The “Leak” of Inbound ABM: What it Means for Buyers and SDRs

The social sphere surrounding Sales Development is busy on Linkedin. Most days it’s hard to scroll through my newsfeed without reading either a condemnation written by a potential buyer frustrated with another canned SDR email, or someone singing the praise of a particular rep’s outreach from their digital rooftop. Polarizing dialogue can be entertaining, but quickly loses its appeal from saturation.

I’ve spent the last several months absorbing this particular kind of content on my newsfeed to get a better feel for the common themes that dominate the conversation. Now, with some context, I’ve decided to toss my opinion into the mix.

Okay to Spray and Pray?

B2B sales outreach to inbound leads suffers from a resource constraint that hurts both buyers and sales development representatives in equal proportion.

Engagio’s vision is to drive the “one to one” future of marketing and sales by developing a platform designed for personalized interactions between prospective clients and the companies that serve them. We’ve emerged as a thought leader in our category of Account Based Marketing (ABM) as a result of our product and our leadership. Accordingly, Engagio receives plenty of inbound leads from people who are curious to learn more about what we do.

Inbound leads represent a double-edged sword. Salespeople appreciate the luxury of context that an inbound leads’ activity affords, but don’t want to waste their time sifting through unqualified leads to reach the one person that could move the needle at a desirable account.

The issue directly relates to Engagio’s “net versus spear” philosophy in targeting and outreach toward key accounts. In the B2B marketplace, it doesn’t do a business any favors to send generic marketing and sales messaging to high-value and “lighthouse” customers. Casting a wide net (via a generic message) to catch one account isn’t effective, and could potentially turn that company off to what your business offers. A well-orchestrated and targeted approach (the “spear”) mitigates this risk, and significantly increases the chances of eliciting an interaction.

As such, Engagio delivers relevant content and personalized outreach to those we believe can benefit from our business the most.

But therein lies the problem with inbound activity: when dealing with large numbers of leads, personalization isn’t a viable option for every touch.

Our approach to business development primarily revolves around proactively engaging with target accounts. Nevertheless, inbound sales and marketing efforts are necessary to cover our bases, and sometimes uncovers businesses that prove to be hidden gems.

Relationships Drive Sales Development

Here’s where our initial resource constraint problem rears its ugly head. The issue centers around an often-ignored behavioral element of the purchasing process: An effective sales cycle builds a relationship between the two parties involved. The interaction requires trust and buy-in from both sides. Arguably, it’s the social contract that helps finalize the legal contract of a B2B deal.

Just as a legal contract involves a two-sided set of obligations, so does a social contract. If these obligations break down from either side, the value of the contract diminishes. Legal contracts hold concrete value. Social contracts hold potential value, yet still lose value if they aren’t upheld all the same.

Deliberate outreach to target accounts inherently holds more potential value than personalized outreach for non-target accounts who come inbound. SDRs research their target accounts; buyers should expect relevant content and considerable value if they’re being contacted from an outbound SDR.

Inbound representatives should still strive to deliver personalized content and value to leads, but they must choose between two different strategies to make the most of their time. Inbound SDRs can either personalize their outreach from the start by sorting through their list carefully, or personalize their messages later after they’ve received a response from a lead.

Inbound SDRs who pursue non-target account activity are constrained by time. They (or their managers) must choose how they deal with this issue in their outreach. Their answer to the problem affects their relationship with inbound leads.

Organizing SDRs for Success

The fix to this problem remains open for discussion. Apart from the sliding scale SDRs may apply to themselves when personalizing their outreach, the marketing team represents another variable to the puzzle. Perhaps SDRs are best utilized solely for target account outreach, and marketing could effectively replace inbound SDR activity. Whatever the solution, potential buyers may pause the next time they receive an automated or personalized sales email.

How can your company embrace direct inbound ABM?

Brandon Redlinger
Brandon Redlinger
Brandon Redlinger is the Head of Growth at Engagio, the Account-Based Marketing and Sales platform that enables teams to measure account engagement and orchestrate human connections at scale. He is passionate about the intersection between tech and psychology, especially as it applies to growing businesses. You can follow him on twitter @brandon_lee_09 or connect with him on LinkedIn.

3 Responses to “The “Leak” of Inbound ABM: What it Means for Buyers and SDRs”

October 19, 2017 at 12:17 pm, Trish Bertuzzi said:

What the heck is inbound ABM? Am I dense? If a target account comes inbound as a lead shouldn’t it go to the SDR who is assigned to that account via the ABR strategy? Help me…..


October 19, 2017 at 3:17 pm, Jon Miller said:

Good question, Trish. In the post, Jack is evaluating whether SDRs should apply ABM principles (highly relevant, personal, human follow-up) to inbound leads / inbound accounts. Obviously, if it’s a “target account” then yes, it should go to the target account SDR (or, as we call them Account Development Rep or ADR).

But what if it’s not a target account? Volume and speed matter in inbound response, and does the attempt to add deep relevance help or hurt? That’s the question Jack is raising.


October 26, 2017 at 6:21 pm, Jack Wiefels said:

Thanks for the clarification, Jon! This was the issue I wanted to highlight in this article. Trish, if you’d like to know more, I’d be happy to discuss with you via email or phone at your convenience. Cheers 🙂


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