Man pushing a stalled car.
Editorial

5 Ideas to Advance a Stalled Account-Based Initiative

6 minute read
Jon Russo avatar
Is your account-based strategy suffering? Might be time for a thorough inspection.

 

With all eyes on performance right now, what can be done to move the revenue needle forward in an account-based strategy?

This article is for you if your organization is experiencing any, or all, of these symptoms of a stalled account-based strategy:

  1. Revenue and pipeline growth has plateaued or missing growth expectations.
  2. Sales managers/leaders not quite fully understanding and absorbing what changes they need to make to their prospecting processes in order to support an Account-based experience (ABX) strategy.
  3. Slow or no adoption of account-based tools. Marketing may understand how to use these tools, sales/SDRs do not fully grasp their impact or how to use.
  4. Several re-training sales and SDR exercises consistently occurring with ABX platform and insight gathering.
  5. A new or non-existing sales enablement function not familiar enough with the ABX platforms and their capabilities.

Path to Enterprise Selling Not Always Paved

Let’s pretend you are a successful SaaS company that has a transactional lead-based motion and within the last year or two pivoted to adding an account-based motion as well. You have purchased or considered purchasing an account-based platform with intent data, and you’ve put in the initial process work with sales to identify what target accounts to go after.

This is a common scenario we hear from boards of directors or the C-Suite who want to move more upmarket to "get enterprise accounts," likely basing that ability on a few wins or historical successes. These parties may not fully appreciate the skillsets and changes needed for both sales and marketing to focus on moving up market towards enterprise selling.

An analogy for this kind of selling transition is taking a "beat street cop" and making them a "private detective." It’s not an easy path to walk, so here are five actionable, take-action-now things you can do right now to help move the revenue needle forward in your organization.

Related Article: Are the Days of Salesforce Marketing Qualified Leads Over?

Inspect Platform Adoption and Correlate to Success

In a recent 1-on-1 conversation with TechTarget’s CMO, John Steinert, he suggests monitoring the performance and adoption of your ABX platform by user and correlating that to the success (or lack of success) of driving pipeline.

This approach has the twin benefit of showing sales the correlation of properly adopted tools to increased pipeline and also builds the CFO renewal use case as to why continue to invest in your account-based platform.

Word of Mouth Matters

Dana Thierrien, Anaplan's chief revenue officer practice lead and former head of sales operations practice at SiriusDecisions, suggests getting sales onboard with a singular win to start.

“You’ll never get a sales rep along for the (ABX) ride unless you convince them it is valuable to do so," Thierrien says. "Stories of success, coming from a salesperson to a salesperson, is most powerful. If marketing is bringing an account-based initiative to the table, they might have luck. If a sales person closes a multi-million dollar deal, other sales people will pay much more attention.”

This kind of approach would be critical if you are rolling out a platform for the first time, perhaps getting a small win before deploying more globally.

Related Article: 3 Ways Marketers Can Ease Account-Based Transition for Sales

Learning Opportunities

Inspect Selling Skills and Lean on Sales Enablement

Do you have the right skillset internally to sell enterprise? Are you focused on accounts that have a true chance of converting? In a 1-on-1 email exchange and through her podcast, Jen Allen, challenger evangelist and host of "Winning the Challenger Sale" podcast, thinks it’s absolutely possible to make the transition as a seller from a transactional seller to an account-based seller. But, she adds, it involves "unlearning" a lot of behaviors that make someone effective in a transactional sales role.

For example, something like BANT for qualification might work well when an organization is selling a high-volume, low-price-point solution, according to Allen. But when selling disruptive, larger enterprise solutions — and it's rare that there is existing budget for it — the seller plays a role in helping the organization think through making the case for budget, reallocating dollars, etc., she adds. "So," she says, "BANT often works against us.”

Sales Enablement can bridge this gap so keep building that internal relationship. However, with platforms changing as frequently as they do and with the varied other tasks Sales Enablement has, it may be challenging for them to keep up with the latest and greatest to share with their stakeholders. This is where having a skilled digital agency and/or vendors would also augment any shortcomings in this area to ‘train the trainer.’

Re-inspect Your Process and Message

On a recent podcast with Pete Kazanjy, founder of Modern Sales, Pete says, “every new sales motion (different segment, different use case, etc.) requires figuring a lot of the (selling) process out again. The humans you are interacting with are very different vs. down market segment. Current state and buying process is much different (in larger enterprise deals). You have to show up with a different message. Where marketing can help with that is the way you talk about your product may be different. Per persona messaging that may change.”

Neil Passero of MegaDeals echoes Pete’s mentality of a sales process change in moving up market in an ABX motion.

Related Article: Marketers, Are Your ABM Efforts Helping or Hurting Sales? 3 Tips to Consider

Improve Your SDR Workflow

Are you providing the right dashboards or taking marketing actions that impact SDRs? In my own experiences with ABX adoption across 100+ companies, marketers aren’t optimizing enough of their own existing technology and workflow enough to make the SDRs the most productive.

For example, marketing may be uploading event attendees, duplicating records unintentionally for fear of overwriting other data in their CRM systems. Consequently, SDRs are left putting "humpty dumpty back together again," piecing duplicative data from multiple objects or multiple areas into one coherent story. SDR productivity in this model is suboptimal, and marketing conversion suffers. If you don’t have the skills internally to inspect this objectively or this is a political landmine, find an external helper or organization who can look at this more carefully and make the right cross-functional recommendations.

Conclusion: Investigate Your Messaging, Selling Skills

In order to increase sales into new markets, it’s important to take a step back and look at the big picture. What platforms are you using and how well are they used? How is your message delivered? Are your selling skills up to par? By looking at these areas and making changes where necessary, you can see an improvement in sales.

Of course, this isn’t something that can be done overnight — taking a "beat street sales cop" and turning them into a "private sales detective" takes disciplined work and inspection; it’s not something left to chance.

About the author

Jon Russo

Jon Russo is a three-time global CMO in successful public and private SaaS companies in Silicon Valley, New York City and Luxembourg for over 10 years, scaling businesses through three successful exits including an IPO as well as two acquisitions representing over $3 billion in market value. Today, he leads B2B Fusion, a sales and marketing performance firm with an expertise on Account Based Strategies and its measurement.

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