Change is hard.
Human beings inherently reject change, as the fear of the unknown is real – and a powerful motivator to maintain “the way things are.”
But, as Peter Drucker said, “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence – it is to act with yesterday’s logic.”
Account Based Marketing is a new way of approaching large opportunities. In this current groundswell of ABM, learning how to manage change is a critical part of implementing it successfully. The companies who recognize the need for active change management to guide their ABM programs are often the ones who see the quickest success.
Account Based Marketing in your organization, you’re bound to face some resistance and challenges as a result of changing such fundamental parts of sales and marketing – mindset, behavior, communication, and measurement.
Nevertheless, you should persist with some tenets of good change management. If these changes are not constantly attended to, people will revert back to their old ways of working.
The ABM Change Management Checklist:
- Sell the need for change – to the ABM team and the wider sales and marketing organizations. (Hint, try these benefits.)
- Get the input of every team – before rolling out your strategy, listen to the people who will be executing and enabling it.
- Communicate often – regularly update key executives and the entire sales and marketing team to explain how it’s going and why; remind them of the goals each time.
- Use your metrics – ABM success is never instant. Use your coverage and engagement metrics to show progress.
- Spot resistance – don’t ignore it; listen hard and get people on board.
- Meet regularly – to prevent slipping back to old ways of working.
- Celebrate success – when it comes, make sure people know about it.
ABM puts an onus on marketers to understand more – not just about the world that sales lives in, but to do a better job of understanding the world that customers live in.”
– Megan Heuer SiriusDecisions
Don’t underestimate the changing role of marketing.
One of the biggest changes happens on the marketing side, where a department used to being measured by number of leads generated is now measured by quality of engagement with targeted accounts. Don’t underestimate this change. And don’t expect it to happen simply because you announced the new goals and metrics.
Field marketers are often called upon to help support ABM accounts in their regions. They’re the feet on the street and know about the local account dynamics. Make sure they’re included in the ABM strategy sessions so they’re on board when you need them. You’ll also need them to understand that the ABM accounts can’t be included in their general marketing campaigns.
An ABM Helpdesk
As ABM grows, a helpdesk to serve the requests from the field sales and marketing teams may be needed. Fast access to customer references, white papers on an industry issue or subject matter experts will start to roll in — often with very little warning and with an “I-need-it-yesterday!” urgency.
“Management often has a difficult time justifying a full-time marketer focused on 3-5 ABM accounts that might help generate 20 new contacts and 5 opportunities when a junior marketer may create 500 new contacts and 100 opportunities. Of course, the value between those scenarios is vast, but the change in mindset is significant.”
– Kathy Macchi, Inverta
ABM also changes the roles of Sales and technology.
The biggest change that ABM demands of the sales team is to embrace the new relationship with their marketing teammates. In traditional demand generation, marketing throws leads over the fence for sales to chase. In ABM, there is no fence. The collaboration is close, constant and totally focused on defined, account-specific objectives.
The key here is to start with account reps who are open to this kind of relationship.
Once you’ve got that, the ongoing progress of each account reinforces the effectiveness of the ABM approach. In well-run ABM programs, the only challenge is that more reps will want to be included than the program can accommodate!
“Use ABM either as an opportunity to leverage current tools and practices effectively in individual accounts or as a spearhead for investing in and experimenting with some of these tools.”
– ITSMA, Marketing Technology for ABM
You can run a successful ABM pilot with very little additional ABM technology. But technology can be hugely useful when you want to scale your program beyond a few accounts.
Today, few marketing tools or platforms have been designed from the ground up to have an account-based view of the world. As a recent ITSMA report states, “It requires creative thinking to adapt tools that were not necessarily designed to support an account-based view of the world.”
The integration challenge
Your ABM technology stack shouldn’t be a silo. Instead, you’ll need to integrate it with your core marketing platforms – chiefly your CRM and Marketing Automation tool – and possibly with systems such as digital advertising, social listening and business intelligence. Some of these integrations will be fairly straightforward, using the existing APIs of the software involved. Others may need some custom integrations and the involvement of systems integrators or your IT team.
“Regardless of which technology tools you implement and apply to ABM, make sure that they are well integrated. Otherwise, their benefits will be substantially diminished.”
– ITSMA, Marketing Technology for ABM
ABM Critical Success Factors
As with any change in any company, implementing ABM is a challenge.
But if you take the time to get the critical pieces in place – and actively manage the change – success will follow.
- Strong and visible executive sponsorship
- Tight alignment between sales and marketing
- 360 degree agreement on goals for the ABM program
- Robust account selection process
- Careful ABM team selection
- Clear and agreed metrics with consistent reporting
- Clarity of roles and responsibilities
- A regular collaboration cadence
How do you manage the change that comes with shifting to an account-centric strategy?