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The Secret of Successful Account-Based Selling? Going After the Big Fish

Illustration of people in bubbles with dollar signs showing account based sales
Account based selling is an all-hands-on-deck approach where your entire team participates in outreach. [Studio Science]

Land big(ger) accounts with relationship-building strategies and cross-team alignment.

Picture it: You’re standing in front of an arcade crane game, only a few quarters in your hand. With limited resources, you need a strategy that balances risks and odds. Do you go after the easy-grab item, or do you try your hand at the one you really want? Almost no one else has succeeded at getting it. And just imagine the reputation that comes with the golden grab: Arcane Crane Game Master. You decide to go for it…

This is what account-based selling (ABS) is like. You’re targeting those big fish accounts — the ones every rep dreams of landing. Read on to learn how to grow your business with account-based selling.

What you’ll learn:

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What is account-based selling?

Account-based selling (ABS) is a sales approach that prioritizes building relationships with high-value account holders so you can quickly close big deals. It’s a more targeted approach to selling; instead of fishing with a net, you use a spear.

To make this possible, account-based sellers give target buyers a lot of their attention, and customize their strategy to fit individual accounts.

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Benefits of account-based selling

The main benefit of account-based selling is the control you have over your customer base. With a narrower focus, your team can concentrate on creating a long-term plan to win over high-value clients.

Other benefits include:

  • Higher conversion rates: ABS can help you land larger clients and close better deals. About 48% of organizations that use an account-based strategy experienced a higher average win rate, according to Gartner. A lot of this is due to the extra attention reps pay to these accounts.
  • Better ROI: Because there’s a high level of personalization involved in ABS, contributing to higher customer engagement and a better customer experience, it typically generates higher returns. About 89% of organizations report that an account-based strategy delivered a better return on investment, as noted by Forrester.
  • Improved customer loyalty: In my experience, you are likely to experience higher customer loyalty and repeat business with a more personalized approach.
  • Cross-selling and upselling opportunities: By investing your time and research in an ABS strategy, your team will have a deeper understanding of your customers’ needs and pain points. This makes it easier for them to cross-sell and upsell products and services.
  • Better outcomes for target accounts: An ABS approach means understanding your customers’ concerns and offering practical solutions to help them meet their goals. When it’s time for you to pitch, your solution should be so targeted to their specific needs and pain points that they feel like your product or service was tailor-made for them.

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How account-based selling works

ABS is more collaborative than lead generation. It’s an all-hands-on-deck approach to sales where your entire team participates in outreach.

Marketing is usually the first touchpoint; through targeted campaigns, prospective buyers are pulled in via digital ads, physical promotions, webinars, and other marketing materials. Once a lead is landed, sellers collaborate with marketers to learn about them based on their engagement with marketing campaigns. This is supplemented with collaboration across service, finance, IT, and any other relevant teams as the seller works to find high-value solutions and resources that will compel target accounts to close.

This multi-channel, cross-functional approach ensures that your team isn’t just reaching out to one person in one way. Rather, you’re targeting multiple stakeholders to get buy-in across a buyer’s company or organization.

Your customized outreach strategy should:

  • Engage multiple key people at your target organization to have the best chance of success. I might reach out to the marketing CMO, the VP of sales, and the sales director.
  • Align messaging across teams for consistency, credibility, and effectiveness.
  • Show prospects that you understand their needs and preferences to help you build trust, forge strong relationships, and land new accounts.

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4 account-based selling best practices

Before you can start strategizing, you have to narrow down the playing field and prioritize which accounts to target and why. Here are four best practices to follow to launch a successful ABS strategy:

1. Develop an ideal customer profile (ICP)

Understanding who your customers are and how to communicate with them is the first step in your ABS strategy. An Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) identifies and defines your most valuable customer.

It also indicates who is most likely to buy your products or services so you know who to target. Building an ICP or buyer persona starts with data. Cover the basics, including size, location, demographics, and industry. Then consider these questions to dive deeper:

  • What problems does your product solve? Being clear on your product’s benefits can help you frame it as a solution.
  • Which companies and people face these problems? This will help you zero in on who to target and personalize your outreach.
  • Which companies can afford your product? If a company doesn’t have the budget, they’re not worth your pursuit. Go after accounts that can feasibly buy what you’re selling. Even better: Find the accounts that can afford to — and will likely — pay top dollar for products with high price tags or products with subscriptions that will pay out for a long time.
  • What commonalities do current customers have? This can help with personalized messaging and transparency when crafting your outreach. Take a look at CRM data to see the problems and pain points your customers share. This can be used to help you start tailoring a solution for high-value accounts.
  • Why do your current customers use your product? Similar to the example above, this information gives you talking points to use when approaching new customers.

