Prophets of Profit: 25 ABM Experts Give 2017 Predictions & Advice
To say account based strategies were prominent in 2016 is an understatement. It was the flavor of the month… for 12 months. Account Based Marketing continued to take off like a rocket, Account Based Sales and Sales Development joined the party, and Account Based Everything picked up traction.
But before we move into 2017, it’s important to look back at 2016 and the state of ABM to see how far we’ve come. According to the SiruisDecisions 2016 State of ABM study, 70% of all B2B companies focused on driving account based marketing programs. That’s quite a jump considering their 2015 survey revealed only 20% had programs in place. Other research by the ABM Leadership Alliance concluded that ABM marketing outperforms traditional marketing methods. Their study showed that B2B marketers experienced a 171% lift in their average annual contract value (ACV) when implementing ABM strategies.
It’s still the wild west of account based strategies, and there’s no doubt that we’ll look back one day and laugh at the things we tried. And as we look forward, the future looks bright.
Account Based Marketing (and Everything) Predictions and Advice
Rather than giving our predictions for the ABM and ABE space, we wanted to bring in as many different views and perspectives as possible. Yes, we’ll give you ours, but we wanted to provide you more. That’s why we’ve asked some of the smartest B2B, account-based practitioners around to gaze into their crystal balls and tell us what they think is in store for 2017.
Of course, since this is Engagio, we wanted to take it one step further and be as practical and useful as possible, so we didn’t stop there. We also asked our experts to give us one actionable piece of advice for winning big in the new year.
Here’s what they had to say.
The Year of the Revenue Team
Sales Speaker, Author and Advisor
“The lines between sales and marketing are blurring and the roles are blending. Buyers not only have more choice, but also louder voice. It’s no longer word of mouth; it’s world of mouth. You can’t have shitty products, you can’t do false advertising, you can’t have salespeople closing bad deals, and you can’t ignore your customer once the ink is dry on the initial contract.
My advice: 2017 is the year of Team Revenue. Reevaluate the roles, responsibilities, competencies, capabilities, and KPIs of your account based marketing and sales teams through the lens of your CUSTOMERS. Rethink and restructure everything based on how your buyers buy. If marketing facilitates the majority of the buying process, make adjustments to compensation. Reevaluate your territory model — maybe it’s time to ditch zip codes and embrace social proximity. Your buyers are digitally-driven and socially connected, your sales and marketing people should be too. Invest in digital and social selling training to upskill your teams!”
Wake Up People, It’s Account-Based!
President & Chief Strategist, The Bridge Group
“The term ‘Account-based’ is a leading contender for 2016’s phrase of the year. And though that’s great, people still don’t understand the difference being between account-centric and being truly account-based. The former is just good old fashioned selling, while the later is optimize your sales and marketing resources – time, headcount and budget – by focusing them on the accounts most likely to drive big revenue. 2017 is the year that people get into their heads and become account based.
The winners in 2017 will focus on selecting accounts based on data, defining and orchestrating campaign from the SDR on up to CEO, and creating single-use plays and offers so good your accounts would be willing to pay for them.”
Three Letters: R-O-I!
Chief Analyst & Co-foudner, TOPO
“2017 will be the year of ROI. Our research shows that it takes 9-12 month for organizations to recognize the key ‘win’ metrics that ABE delivers – greater ACV and LTV, deal velocity, and win rates. So, it can also be said, that as these use cases emerge that ABE will start to hockey stick in terms of adoption.
Advice: One of our biggest findings in 2016 was that organizations with account-based sales development saw the fastest results. My advice is to start with marketing-SDR orchestration and build from there. “
The Fallout of Predictable Revenue
Head of Account Development, Americas, MuleSoft
“In 2017, the Predictable Revenue model for sales development will repeatedly be proven obsolete and ineffective, especially amongst enterprise sales development organizations still using the model. Orgs driving a highly-technical, long, and complex sale will find the model utterly insufficient for driving the kind of revenue numbers they need to hit their goal.
