Account-based selling (ABS) is one of the hottest B2B sales trends for 2016 and is quickly becoming the go-to-strategy for organizations that want to maximize their sales potential.
Account-based selling is a B2B sales model that considers accounts to be markets of one, as opposed to the more traditional lead-based or contact-based approaches. Sales professionals focus on a set of highly-targeted, high-value accounts that have the greatest likelihood of purchasing and place all of their efforts into converting them to customers. It’s about placing quality over quantity and talking to the right people with the right campaigns, messaging, and content at the right time.
Account-based selling isn’t new by any means, but it has recently risen in popularity due to several factors at play in the B2B sales space.
1. The rise of the consensus sale: According to 2015 data from CEB, there are an average of 5.4 decision makers that must sign off on a purchase. That means it is more important than ever before to nurture multiple contacts across the company in order to connect with the right people, initiate internal conversations, turn the account into an opportunity, and close a deal.
2. Technology and data disruption: Recent advances in technology have begun to disrupt and transform the sales process and the way that reps engage and communicate with accounts, enabling a much more efficient and effective ABS approach. More importantly, technologies such as sales enablement help organizations to scale their strategy appropriately and drive company growth.
ABS is transforming sales processes and the way that sales teams and individual reps sell. As SiriusDecisions says, “What makes account-based strategies so attractive right now is the way they combine insights for strategy and technology for execution.”
With a more focused approach and fewer targets, reps can be methodical, maximize their efforts, and extract the most value from their activities. According to Sales Hacker, ABS generates higher win-rates, shorter deal cycles, and larger deal sizes, as well as increases sales efficiency and productivity.
Read ahead to learn 5 ways that sales leaders can use sales enablement to help execute and scale a successful ABS strategy within their organization and add value to the sales process.
With such a targeted program, sales reps need to know what actions to take next in order to continue targeting the account and advance the opportunity. Information related to the selling space and market, different buyer personas, the products, and navigating the sales cycle changes over time, which is why ongoing coaching and training is imperative. Reps also often need direction in relationship management and guidance in balancing quality vs quantity of sales activities.
Tools such as playbooks allow sales leaders to provide the just-in-time coaching that is key in ensuring reps have the information and instruction they need to use content effectively in their engagements and progress prospects from one stage to the next.
A key to account-based selling success is the ability for reps to customize and tailor their approach. After identifying the right people at the right accounts, sales reps need to engage the prospects with relevant content that is appropriate to their sales situation. B2B buyers expect an individualized purchase process that takes into consideration their unique challenges and priorities. And while prospects can usually find info such as pricing, technical overviews, and industry comparisons on their own, they often still need somebody to add meaning, offer context and perspective, and give actionable insights. So it is imperative that reps know who the audience is and how to best tailor the sales process for relevance and value.
Personalized and appropriate messaging and content are how sales reps will get the attention of key decision makers and will help them to nurture the sales process. Indeed, an Aberdeen survey shows that 75% of B2B customers prefer an account-based approach because of the personalization. A sales enablement tool supports this activity by recommending the best content based on sales situation, right in the CRM and email. And by making it as easy as possible to access the messaging and content, sales reps are far more likely to use it. A sales enablement tool also enables the sales force to execute this type of personalized account-based strategy at scale.
Account-based selling is less about selling product and more about selling value that’s specific to the account. An ABS approach allows sales the time to build those trusted relationships where reps truly understand the needs and challenges of the prospect and can offer relevant, valuable content and meaningful insights toward finding a solution. This tactic also helps sales reps to identify and leverage that internal champion who can help to promote the product/service amongst other decision-makers and, hopefully, advance the deal.
A sales enablement tool adds value to this process by surfacing content and messaging based on the specific sales situation. This enables sales reps to position themselves as trustworthy advisors and credible resources and to provide prospects with the right content to build a business case, make an informed purchase decision, and feel confident that they made the right one.
An account-based approach must be a united, organization-wide initiative – not a sales-specific or marketing-specific strategy. In fact, account-based selling is so closely related to account-based marketing (ABM) that the two cannot succeed separate from each other. For best results, ABM and ABS must be executed in tight coordination. Thus, a successful account-based strategy requires complete alignment with sales, marketing, operations, and even customer success to collaboratively identify, nurture, and close deals.
By coordinating sales enablement efforts, each team is working in-step with the others, with shared goals and a built-in feedback loop as to what works and what doesn’t. Marketing can arm sales teams with the latest content, research, industry info, and messaging; sales can leverage marketing’s resources to deliver timely and relevant content to accounts. This alignment enables much more powerful execution, whereas misaligned teams will waste time, effort, and money.
Advances in technology have created a flood of data. Having accurate and appropriate measuring in place is integral to gaining deeper insights into the sales strategy and to guiding the sales process. With an account-based selling approach, sales activities are performed at the account level, eliminating much of the noise from en masse activities. This makes it easier to track activity, get an idea of what’s working and what’s not, and identify areas for improvement.
Dashboards and metrics with real-time data will help leadership determine which sales enablement factors advance deals through the sales cycle, generate the highest ROI, and optimize sales processes. Sales leaders have insights, visibility, and control over rep activity, as well as improved funnel and forecasting accuracy. This means that organizations can use data-driven decision-making to meaningfully refine their strategy and continually improve.
Shelley Cernel is the Senior Marketing Manager at KnowledgeTree.