“Strategy 101 is about making choices: You can’t be all things to all people,”
–Michael Porter, Department Head of Harvard Business School and author
Without a strategic focus, your company runs the risk of trying to be all things to all people. In the process, sales and marketing associates waste time and resources pursuing sales with companies that don’t fit well with your business and its product offering.
Account profiles identify the types of companies with which you want to conduct business. While they have always been important, Account Based Marketing (ABM) and Account Based Sales Development (ABSD) have further raised their stature. That’s because they set the foundation for this marketing approach.
Simply put, you cannot implement account-based anything without first zeroing in on your target accounts. That’s because the premise of ABM and ABSD is entirely different from inbound marketing. With inbound marketing, companies cast a wide net to capture leads. Then they sift through them to find those worth pursuing. In ABM, you “flip the funnel” by deciding who is worth catching before going after them.
That means right from the get-go, your sales and marketing teams have to answer the question, “Who do we want to catch?”
In doing so, they should be looking both for businesses that mirror their best customers today as well as those that are a step up — those that have the potential to change the trajectory of your revenues. It all comes down to having a shared sales and marketing definition of the accounts your company wants to land, then personalizing the marketing message and medium to appeal to those businesses and the right individuals within them.
Thus, account profiling significantly lowers the number of “prospects” you target. That’s important because ABM and ABSD are highly personalized techniques, including multiple, customized sales and marketing touches. You cannot afford such an approach with thousands of prospects.
How to Create Account Profiles
How do you gain agreement on the characteristics (a.k.a. firmographics) of the companies you want to pursue? It’s best to take an analytical approach.
Look at your current sales portfolio. You’ll likely discover that your accounts follow the Pareto rule — approximately 80 percent of your sales and profits come from 20 percent of your customers. Take that 20 percent and determine what they have in common regarding the following:
- Company size (number of employees and sales)
- Company structure (divisions and subsidiaries)
- Roles/titles of target buyers and influencers
- Technology used
- Reason for purchasing your product
It’s likely that not all of the above attributes will help you define your ideal account profile. Focus on the universal themes across accounts. You may also find others that I have not mentioned here.
There is, of course, one other critical thing that your top accounts have in common — they all want to solve the issue your product or solution addresses. How do you find others like that?
Add in some predictive analytics that tell you about buyer intent. Companies like Bombora and TechTarget provide B2B intent data based on individual and company activities aggregated from across the web. The data comes from the digital footprints of people engaging with content on publishing, analytics and review sites to try to solve a problem. Layer that information on top of your ideal account profiles and you will find a golden subset — those that are good fits for your organization and are searching for a product like yours!
Just like that, you can find the ideal buyers at the right time.
Piece Together the Puzzle
It’s one thing to know that the right type of company is looking for your product or to identify one person in that organization who is interested. However, it’s not enough. At each account, there’s a team involved in the buying process — champions of the buying decision, influencers and those who hold the purse strings. You need to know who is on that buying team.
So it’s time to build up your database. Buy lists, use online tools such as InsideView, Data.com Connect or ZoomInfo and tap into LinkedIn or other social channels to find the people who are involved in the purchase decision. Then have your business development reps telephone the ideal accounts to talk one-on-one with the individuals you’ve identified and network further. Use every conversation as a stepping stone to the next. It is like putting together a puzzle without having a picture of the result as a guide.
Don’t go for the jugular (a.k.a. sale) at first. Speak with people in the different departments. Figure out the pain points. Get an understanding of the “mood” of the company when it comes to new investment, fresh ideas and change. Learn about the hierarchy and what drives the decisions. Is politics in play? Most large companies have some level of politics that takes hold. People want to protect their empire or secure their roll. In this way, the reps conversations can fill in the gaps to provide a complete picture of how the buying decision works.
Share Valuable Information
While your reps have a lot to learn about an account, they need to be prepared to share information, too. It’s a two-way street.
So never leave your salespeople unarmed. When they call decision makers and influencers, marketing needs to provide the right content with the right message for the right audience. If you can articulate a value proposition that resonates with the individuals’ pain points or needs, one that’s specific to their industry and, more importantly, their role, you are that much closer to closing the deal.
Orchestrate Your Marketing Support
Despite your reps best efforts, deals can still peter out. You need marketing to help scale the personalized outreach. The marketing team can use technology to automate the process of building awareness and keeping your brand and solution top of mind. This will make it possible to reach out in a coordinated and personal way to the key individuals that the salespeople have identified. It allows you to scale the use of display ads, Google AdWords, postcards, personalized email, webinars, social media and more to engage influential individuals at target accounts.
Whatever you need to do to get their attention, do it! A coordinated marketing outreach in conjunction with your business developments reps calling will drive revenue.
Recognize that the task of understanding the buying process and the team at an account is never complete. People are promoted, they leave companies and team structures change. So stay up to date. That way you’ll always be on the inside track for the next deal.
As you can see, creating the ideal account profile is the first step for ABM success. Everything your business development reps and marketing team does subsequently builds on this essential foundation. When you test out this robust sales and marketing technique, don’t skip it. Without ideal account profiles, you won’t know your destination, and that’s a surefire way to miss it.