As a counterbalance, 2017 will see a re-emergence of the sales development/inside sales rep as a true ‘Partner’ on an account team, and the ‘podded’ account team model will gain increased favor over the “Predictable Revenue” model with its strict segmentation of the sales and sales development roles.
If you run the kind of enterprise inside sales/sales development team that’s driving a highly-complex sale, and you want your team to be successful in 2017, consider stopping to take stock. Honestly assess if your team is currently set up today and structured to actually facilitate the kind of engagement you’re trying to drive. If not, be bold — abandon the status quo to find/fit a model that actually works.”
Top of the Funnel Will Morph
Founder & CEO, Sales Hacker
“The Account Based Everything hype is just the beginning. In 2017, we’re going to see ABE at the next level. Orgs will start to using in-depth research to do interesting and creative things as sales and marketing at the top of the funnel will morph.
If you want to win in 2017, the whole org must work together on demand gen. The best sales and marketing teams will work together to understand what it will take to hit their numbers for each market segment. Some orgs are even ditching the MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) and SQL (Sales Qualified Leads) acronyms and are going with a unified PQL (Product Qualified Lead). This makes total sense, as product/company fit should be the be all end all.”
ABM is More Than a Technology Category
CEO and Cofounder, Engagio
“In 2017, the industry will start to realize that ABM is NOT a technology category, it is a business strategy. It is a way of running your sales and marketing machine (just like Demand Gen and Inbound are ways of running your marketing machine). There are technology categories that support ABM, but just like demand gen, there are MANY categories — including account selection, account research, account-based analytics, account-based advertising, sales automation, and more. Check out my Account Based Everything Market Map to see all the examples.
To succeed in 2017, you must put in place the foundation for account-based success, including the fundamentals of lead-to-account matching and account-based analytics.”
The New Organizational Priority
President, Heinz Marketing
“Just like social selling matured into an upgraded version of “selling”, I expect we’ll see account-based marketing in 2017 evolve into a smarter overall mix of enterprise B2B marketing. It’s not a new initiative or separate initiative, but a more precise and effective way of engaging your most important targets. It will also be less about marketing specifically and more of a true, integrated cross-functional program equally owned and executed by sales and marketing.
My advice in 2017: Treat account-based marketing/revenue/everything as an organizational priority and imperative, not just a marketing push.”
ABM KPIs Move Closer to Revenue
Vice President of Sales Development & Field Marketing, EverString
“In 2017 more and more marketing teams will be measured on KPIs closer to revenue, most likely a company’s primary stage opportunity. This will greatly reduce the amount of low quality MQLs coming through companies’ pipelines and drive a tighter alignment between sales and marketing.
In order to achieve this, my advice would be twofold: first invest in technology that can help you determine the right accounts for your company to target so both sales and marketing understand where they need to spend time and money; secondarily invest in marketing and sales technology that enables cross-departmental outreach from marketing, SDR, sales and your company’s executives. “
Technology, Content, and The 1-to-1 Process
Global Head Of B2B Social Sales Execution, Creation Agency
“Creating a data driven ABM cadence using phone, email, and social will determine your sales teams success in 2017. Technology, content, and a 1-1 process around value to create, strengthen, and influence conversation proactively will be the Account Development Rep’s competitive advantage to building massive pipeline.”
Rethinking Roles, Responsibilities & Relationships to Optimize Performance
Top-rated Podcaster, Best-Selling Author
“The evolution of ABE will continue to challenge CEOs and executives to rethink all roles, responsibilities and reporting relationships involved with account acquisition and retention in order to optimize performance in a true team selling environment. This will include re-evaluating the ongoing business value of traditional quota assignments and incentive plans when “”sales”” is just one of many contributors to winning the complex sale.
For CEOs in 2017, this will require that they conduct a pragmatic assessment of the relative value of the contributions made by each department and by each individual in acquiring and retaining customers. CEOs should utilize outside resources to perform this evaluation to help them receive objective recommendations about how best to structure their account-based revenue generation efforts (and to help them manage the inevitable resistance to change that will arise.) “
The Majority of Companies Will Get ABE Wrong
CEO at Partners In EXCELLENCE, Sales Author
“1. Companies will continue to rediscover the importance of ABE in 2017, likewise go through the same errors that many in the past have made. It’s the 1980s, 90s, 00’s all over again.
