drawing from their experiences. It’s important for the marketing team to not get locked down on their target account list too soon and be flexible to changing it based on the feedback.

4. Selecting Effective Content for Account-Based Marketing Strategies

Account-based sales success relies upon providing the right content to prospects at the right time (for both inbound and outbound marketing). While the marketing team should assume primary responsibility for producing and disseminating content in the early stages of the funnel, they shouldn’t go at it alone.

Salespeople have first-hand experience with what content resonates with buyers at different stages in the journey. They should consistently offer feedback on the marketing strategy for targeted accounts.

Before marketing actually creates any content, sales should assist the marketing team in defining multiple buyer personas (and even “sub-buyer personas”) for the various types of leads. According to the CEB, on average it takes 6.8 people to sign off before a B2B deal is made.

This means that figuring out your decision-makers is not enough.

Rather, you need to make sure you figure out your decision-makers and the influencers around them who are part of the decision-making process. The sales team should review the content before implementing it to make sure it resonates with each of the people on your buying committee.

Finally, consider establishing an SLA for the sales team to consistently share insights from their touchpoints with buyers to ensure content remains updated and relevant.  

5. Integrating ABM into Your Multichannel Digital Marketing Strategy

ABM works best when prospective customers are exposed to your content on multiple channels. But you shouldn’t just blast out the same content to all of your social media accounts without regard to the nuances of particular channels.

Sales can provide insight as to what channels your buyers are using and how they’re using these channels. They can offer feedback on what kind of messaging and content works best on particular channels.

Here are a few ideas to get started:

  1. Sales team provides a target list of prospects to the marketing team
  2. Target those emails with display ads
  3. Publish LinkedIn sponsored content, targeting the companies on your list
  4. Follow the prospects on social media (Twitter, LinkedIn)
  5. Send a thoughtful piece of direct mail with content relevant to the prospect

6. Optimizing Lead Scoring for Account-Based Marketing Success

Knowing when a lead should be passed from marketing to sales requires a functional lead scoring system. The sales team should evaluate just how well the current lead scoring system is actually working for them by asking: Are they receiving qualified leads?

Additionally, the lead scoring system may need to be changed in order to accommodate an account-based selling strategy. Sales and marketing should determine how best to score your targeted accounts. This may be different than your existing lead scoring system. For example, how much will your system weigh a response to a customized video or social media message?

Set up a system for measuring buyer intent signals. Here are a few buyer intent signals to get you started:

  • Opened your email
  • Clicked a link in an email
  • Clicked on a display ad
  • Downloaded a piece of content
  • Responded to an email
  • Filled out a form

Consider assigning a point value for each signal. You can see which signals are most valuable  based on the frequency they show up in before the point of purchase.

7. Measuring and Improving Account-Based Marketing ROI

Since ABM is a more individualized approach to marketing, you can’t necessarily use the same metrics to gauge success. Rather than measuring pure lead volume, your ABM metrics should assess how much engagement your content is creating with your targeted accounts. You should measure both activities (are prospects engaging with your content?) and outcomes (are targeted prospected becoming buyers?).

Identify which metrics you’re going to track for ABM, and make sure that both sales and marketing can easily access these metrics. Over time, you’ll want to use this data to make tweaks to your strategy. One of the most important things to do to get your marketing & sales teams aligned and get your organization set up for account-based selling is determining your metrics of success. 

About the Author

Caroline Van Dyke, Head of Content

Caroline is a B2B marketer with a knack for building start-up content strategies from scratch. With a passion for crafting the right message at the right time (and a good pun), she leads content for real marketers by telling their real stories. In the rare case she's not busy writing, you can find her consuming true crime podcasts, stand-up specials, and copious amounts of cheese.

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