The key with ABS is to identify high-value accounts, accounts that have the potential to generate significant profits for your organization, and utilize all your teams to help you land them. CRM software with AI-powered insights can help here; it can surface insights based on past customers and public data to deliver recommendations for high-value accounts worth going after.

2. Align your team on messaging and approach

Since ABS is a collaborative approach, your sales team must work directly with marketing, service, finance, IT, and any other relevant teams to deliver a consistent message to your prospects. For instance, your marketing team should develop the early messaging strategy, but sales should be involved in reviewing and approving so they can create a pitch that aligns.

This means these teams should be in regular communication about goals, including all aspects of customer outreach, like sales calls, emails, and social media. A collaboration platform, built directly into your CRM, not only helps facilitate marketing and sales alignment but also contributes to revenue growth and stronger relationships by streamlining processes, personalizing customer journeys, and tracking progress.

3. Build relationships with stakeholders

This is where your research skills can pay off. Mine sites like LinkedIn to find important stakeholders for the accounts you want to target. Your connections on social media sites also may reveal opportunities to network. Contact management tools within your CRM software can help you keep track of outreach. You can also organize contacts and track outreach using your CRM.

4. Use data to drive engagement

Tracking engagement will help you understand which approaches are most effective when reaching out to prospects. Again, CRM software to the rescue; it can help your team keep track of every email, phone call, and meeting that takes place and how this outreach is performing. With this information, you can adjust your outreach to ensure maximum, consistent engagement until close.

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Getting personal: Customizing your ABS strategy on multiple channels

If you want your ABS strategy to produce results, it has to be personalized. But you don’t have to dive into the deep end with personalization right away. Get your feet wet with some low-effort prospecting on a few common channels:

Email campaigns

In account-based selling, everything you do should be tailored to your prospect. That includes your email campaigns.

Provide relevant and engaging content to your prospects with customized email sequences. These “drip” communications nurture your leads with information that proves you’re the best solution for them. This strategy lends itself well to automation to make your workflow more efficient.

Direct mail

In an increasingly online world, direct mail can make your company stand out, especially if it’s personalized. Incorporate the prospect’s name, company, and pain points into the copy. Then offer up your solution as a way ahead.

The best way to build a list of mailing addresses is by collecting them directly from your prospects. Surveys, contests, and giveaways are simple ways to collect contact information. You can also purchase the names and addresses of prospects from brokers, but be aware that it’s not always the best approach when searching for high-quality leads; I’ve seen too many of these fall flat because they don’t fit an ICP.

Social media

In our digital-first world, social media is one of the most important channels for targeted outreach. Once you’ve identified your target prospects, you can use social media to quickly gather information about their business goals and challenges. Using that data, you can send personalized messages, create hyper-specific ads, or write and share content that will instantly resonate with them. This personalized approach will help you convert prospects into paying customers faster.

Web personalization

Don’t neglect your website. Personalization technology can create a unique experience for visitors and present opportunities for your sales team to follow up with prospects. Create personalized landing pages that use cached or “cookied”information to increase conversations with your customers. Talk to your IT team to see what’s possible here.

A less tech-savvy approach: Maintain and update posts on your blog, and make sure that you’re offering content that is relevant to your specific buyer persona. About 87% of companies see a lift of at least 5% in key metrics, including conversion rates, average order value (AOV), and lifetime value (LTV), when they employ personalization, according to VB Insight.

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Metrics that matter in account-based selling

Once your ABS strategy is in full swing, it’s important to track your campaign success. Measuring key performance indicators (KPIs) can help your organization gain insights into the effectiveness of your ABS strategy. With this information, you can adjust your approach for better success.

Here are some important KPIs to track:

  • Account engagement: How often does your team engage with the account and on what channels?
  • Account conversion rate: What percentage of accounts have converted into paying customers?
  • Account lifetime value: What’s the average revenue generated from each account over the lifetime of the relationship?
  • Deal velocity: How quickly, on average, can you convert leads into customers?
  • Average contract value: What is the annualized revenue per customer contract?
  • Customer satisfaction score (CSAT): How satisfied are customers with your products or services?
  • Deal size: What is the average amount customers spend on your products or services?

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Build relationships to grow your sales

Account-based selling requires a lot of planning, preparation, and research. But the investment in building meaningful relationships with high-value customers is well worth the effort when it pays off. The rewards include improved customer loyalty, higher conversion rates, and revenue growth.

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Donald Kelly
Donald Kelly Founder, The Sales Evangelist

Donald’s mission is to evangelize the effective selling method and motivate sellers of all levels to do big things. As a former top-performing technology sales professional who has successfully sold in public and private sectors, Donald cracked the code of helping teams thrive in B2B sales. He is the author of several books and is a LinkedIn Top Voice in sales.

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