2. The majority of companies will get ABE wrong. Instead of focusing on ‘what’s in it for the customer to be part of an ABE program,’ the focus will be internal–on how we get more revenue from a customer. Consequently, they will miss the real revenue and leverage opportunity of a customer focused ABE program.
3. We will discover that which accounts you choose and the leverage these accounts provide will be more important than what you do with these programs.
To success in ABE in 2017, you must do the work and stop looking for shortcuts! “
Effectiveness with the Adoption of AI
CRO and Cofounder, Datanyze
“2017 will be much more about efficiency for sales teams than the previous few years have been. While hiring may slow a bit, the increase in production and incorporation of ABE will be dependent on modernized sales processes and the eventual adoption of AI. The basic goal is this: tasks that are taking sales people away from focusing on their highest priority items will be automated with more advanced goals focused around the ability to engage prospects and customers with accurate data at the perfect time.
My advice in 2017: Before you hire more people, discover the areas of your sales process that are creating the most inefficiencies for your sales people, and address those by improving your process or adopting technologies.”
2017 Will Be The Year of Failure
CEO, A Sales Guy, Author
“2017 will be the year of failure. As more and more companies attempt to implement ABM with the perspective of it being a panacea. Org’s will struggle with the level creativity, consistency and content required to be successful. ABM as an idea or concept is easy, make a list. However unlike past “sales and marketing” methodologies, ABM carries a much higher barrier to entry and a far more level of complexity to successfully execute.”
The Book-Ends of Commmunication
CEO, Sales for Life, Author
“Companies focused on Account-Based Everything business development will invest heavily on the ‘book ends’ of communication. Book-end ‘old-school’ will be traditional mail, live workshops, knowledge seminars, and Book-end ‘new-school’ will be Digital Education through Social Selling. The sales cadence will be chalk-filled with educating the customer face-to-face AND socially.”
Formalization and Incentivization Around Cross-Training
Chief Marketing Officer at InsideView, Author
“In 2017 as Account Based Everything becomes a top priority, the most desired sales reps and marketers will be those that have expertise in both functions. Progressive companies will even formalize and incentivize cross-training in the workplace. Advanced companies will start looking at team revenue, where a portion of each sales rep’s quota will be the responsibility of marketing.
My advice going into 2017 is you must align sales and marketing to become experts on the industry, products, buyer personas, and customer journey.”
Quality Over Quantity
Keynote Speaker, Best-Selling Author
“In 2017, if you want to win with ABM, you’ll need a stronger focus on the quality of leads versus the quantity of leads. The last few years there has been a ‘leads race’ to capture as many leads as possible in whatever format possible. Now salespeople and marketing are realizing quantity does not always translate into sales and we’re starting to see a real push for quality leads over the quantity of leads.
To win in 2017 it will require messaging to be much more targeted than before both in what the message and the segment you’re trying to reach. To do this is going require a much tighter integration between sales and marketing, the end goal is to be able spend more time with fewer prospects. The result will be a much higher close ratio.”
Transparency and Action
“Marketers historically have been preoccupied with chasing the next big thing – which has resulted in a buy first, build later mentality, where process is an afterthought. A return back to basic fundamentals has to be the leading trend. Then we can reduce friction and gain visibility to processes through technology. In 2017 we have to take a holistic approach to ensuring that everyone not only plays a threaded role in engaging buyers and customers, but also that the core goals of the organizations have a high degree of transparency and action. No longer can ‘leading’ goals like clicks or eyeballs to MQL’s be the focus believing that they will lead to revenue and satisfaction.
Going into 2017, you must make revenue, engagement and customer satisfaction everyone’s goal if you want to be successful at Account Based Everything”
CRM for Marketers to Orchestrate a Complete End-to-End Campaign
CMO and Cofounder at Terminus
“My big prediction for 2017 is there will be an emergence of CRM for B2B marketers. A one stop solutions that integrates and enables marketers to orchestrate a complete end-to-end campaign across the customer journey. My advice going into the new year is stop spamming your best fit customers. If you loose them because you bad sales and marketing practices, you will loose them for ever.
