How to Manage an Account-Based Sales Team
If you’re keeping up with the latest B2B trends, you’ve probably heard or read the term “Account Based” recently. Many B2B organizations deal with a smaller lead pool and longer sales cycle, which means you’ve probably had to adjust your marketing campaigns accordingly. And, that’s where account-based marketing and sales come in.
Beyond buzzwords, making anything ‘account-based’ is a process and not something that happens overnight. To make the process easier for you, I’ve put together a breakdown of how being ‘account-based’ works specifically for sales, and then five tips on how to manage your account-based sales (ABS) team.
Your ABS Team
Establishing the right inputs to guarantee successful outputs starts with assembling the right team. B2B sales requires a comprehensive, multi-channel approach to nurturing leads at different levels. To be successful, you’ll want to assemble a focused team to manage your different channels and campaigns.
#1: VP of Sales
Your VP of Sales is responsible for managing your account-based campaigns. They focus on ensuring the attainment of goals and quotas and should be a talented and motivational people manager.
Your VP of Sales can also serve as the “heavyweight” in your big-client meetings as well as a brand evangelist. This means keeping an active social media presence and building your brand’s awareness as an industry thought leader. While this role does not have to be reserved for the VP, it is a role you will want on or accessible to the marketing team. The core value of this role is in building awareness, securing partnerships, and expanding overall brand authority. If you think for a minute, you can probably think of an example of a company that has benefited from having a vocal, consistent, thought leader and advocate at the VP level (Moz comes to mind for me).
#2: Account Sales Executive
Your Account Sales Executive will be the primary “salesperson” of your ABS team. This team member will be responsible for holding meetings with prospective accounts and managing (or collaborating with) the Business Development (or Sales Development) reps as they find and prospect new accounts.
Your Account Sales Executive will be able to ideally close deals from the meetings that SDRs generate by following the process I’ll document later in this post.
#3: Business Development
BDRs or SDRs (Business Development Reps/Sales Development Reps) will handle most of your outreach cadences as well as manage your VA (virtual assistant) if you have one. These individuals are the true yeomen of your account-based system. They’ll test different email sequences, create new voicemail scripts, and crank out many of the hands-on aspects of account-based sales with emails and follow ups, etc. Your BDR will dive into the details to schedule meetings and demos for your Account Executive to close deals.
While many teams run marketing and sales as separate departments, it doesn’t mean they should be disconnected strategically. I believe they need to work together seamlessly to be effective.
#4: Virtual Assistant Data Scientists
Now you’re going to need a lot of data, and you probably have plenty, but the hard work is in making sense of your data and extracting insight that will help you craft emails and outreach interactions that are valuable to users. Unfortunately, the three primary members of your ABS team are all tied up. This is where the VA (virtual assistant) Data Scientist comes in (or marketing/sales operations for many teams).
This employee is critical for a scalable ABS system. While your BDR’s and Account Executives crank away at their work, your VA is prospecting new accounts to target. Not only that, your VA should be prospecting contact information for at least three of the decision makers in each of your target accounts.
This way, instead of paying for lead lists, you can go after the exact contact at the exact company you are targeting.
#5: Account-Based Content Marketer
Sure content marketing may sit on the marketing team, but I did already address that it’s critical to have a partnership. An account-based content marketer creates and promotes content for your end buyer that addresses their questions and pain points and arms your sellers with something valuable to start or continue a conversation.
For example, imagine you are an SEO software company, and you want to raise awareness amongst companies that recently got funded.
With this in mind, your account-based content marketer will create a content strategy to address your target audience and could craft an asset called: “The Average Organic Visitors of Series C Funded Firms: Winners and Losers.”
Not coincidentally, this piece would support the efforts of your BDR/SDRs as they communicate directly to your target accounts and schedule meetings to discuss how your software can help them overcome their competitors.
5 Tips for Account-Based Success
Now that I’ve walked through the roles you need at a foundational level to successfully execute an account-based program. Here are five tips to help get you to the next level.
Tip #1: Weekly 30 min. Monday Morning Meeting
One of the keys to success with an account-based program is how quickly you can learn (and iterate) from failed tests. To decrease your time to success, we recommend a weekly meeting of your ABS and ABM stakeholders every Monday morning. In this meeting discuss the previous week’s performance, but also dive into the goals for the coming week.
In my organization, one of our greatest successes came from changing our team dynamic to include organized weekly sprints, which created accountability by setting quotas for not only sales but also marketing and advertising.
Tip #2: Data Is Critical
The importance of the right data can not be overstated. If you are targeting the wrong accounts, ABS will fail. If you do not have current emails or phone numbers, the process can fail. If you are targeting the wrong persona with the wrong message, your account-based program will fail.
Thus, having clear firmographics and psychographics is of the utmost importance. Here’s an example of what you should be looking at when you name a target account:
- Industry: B2B SaaS
- Titles: VP of Marketing, Marketing Manager, Demand Generation
- Software: Marketo
- Trigger Events: Funding
- Data Sources: Angel.co
Tip #3: Work From The Middle Up
As you are developing your program, don’t go after the big fish right away. It seems obvious, but I don’t want you to miss this—there’s a lot of learning and testing that goes into each team’s journey learning and executing a successful account-based strategy. Make sure you give yourself and your team time to learn with a pilot program.
Also, you don’t want to start at the very bottom of your target accounts as they might not be the ideal fit. My recommendation—start in the middle. Target the mid-market of your target audience and then once you have your campaigns perfected go after the top and bottom.
Tip #4: Don’t Run Your Campaigns Shorter Than The Buying Cycle
A big mistake we made and many others make is that they run their account-based team’s program on cycles that are too short. For us, the average contract is up every 6-12 months. In other words, almost every marketing contract is up for grabs once a year.
If you know that, then why would you only target an account over a 30 day period? You now have a 1 in 12 chance that the timing will be right. Thus, it’s critical you know your industry and increase a number of touches over time with your accounts and don’t have your team sprinting in the wrong direction.
Tip #5: Help, Don’t Sell
When managing your team be careful to not set quotas that improperly encourage your team to hard sell over help. Remember, the #1 thing that influences a deal is timing…and you can’t control that, so just let it go. Instead, focus your team on helping your target accounts at every touch point and allow the demand for you to build until eventually, the timing is right.
Whether you are a seasoned account-based leader or just getting your feet wet, with the right team and careful execution increasing returns from your efforts are right around the corner. Who do you think is critical to account-based sales? How have you structured your team?