We’d intended to discuss Account-Based Sales & Marketing (ABM) with Brian Allsop, MD of Fusion Grove, sales intelligence experts. Covid19 lockdowns, layoffs and furloughs changed the nature of our discussion and highlighted great opportunities for sales and marketing alignment.
What do you offer?
We work with B2B IT companies with large sales forces who want to grow existing accounts or acquire new customers using Account Based Selling (ABS). We work with sales teams across LatAm, North America, APAC and EMEA.
Our clients include infrastructure providers, SP’s, integrators, ISV’s, Cloud MSP’s, security specialists and consultants. We offer data-driven Account Based AI insights, enabling sales leaders to examine Technology & Stakeholder landscapes in their customers rather than firmographics or a horizontal/vertical approach. Often growth strategies involve interrogating CRM, working from contacts up. Our approach is different – beginning with an overall picture of an account and then working down into sales execution plans.
How do you profile?
We use primary and secondary data. We gather multiple data sets across technology environment, sales, market landscape, installed base, share of wallet, product line penetration and solution coverage, all consolidated into a single view by specific account.
Is company size relevant?
For us firmographic segmentation is outdated. We examine a customer’s business and IT complexity, not single attributes like absolute size. Even smaller companies can have sophisticated environments with complex business requirements.
- Sales productivity: Improved intelligence delivers improved efficiency. Salesforce research shows salespeople spend 30% of their time researching customers. That’s where we come in – clients need intelligence to determine where to invest diminished resources. Previously if targets were met there was no perceived need to change. CV-19 was the ‘control-alt-delete’ moment forcing acknowledgement things need to be done differently.
- Changing priorities bring different decision makers: IT B2B sales teams usually engage IT leadership as their core audience. But now customers want to invest in IT aligned to business requirements and outcomes. This means broader decision-making groups, extended stakeholder communities and collective buying decisions. CV-19 has accelerated the need for business outcome propositions such as business continuity. Now is not the time to generalise: insights on technology and intent can deliver individual account solutions, account by account at scale.
How can marketing better support ABM?
Four categories come to mind:
- Align messages with new priorities: Previously IT companies fulfilled ‘organic’ demand – it’s time to change. Business transformation initiatives represent a larger opportunity than traditional infrastructure upgrades. Sales need tighter stories. Some tell us “this industry is impacted by CV-19. There is no opportunity”. That’s not true – it doesn’t matter whether an account is expanding or rightsizing. Customers can’t just turn off elements of IT infrastructure without affecting operations. They need agile, innovative ways to reduce costs.
- Unify tech stacks: In the past clients used the pyramid model – with marketing-led demand generation at its base and sales managing bigger accounts at the top. The challenge is to evolve a programmatic approach, digging deeper into accounts. No sales team has 100% of any account. What does the other x% look like? Historically sales were fed by tribal knowledge with marketing focused on inbound lead generation and analytics. Marketing and sales need to unify strategies and technology stacks for aligned execution. Technology alone won’t deliver transformation without a unified sales and marketing foundation in place and a shift in mindset. Sales plans “a mile wide and one inch deep” are costly and lack of account intelligence produces ‘lowest common denominator’ generic messaging. A collective marketing and sales approach to data is required to deliver aligned sales acceleration.
- What about A.I. and sales? Sales is 99% art and 1% science. Unlike marketing which began transitioning to science years ago, sales resisted the change. We’re now at a transformational moment with growing appreciation of the need to better understand customer opportunities. However we need to manage unrealistic expectations of technology. Some believe it enables them to qualify opportunities, generate quotes and close sales – this is e-commerce not ABM!
- Digital differentiation in ABM: How can you maintain ABM principles in a digital tsunami? How do you maintain individual relationships, demonstrate empathy, differentiate? We see an emerging skills gap as ABM touchpoints are substituted with digital engagement in these strange times. We’re awash with digital communications (last week I received 70 invites to webinars/virtual events!).
What are your biggest challenges now?
We are tackling challenges on three fronts:
- Changing narratives to reflect new agendas as customers change their sales strategy, we’re adapting our narrative and solutions to help transition and accelerate sales out of lockdown. How we aligned with our customers a couple of months ago versus today is very different; the current crisis exposed the need to shift sales strategies.
- Focus on productivity metrics: We’re seeing more analysis of business fundamentals and metrics: cost of sale, compensation plans, headcount required to maintain coverage. Business efficiency metrics require significant data around addressable market and customer landscape intelligence.
- CRM ‘aha moments’: CV-19 highlighted CRM’s weaknesses with data primarily consisting of day-to-day contacts (most large accounts have 5-15 active contacts). 30% staff reductions or consolidations will affect key touchpoints across accounts. Are the decision makers still there? Sales and marketing leaders must ask whether they understand customers and acknowledge CRM has been used as glorified e-mail contact databases. Sales intelligence data offers deeper & wider account visibility. Teams with existing tech stacks are challenged in the CV-19 ‘digital reset’ too. Email campaigns with outdated CRM data (e-mail ‘bounce backs’ going into furloughed contacts) and digital journey tools using intent data are being reset as the ‘new normal’ emerges. There is no doubt that teams already embracing sales & marketing technology will accelerate significantly faster than those who don’t.
IT B2B ABM needs to innovate around customer conversations and aligned business outcomes. As sales and marketing leaders we’re presented with a unique opportunity to align sales & marketing strategies, to break down historic boundaries and behaviours that have limited our effectiveness in the past…but will we?