People buy from people!”
Marketers Influence Later Stage Sales
Senior Analyst, Demand Generation Practice, TOPO
“We will finally see ABE marketers offer real support in the later stage sales process through coordinated outbound marketing programs built around one prospective account at a time. These programs will be built on specific account insights coming from the sales process and will be designed to drive broader visibility of key messages, wider distribution of hand-selected content and deeper engagement, all in one account at a time.
Creating a campaign for every account may seem overwhelming, so start small: pick just three accounts to start with, and design a multichannel program for each one. Then rinse and repeat.”
“Spray-and-Pray” Won’t Go Away, Yet
VP of Sales, Logz.io
“My prediction is that the ‘spray-and-pray approach’ to prospecting won’t go away. But it will continue it’s slow decline into obscurity. It won’t go down however without a fight! People don’t like change and many sales leaders will go back to the old way of doing things when experiencing a bump in the road (like a slow quarter, or a weak pipeline). My advice for sales leaders is to FIGHT the familiar. ABE is here to stay.
The sooner you get on board and learn how to successfully implement it in your organization, the sooner you’ll be reaping the benefits: revenue achievement, engaged sales reps, and grateful prospects and customers because they aren’t being bombarded with irrelevant offers.”
Worry About Changing You!
Keynote Speaker, Best-Selling Author
“Nothing is going to change in 2017. Things will progress, slower or faster, in the very same direction they’ve been heading for the last decade. If you are transactional, you are going to continue to be commoditized—and eventually disintermediated by technologies of one form or another. If you can create a compelling case for change and deliver a better future, you are going to establish yourself as trusted counsel and win big. The middle is going to messy and increasingly difficult.
The only thing you should worry about changing in 2017 is you!”
Contributing to “The Song”
Senior Director, Global Demand Center, ServiceNow
“When a fan yelled out to Neil Young, ‘It all sounds the same,’ Neil replied, ‘It’s all one song.’
In 2017, our profession will see richer collaboration among its key contributors. Sales authors, speakers, bloggers, investors, and executives will share more of the live stage, present together on more webinars, feature one another’s quotes in their new articles and books, and invite each other to visit their growing teams.
Similar to popular jazz artists of the 1950’s, appearing on each other’s records, you’ll see a heavier mix of personnel contributing to ‘the song.’
My Advice: Connect the dots for your prospects. Tell them why you’re asking what you’re asking and what happens next. Salespeople cannot begin to diagnose without an end in mind. The same applies to your prospects. Help them see ‘where we’re going’ with all these questions.”
The “Pod” Approach
Owner, JBarrows Sales Training
“With the resurgence of ABS and the evolution of ABM to a more holistic ABE approach, it’s obvious that a deeper focus on the specific customer is the way to rise above the noise. With this ABE approach, Sales and Marketing must be more aligned than ever. Unfortunately this has always been a huge challenge.
This leads me to my prediction of where things will (or at least should) evolve to with ABE – The ‘Pod’ Approach.
Companies are teaming up sales and marketing to focus on specific clients, but there is still a disconnect on the ground floor. Marketing is still largely taking a top-down approach by coming up with content they think is valuable and giving it to sales. However, the effectiveness of that information or the real need for specific content is rarely being translated from sales back to the marketing teams. One solution to is a pod approach where a lower level marketing person is assigned to a specific group of sales reps to learn how the content is being used and its effectiveness to their group of clients. Then bringing those insights back to the marketing team to create better content. This marketing admin could also run reports, analyze data specific to that pod (which the sales reps will never do) and gain macro insights that the larger marketing group might otherwise miss.
The pod would then consist of a marketing admin and a certain number of BDR/SDRs and AEs who are all focused on a targeted group of clients. In addition to improving the feedback loop between sales and marketing, the added benefits of this approach would be 1) the marketing admin could run the reports for the team and take off some of that burden while improving insights and 2) it would allow for an additional role in marketing that would help with career path and growth.
Let’s see if this happens. “