Account based sales, as a technique, is not new. However, with the rise of smart sales technology, it has experienced a resurgence and increasing popularity amongst B2B companies. It has become easier than ever to identify and target ideal customers with the use of sales data analysis tools and outside sales automation.
This does not mean, though, that account based is the ideal technique for every company. If implemented properly, it can take a company to a whole new level. If it is not a good fit or executed poorly, it can be devastating.
Here is what you need to know about the account-based movement and if it is right for you.
What is Account-Based?
In the accounts-based movement each target is treated as a market of one. Instead of one salesperson going after one client, the entire company comes together and targets multiple people within an organization that they feel is a right fit for them.
The entire company is focused on specific, high-paying accounts and gear their content specifically for that client. This requires coordination across all departments for each sale. It is mostly used in the B2B market because it is a multi-touch strategy that is too hands-on for the B2C market.
There are several terms that encompass the account based movement: Account-Based Sales (ABS), Account Based Marketing (ABM) and Account Based Sales Development (ABSD) are some of the most popular. However, these terms all refer to the tactic of focusing your clientele on high-value contracts, as opposed to smaller, short-term sales.
Some argue that it should be referred to as “Account-Based Everything” (ABE) because of the collaboration required within the model. No salesperson is truly alone in their pursuit of a contract, and everyone, from executives, marketing, finance, and customer service, comes together throughout the sales cycle.
Not only is does the entire company collaborate on the sale, but this team approach continues after the sale is made. Customer service develops an onboarding experience specific to the client to ensure they get the most out of their product or service. Executives continue to have regular check-ins to make sure that the client is content and to see any room for improvement. Sales and marketing continue to work together to identify any upselling or cross-sell opportunities.
Is Accounts-Based Selling Right for You?
Accounts based selling is not right for every company. Besides being more ideal for the B2B market, there are other factors to consider in the development of the ABS framework for your company.
The incredible amount of manpower and budget required for each and every target means that each contract has to be of significant size. If you are working with mostly small to medium businesses, then the profit will not likely outweigh the cost of doing business.
ABS is ideal if your company’s target accounts are large enterprises. The average contract value (ACV) and the lifetime value (LTV) needs to be large enough to cover the expenses of your ABS business.
ABS works best if you have multiple products or services. If you offer a variety of packages, add-ons or complementary services that a customer might want down the road, then an ABS model would make sense. If you have only one product or service, however, without an eventual sale after the initial one, then the resources and time you would have to dedicate to ABS will not likely be profitable.
Sale Cycles When dealing with large enterprises, the decision to buy a product or service is typically a long and drawn-out process. The ABS model works best for this longer type of selling because the nature of the model will help to speed up the process. There will be a faster rate of business because your company will assist them at multiple levels to make it as seamless as possible. If the typical sales cycle for your company is 3+ months, which it typically is in large, B2B enterprises, then accounts based could be the right way to go.
Your Ideal Client At the heart of ABS is the ideal client. You do not want to spend all your time and resources on a dead-end, so understanding what client is ideal for your business is essential. If you are still trying to find what niche or clientele your product works best with, then you should probably hold off on ABS. However, do look into your sales data to see if there are any patterns. Perhaps you find that you do have an ideal client by using sales data analysis tools!
Amount of People in Decision-Making The typical B2B enterprise has 6.8 people involved in the decision-making process for products or services. In this type of environment, ABS is ideal because it is especially suited for multiple buyers. By creating multiple buyer personas and connecting with multiple people within the company, your company will be specially situated to create a smooth transaction that will not be dependent on one contact in the company. If the one contact should go away for whatever reason (leave the company, or take a leave of absence, for example), the ABS model means that you will still have other contacts and it should not affect your business.
However, the ABS model is not necessarily an all-or-nothing decision for a company. Many companies may work with both small to mid-sized businesses as well as enterprises. In this case, some decide to set up dedicated teams to work on accounts, while the rest of the company works with smaller contracts. These are referred to as “tiger teams” and they work to bring in the best of both worlds for the company.
The transition to accounts-based may also happen slowly with teams that slowly expand to the entire company depending on how successful they are. In this case, tiger teams would also be useful to test out how successful the method is for your brand and company. This will give you the chance to track and measure its success without risking the entire company.
Creating Sales Targets in the Account Based Movement
The first step in finding a sales target for your company is creating an Ideal Customer Profile. This is a detailed look at the successful clients that you landed in the past to predict which ones will be best for you to target in the future.
This is where sales data analysis tools are ideal. Is there a specific type of business that your product works best for? Or, is there a location where your product solves an issue? What do your best customers all have in common? What are their struggles, priorities, preferences? Do they have a specific style they like? What do your long-term contract companies look like?
An ICP requires incredible precision. In the accounts based model, there is little room for error in finding a sales target. The personalized content, amount of time and manpower required for each target involving the whole company means that failed sales will have a much larger impact than other models.
However, an in-depth and detailed ICP will help keep your company from chasing the wrong type of client. This deep research also helps keep you from relying solely on your instincts and gives you the information you need on finding happy, long-term customers. While instincts might work well in some situations, a precise look at your company’s history of great clients may give you a better direction to head into.
It also helps to have an ICP while using outside sales automation because it will help you quickly sift through potential clients to find the right one for you.
Once you have found the ideal businesses you want to do business with, it is time to look deeply into the specific key players within the company. With the increasing number of decision makers within each B2B, pinpointing who each person is and creating relationships with them is essential in sales.
Map out who were the key players in your previous sales. Identify their motivations, challenges, and professional goals. Be sure to identify their pain points as well. Are they concerned about the budget, efficiency, or sales? When you identify where they are coming from and what they want, you can tailor your content to their specific needs.
Also important for creating a relationship is finding the best way to reach them. Some may prefer phone calls, emails, or mail may have the best impact. It may be best to connect with someone through events. Many people prefer to meet in person, so having a routing app for sales will allow you to make the most of your time.
Once you have identified the key players and how to sell to them specifically, you will have a much smoother sales process. You can make deeper connections within the company and no longer need to rely on one person to advocate for you.
Customer Service within Accounts Based Companies
The accounts based model does not end at the initial sale. Customer service is key to keeping a customer and future sales. An unhappy customer will not stay, buy again or upgrade their product.
Training sessions can be useful to teach the client how to use features, avoid common issues and help ease the transition to your product. It also helps the customer to get engaged with your product or service. User events are also helpful to get customers excited about your product.
In fact, selling to a customer never truly ends in the accounts based company. The size, needs, and demands of your customers change, so being able to offer them relevant products and services are a key part of the ABS model. By executive check-ins and maintaining contact with your clients, you will have a chance to upsell, cross-sell and even receive referrals.
Accounts Based Movement for the Future
Although the method may be old, accounts-based selling and marketing is the model for the future of B2B. It fits seamlessly with modern technology to create more accurate profiles and personas. Outside sales automation and sales data analysis tools make it ideal for finding the perfect clients to create large, long-term contracts.
By identifying and finding the right clients worth your time, you can take more control over the future of your business.