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How to Earn Sales Buy In for ABM

By Rick LaFond | October 17, 2019 | 2 Comments

MarketingDemand Generation and Sales Enablement

The use of the word “marketing” in the term “account-based marketing” can be a bit misleading.  It suggests that ABM sits squarely within the scope of the marketing function.  However, ABM isn’t simply a one-off marketing tactic nor an approach to campaign planning.  Instead, ABM is a go-to-market strategy.  As such, obtaining buy in and collaboration from your partners in sales is paramount for sustained ABM success.

Unfortunately, getting a sales team to adopt any kind of behavior change can be a significant challenge, let alone getting them to adopt a new go-to-market strategy.  I say that as a former sales rep, myself!

Through my conversations with marketing leaders across the past couple of years, I’ve been able to pick up some tips for securing buy in from your sales team for ABM:

Stay Business Outcome-Oriented

Lost in the excitement of the promise of ABM, marketers often times lose sight of and/or fail to communicate the fact that ABM, in it of itself, is not the end goal.  ABM is a means to an end.  ABM is a strategy that should enable the same business goals and outcomes that your organization would have, whether or not ABM even existed.

When positioning ABM to sales, be sure to clearly communicate how ABM will help sales achieve their top goals—whatever those specific goals might be for your sales team.

It’s imperative that sales understand the direct value for themselves (e.g., more high-quality leads, shorter sales cycles, bigger deal size, etc.), and that they don’t perceive ABM as a dreaded “marketing-led initiative”.

To that end, you could even consider giving the approach a name other than “account-based marketing”—a term that might make ABM seem specific to marketing.  Perhaps “account-based everything” or “a customer-first commercial strategy” would be more appealing to your sales team.

Involve Sales Early and Often

You can’t just wish collaboration to fruition; you should stand up standard operating procedures that allow for sales’ input on ABM planning and execution.  Sales leaders can help you craft your overarching ABM strategy.  Sales can have input on account selection.  Marketing and sales can hold joint account review/planning meetings where they can co-create account engagement strategies.

Not only does input from sales flat out make your ABM program better—the account-level insights offered by sales reps can be invaluable for account selection and crafting compelling account engagement—but that input also gives sales a sense ownership of the success of your ABM program.

If sales plays a meaningful role in ABM planning, they’re more likely to view ABM activities as credible and warranted, and sales will be more invested in the fruits of their labor.

Run a Pilot

Beginning your ABM program with a pilot, in advance of a large-scale roll out, is a best practice, as it allows you to figure out what kinds of ABM executions work and what doesn’t.  At the same time, a small-scale pilot can help you establish some quick wins that you can promote to your broader sales organization.

In an ideal world, you’ll be able to point to tangible commercial outcomes (i.e., increased revenue) as a result of your pilot.  However, if your business encounters long sales cycles and you don’t want to wait 9+ months before seeking further buy in from sales, then look for leading indicators of your program’s success.

Common leading indicators include any metrics that show increased engagement from the accounts within your pilot, as well as metrics that show improved top-of-funnel conversions, such as an increase in qualified leads or number of sales visits scheduled.

When building your pilot, you should be strategic about the sales leaders and sales reps you involve in the pilot.  Prioritize pockets within your sales team that already have a strong relationship with marketing.

Additionally, after achieving wins from your pilot, it would be wise to include the sales reps who participated in the pilot in your efforts to communicate the effectiveness of ABM to the broader sales community.  The support from a handful of respected sellers can add a great deal of credibility to your case for ABM.

For further support in the development of your ABM program, refer to (subscription required):

 

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2 Comments

  • Avesh T says:

    Thanks for providing such great information on sales buy-in for ABM!

  • Thanks for the validation that we’re on the right track. Love the insights and tips! Cheryl