In the traditional demand gen model, there’s a clear distinction between where marketing ends and sales begin. And traditionally, there’s a lot of confusion, miscommunication, and even conflict during this crucial period when marketing is handing off the lead to the sales team. If you’re not careful here, you risk fumbling the ball and watching your competition pick it up and run away with the deal.
However, in Account Based Sales Development (ABSD), things are a little different. When you’re selling to large accounts, it becomes a team sport. And just like in the pros, if your team has the best player but you don’t work together, you could lose every game. On the other hand, a team full of good players becomes great once they’re dialed in and on the same page, running the same Plays. Call it “team chemistry,” call it “getting in the zone,” call it whatever you want. That’s what it means to be a team.
Here’s why the standard handoff isn’t as relevant in ABSD. If you’re already on an account based model, then (hopefully) you’ve aligned your marketing, sales development, and sales teams. Marketing isn’t worried about a monthly lead commit. Sales Development isn’t the little brother. Sales isn’t worried about the quality of the leads marketing is passing their way. Customer success (did you forget about them?) isn’t worried about trying to fulfill the promises that sales makes. If you’ve taken the right first steps of aligning your team, they’re all striving for the same goal: giving the customer an exceptional experience, and ultimately winning the deal.
Easier said than done.
Let’s take a look at the essential elements of aligning your team for success. Then we’ll finish off with looking at one and only handoff in Account Based Sales, and how to do it so seamlessly, the target account won’t even notice.
Sales and marketing fought like cats and dogs for good reason in traditional demand gen and lead-based sales. Marketing was held to and compensated on metrics like website visits, form submissions, marketing qualified leads, etc. Sales was held to dials per day, overall activity, conversions, etc. When your sales and marketing teams are not speaking the same language, how can you expect them to understand each other?
Breaking down the silos and aligning your team starts with a Service Level Agreement (SLA). This is designed to establish agreement across the entire team and, more importantly, align and compensate on comparable revenue quotas and business results.
An SLA is designed to do a few key things:
Set agreed upon definitions and criteria for key definitions, such as Marketing Qualified Account, Sales Qualified Account, close/lost opportunity, etc.
Set agreed upon KPIs, metrics, and benchmarks.
Establish dashboard and reporting that key members can easily access.
Although your team is now on the same page and striving for the same business results, you still have to hold them accountable for the activities they do every day. This is going to be different for each team. These activity metrics are going to be slightly different, but they’re not unfamiliar. Decide what is going to be important to your team, and use good judgment.
For example, measuring on MQL’s is no longer valid, but inbound response time is still important for marketing. Measuring on daily dials is no longer valid, but positive conversations is still important for business development.
Sales hunters are known for their tenacity and never-quit attitude. Grit in sales is usually synonymous with success. However, it can get you in trouble and cause you to miss your numbers. Not all deals are going to close, and since time and energy are your most valuable resources, you have to know when it’s time to disposition out an account and move on to the next target.
It’s particularly hard to say no because of the sunk cost fallacy, which is the misconception that we make rational decisions based on the future value. However, the research time and again proves that our decisions are often tainted by the emotional investment and time accumulated -- the more time and energy you put into something, the harder it becomes to give it up.
To get this right, you must develop guidelines to keep you from chasing deals that never were. There’s no hard and fast rule across the board that every org should follow. You need to figure out what makes the most sense for you and your team.
When coming up with your guidelines, first, take a look at the tier of the account. Tier 1, 2 and 3 accounts require different resources and attention levels. When determining tiers for your accounts, factor in other elements of a deal specific to your business, like the average contract value, the size of your total addressable market, the length of your sales cycle, etc. Next, consider the account based metrics above -- how much coverage, awareness, engagement, reach, and impact do you have at each account for each tier?
“There is no longer a clear hand-off of a lead between Sales and Marketing. Marketing increasingly is nurturing and advancing prospects through the entire sales process. That’s why there’s an increased focus on conversion rates rather than simple lead numbers. It also means that Sales and Marketing have to collaborate more than ever.”
-Peter Mollins, VP Marketing, KnowledgeTree
According to research by SiriusDecisions, buyers want Marketing and Sales involved equally at every stage of the buying process.
When you’re selling to multinational or global accounts, and you’re at the far end of the Account Based Sales Development spectrum, there is no handoff. Everyone is working together from the beginning, and throughout the entire revenue cycle. At that level, you’re only selling to Tier 1 accounts and you’re engaged fully in team selling.
Executive management provides the vision.
Marketing finds and nurtures the accounts and creates tailored content for the account
Sales development sets the stage
Pre-sales and sales enablement gives a great demo
Account executives negotiate and close the business
Company executives provide executive alignment and support
Customer success onboards and trains
Product and engineering teams make something to sell
Support fixes problems along the way
Accounts receivable gets the money
In her book Whale Hunting with Global Accounts, Barbara Weaver Smith explains that today’s buyer wants to meet the subject matter experts and everyone else on your team. This begs the question: if people want to buy from the whole team, why do we only expose them to certain members during certain times?
This is where global teams often have project managers who act as the fulcrum between the different teams and departments within your organization. The project manager, often the “farmer” salesperson, is like a quarterback and acts as the lead. The quarterback is responsible for being the go-to key contact for these accounts.
There are still key players on your team who will be leading at different stages of the sales process, and having this structure means less confusion and a better experience for the customer. There’s no handoff, but rather a shuffling around of players.
For Tier 3 accounts, you can’t afford this much time, attention and resources on one account, therefore mastering the handoff is more important. For this, I’d like to turn to Richard Harris, a top sales trainer and leader, for some wisdom. He outlines a great process and email for when you have to orchestrate a handoff. Immediately after you send an event invite for the call/meeting, send an email to make the transition smooth. Here’s an example:
You can (and should) even launch a Play (or series a series of follow up emails) if the prospect doesn’t respond or doesn’t show up to the meeting. The same process should be in place when an AE closes a deal – a Play should be launched to introduce the Customer Success Manager to start the onboarding process.
For Tier 2 accounts, each player should be slightly more involved, but can’t be as involved as your Tier 1 accounts. To execute this play properly, have the rep handing the account off set the meeting, send the email, and join the call. This is how the call should go down:
Open - Pleasantries and re-establish rapport
Introduce your teammate - Give a formal introduction to the next point of contact for the account.
Summarize - Give the two or three main points from the previous call. This further emphasized you understand the customer while giving the new POC more context. Don’t take more than 30-45 seconds.
Establish an agenda - State the goal of the call and the desired outcomes
Hand off the call - Let the new POC take over.
This process can be used when Account Development Reps are handing the account off to the AE, when the AE is handing the account off to customer success, when there’s a new account owner due to movement in your org, or any other reason.
Andy Paul, author of Amp Up Your Sales and host of the Accelerate! podcast, firmly believes that how you sell is as important as what you sell. By providing a superior sales experience to the customer, you are differentiating yourself from other organizations.
There’s more to Account Based Sales Development than the handoff. In fact, it’s one tiny piece of the puzzle. That’s why we’ve put together The Clear and Complete Guide to Account Based Sales Development. You can download the full guide for free today.
Brandon Redlinger is the Director of Growth at Engagio