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Digital Transformation

All-Digital Relationships Are the New Normal. Salesforce is Using Its Own Account-Based Marketing Strategy to Grow Them.

Businessman talking on smartphone and working in office.

Since the pandemic began, it’s become even more critical to equip marketing and sales teams with the proper digital tools to build trusted relationships with their customers. 

As we continue to shift towards an all-digital, work-from-anywhere world, companies are increasingly turning to account-based marketing (ABM) to identify high-value sales opportunities and deliver personalized content across email, web, social, and digital events. ABM brings a holistic approach to an account, blurring the line between marketing, sales and service channels to deliver a key message that resonates and ultimately, helps to close deals faster.

According to the State of Sales Report, 86% of salespeople say current events (i.e., the effects of the pandemic) have made long-term customer relationships more important. When sales and marketing teams are working on the same platform, they are able to ensure teams stay in sync, track critical KPIs, and align on goals that drive those customer relationships. Like many others, Salesforce Client Account Lead James Hayden and his team pivoted to working in a completely remote environment last year, and their account-based approach to the customer quickly took on new importance. We sat down with James to hear how his partnership with marketing has changed post-pandemic. 

Q: Can you share what your day-to-day looks like now that we’re working from home?

I used to spend five days a week at my client’s office, collaborating and working alongside the team. It’s a large customer, so I am focused on driving value from the investments they have made with us. I also believe I can triple that value in other areas of the business, so I am always thinking about white space and how to contribute to the areas where we don’t currently work with them. 

Q: How does account-based marketing come into play with your sales goals?

The key three operating areas that help drive the work I do include building business relationships, educating technology teams and demonstrating how Salesforce values align with my customer. This is also where ABM can help the most.

ABM boils down to bringing creativity to companies and teams. Although our day-to-day has shifted given the pandemic, we found that you can still make creative connections happen virtually. For this account, we focus on value-based marketing, which impacts how we’re perceived by the customer and how we show up in our partnership.

Q: What do those creative connections look like? How is marketing helping you expand that existing relationship with your customer?

The process of building a relationship is ongoing — our job is to regularly remind our customers of the value we can bring to them and show how much Salesforce can do for their business. 

When you manage account-based approaches properly, it starts to feel like you’re not only a Salesforce employee but an extension of the customer’s team. We always have our finger on the pulse of their needs, and understand what’s happening from an internal perspective. 

Q: What does your partnership with the marketing team require to create a successful ABM strategy?

We start by aligning on the three focus areas I mentioned at the beginning of the conversation. Then, every time we meet as a team, we dive deep into what activations, events and programs we can run to help bring these focus areas to life. We’re constantly looking for our customers to engage their larger internal teams so that we can provide a holistic perspective to a larger audience and make sure we’re hitting everyone’s business priorities and needs. 

For example, once we became accustomed to the new working conditions, we adapted and got even more creative with our relationship-building strategies. Now, instead of basketball games, we plan virtual wine tastings and other educational events to establish personal connections. We center these events on a topic that drives our goals across the customer’s entire business, not just one department or area. 

Q: How have your customer relationships evolved during COVID-19?

It’s been a challenge for all of us. Like everyone, our meetings and interactions shifted from in-person to video conferencing platforms. From a relationship perspective, the pandemic initially made our work much more difficult, because the relationship-building had to happen entirely from behind a screen.

That’s where ABM comes in. I don’t think in terms of a selling motion or a marketing motion or a post sales motion or customer success motion. We have a vision for the customer and ABM supports that with a level of personalization and customization that a standalone marketing approach can’t achieve.

Q: Do you have any advice for other sales teams who want to implement an account-based marketing approach?

Build a trusted partnership. You must partner with marketing as an extended team. Share your vision and make sure everyone is on board. On an annual basis, you want to reevaluate the challenges and opportunities that will move the needle and help you and your team evolve.

Besides building trust, the other key differentiator is proving your value as a team to the customer. Know how Salesforce technologies can help enable businesses to succeed. We lead with our values and align with our customers on what they value, too. We’re partners on the same journey to reach our mutual business goals.  

Learn more about how to implement an account-based strategy with our resource guide here.


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