Re-Thinking Sales Enablement in an Account Based World
Let me ask you a question. Why does Engagio speak about Account Based Everything (ABE)? Why everything and not just marketing? It’s because an account-based approach can dramatically improve the entire customer experience — from first touch and sale to renewal and upsell.
ABE helps marketing and sales development teams to focus efforts. And critically, it also equips account executives and other quota-bearing teams to sell more effectively. How does it support sales enablement for quota-bearing teams? Consider the most fundamental problem for an account executive: stalled or failed pipeline.
Unsticking Stalled Opportunities
Account executives are constantly working their portfolio of opportunities. They’re continuously trying to move deals forward, but the reality is that 58% of these deals will never close. Not for your company. Not for a competitor. They’ll close for no one. They simply lose steam and fade from sight.
When you consider the massive investment that your team made to acquire and nurture these opportunities, that’s a huge loss.
So, why do these deals disappear? They fall out of the pipeline because your prospects have a dozen other priorities competing for attention. They have multiple projects currently in flight that can’t be shuffled. And they can’t pull together an internal consensus to move things forward. The result is that promising deals stall and fall apart.
Sales enablement attempts, in part, to address this issue. It consists of a set of processes, technologies, and approaches to help sales people guide prospects to close more effectively. In this context that means unsticking those stuck opportunities and advancing more of them to close.
How? I think there is a major opportunity for companies to rethink their sales enablement efforts considering what ABE has taught us. Let me explain.
Sales Enablement Meet Account Based Everything
ABE is, in fact, one of the most important developments in sales enablement strategy in a decade. It helps sales teams focus efforts on the most fruitful target accounts. It helps sales people communicate messages that resonate on a company-by-company basis. It helps sales teams coordinate prospecting with their marketing colleagues. And it helps sales reps execute plays that guide prospect accounts over the goal line.
Let’s take a step back and think about several key elements of sales enablement. Per Forrester, sales enablement is:
A strategic, ongoing process that equips all client-facing employees with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation with the right set of customer stakeholders at each stage of the customer’s problem-solving life cycle to optimize the return of investment of the selling system.
Now, I’ll go ahead and break that up into a set of overarching actions that we can address:
- Include all aspects of the organization in this strategic process
- Equip client-facing employees with the tools, processes, and skills needed
- Have valuable conversations with customers
- Focus on the correct customers and stakeholders within those customers
- Engage with your customers throughout the buyer’s journey
Notice that this is an overarching strategy — one that applies to the entire customer journey. That understanding is critical because a truly complete ABE approach, one that is proven to be more effective, applies to (*ahem*) everything in the customer experience. So, how does ABE apply to each of these sales enablement components? Let’s take a look.
Embrace the Whole Organization
Sales enablers are most effective when they take a holistic approach. They can see how the various pieces of the buyer’s journey fit together, and they can improve them. They also recognize how various teams fit together to support sales, as well as understand that all customer-facing roles can impact revenue.
Jon Miller’s vision of ABE is similarly comprehensive. He describes ABE, in part, as “…a strategic go-to-market approach that orchestrates personalized marketing, sales, and success efforts…”.
Note the embrace of multiple customer-facing teams. That’s helping enable sales. If marketing nurtures prospects and orchestrates these interactions at an account level, then they’re providing reps with radically better prospects. And if customer success identifies an enthusiastic customer that can be used as a reference or case study, that helps sales.
Action: Look across your entire customer journey to understand the various touch-points and how they can be orchestrated by account.
Focus on the Correct Accounts and Stakeholders Within Them
Enterprise sales and national account teams have for years taken a “Named Account” approach. These sales teams would select a set of companies to focus their attention. This strategy is a remarkably effective way to focus effort. And it echoes the ABE mentality.
I’m a big advocate of the Challenger Sale and Challenger Customer approach. In these approaches, the sales person focuses on helping the buyer to understand why there is value in breaking away from the status quo and how to build internal coalitions to affect change.
For account executives of non-transactional sales, this kind of focus works. One common way that it fails though is in the selection of the named accounts. Ask any sales leader why they chose the accounts in their named list and there’s a good chance it will be:
- Because we’ve always targeted these companies
- Because they are in the Fortune 500 / Global 2000 / Inc 5000, insert list name
- Because they were on some list and they were selected by filtering for geo or industry
That’s where ABE methodologies can help. Predictive technologies will build models of your ideal customers. You can apply those models against your target lists to identify the accounts most likely to convert. Use these lists of prioritized accounts as the basis for your named accounts. And then refine your model over time based on the results you’re seeing in your funnel.
Action: Adopt a predictive approach to prioritize which accounts the sales (and other customer-facing teams) focus on.
Equip Client Facing Teams
Sales teams are under an extraordinary amount of time constraints and business pressure. They must deliver against rising numbers every month and every quarter. So, they need to ensure that inefficiencies are squeezed out of their process.
I like to interview and brainstorm with the sales team about where there are inefficiencies. You can run time tests and survey the team as well to find where effort is being spent. You’ll find there are many ways to eliminate manual or inefficient steps.
Take the writing of emails to large numbers of prospect accounts. Are there shared elements of the email that can be templated or personalized at scale, while still giving the rep latitude to tailor? If your team does outbound calling then are there dialers that can queue calls and let you concentrate calling by account to maximize your impact?
Action: Understand the steps in your sales process and get efficiencies by automating what you can while supporting personalization.
Have Valuable Conversations with Customers
Taking an ABE approach differentiates your sales team from the “volume” players out there. You know who I mean — the sales people who will gladly send thousands of untargeted, generic emails. The sales people who offer no insight and no awareness of their prospects. More than 80% of sales people are these low-value reps. Which kind of sales team do you want in your organization?
Instead understand what are the triggers and priorities of your accounts, and focus your reps on communicating messages that address those information needs. Prospects are hungry for insight that improves their business. Do your reps have access to the content and intelligence they need to deliver that value?
Action: Identify key priority types and triggers, and measure across your target base to identify which messages will resonate with each account.
Engage Your Customers Throughout the Journey
Lastly, ABE reminds us that the buyer’s journey is not a fluid one. Accounts do not simply slide from top of funnel to being a customer. They stall midway through the funnel. They re-engage and come back as re-activated opportunities.
That means that sales people should be comfortable with passing prospect accounts back into the demand generation machine. Stalled accounts may need more nurturing or additional depth of contacts.
It also means that sales people need playbooks, content, and tactics that they can deploy to engage prospects. That could be interesting insights that help a prospect see the business value in continuing. Or maybe it’s data that helps the prospect account to create a more compelling business case to build an internal coalition.
Action: Understand the key friction points and exit points in your funnel. Identify what kinds of tactics can be used to re-awaken stalled accounts and get these plays into sales teams’ hands.
Equipping your sales team to advance and accelerate deals in the pipeline is imperative. And by combining learnings and approaches from ABE to sales enablement you can help boost your entire go-to-market. And that means more revenue.