Everywhere you turn right now, it feels like there’s something being written about Account Based Selling or ABS. Although ABS is not new, analytics and automation are breathing new life into this sales methodology.

To learn more about this approach and get real-world practical tips for its implementation, I sat down with Kai Larson, a senior sales operations executive and consultant at SalesOnward. Kai shared with me the following seven things that sales managers should know and do before they go out and jump on the ABS bandwagon.

#1. Know when not to do account based selling

First, before you do anything, be sure you understand when you should not adopt this model. ABS requires more work on the seller’s part, including a high degree of personalization, and takes longer. ABS works best for strategic/complex sales that require multiple levels of buy-in. Low value/high transaction sales tend to not benefit from this model.

If you don’t need this type of sales approach to close deals, why would you do it? Generally speaking, the less buy-in you need for a sale, the less likely you need to adopt an ABS model. However, if you’re selling into enterprises, where more buy-in is required to purchase your product or services, this model works well.

#2. Research target accounts

If you don’t know the type of accounts you’re targeting, or are interested in targeting a new account base, do your homework.

  • Talk with your company’s success leader. What customer profile spends the most? What customer profile is happiest with your product or services? What customer size buys your solution most frequently?

  • Run closed opportunity reports by industry in your CRM. Uncover the top 2-3 top industries/markets that buy your solution.

  • Talk with your CEO and executives. What is their vision for the company? What profile do they think the company should be targeting?

Be sure to add in revenue, employee size, and location (if desired) to your target list and whittle down to 10 accounts per AE or so at a time to maintain focus and make it easy to measure execution.

#3. Identify target personas

You can’t have a single point of contact with account based selling. Reps need to go wide and deep when working an ABS model – engaging with multiple contacts fitting your buyer persona at every prospect company. This can mean that they need to engage with 10 people in a single account. If a sales VP is your target persona, you can’t just stop there. You will want to surround your target with outreach, including the CEO, sales directors, managers, AEs, and SDRs so that you can really understand the company’s pain points and goals. Once you are armed with good data, you can ‘earn’ the right to speak with your real target by sending a message that shows the legwork that you have done and calls out the specific value you have uncovered that matches with the executive goals.

#4. Engage continuously

Be sure that reps understand the level of engagement that’s needed and that they use a multi-touch approach with each contact. They need to do research to find publicly available information about challenges the company faces and work these into their outreach via email, call, and use social channels to successfully penetrate an enterprise account.

Just as reps need to go wide and deep in identifying contacts, outreach must also be wide and deep. When engagement occurs, reps should listen for data nuggets that can be used to personalize their next outreach. With engagement occurring across multiple contacts, someone will surface as the champion. Yet, because you started on a path with multiple contacts, you also have the ability to circle back to them if needed to drive the process. Meaning if you have had a conversation with someone, you can always go back to that contact again without it feeling like you are ‘going around’ your champion and risking breaking rapport.

#5. Monitor and measure activities

Make sure that reps are doing activities at the designated level. You need to know whether reps are sending and making the right number of emails and calls. How do you know?

In the past, sales managers might cobble together multiple solutions to try to put together a picture of rep activities. The process is painful, the tools don’t work well together, and the data can be unreliable – causing friction between manager and rep. Today, there are sales platforms using engagement analytics that can provide single pane of glass visibility so that you can easily and accurately monitor people, processes, and opportunities.

#6. Synchronize sales systems

When you sell in an enterprise model, everyone needs to be on the same page. The left hand needs to know what the right hand is doing, or you end up with egg on your face. You need to ensure data accuracy in systems. To do this systems need to be seamlessly integrated, and updates need to be made in real-time.

#7. Personalize content

According to Aberdeen Group, best-in-class organizations achieve up to a 21 percent stronger lead acceptance rate and a 36 percent higher conversion average by using sales tools for content personalization at the sales rep level. With ABS, you need to be sure that content is personalized to specific areas of buyer interest and to their specific pain points.

ABS can be a preferred go-to-market strategy for your business, but before you start, be sure that you understand when it works best and what you need in place for your team to succeed.

Jennifer Dignum is Associate Director, Communications for LiveHive, Inc., provider of an open and extensible sales acceleration platform. LiveHive powers businesses to drive higher sales growth and deliver greater customer value with analytics and automation. Seamlessly integrated with Salesforce, LiveHive triples rep productivity and gives leaders real-time digital insights into sales activities for faster time-to-revenue.

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