Making the Jump to ABM

The potential of Account Based Marketing to enhance both marketing and sales performance in the B2B space is a topic we’ve been discussing pretty much all year.

One aspect we haven’t really touched on, however, is the transition of regular, funnel and lead gen-based operations into an ABM model. It calls for structural changes in the relationship between marketing and sales, as well as investments in the right technologies. I spoke to Etai Beck, CEO and co-founder of the ABM sales platform Folloze about strategies for change.

“You have to have buy-in from sales,” he said. And you need to “build a wave of change.”

It turned out that Beck had some radical, if compelling, suggestions about the commitments sales needs to make.

The traditional funnel-based approach, he told me, tends to yield a small proportion of pipeline, not least because sales don’t always respect leads or follow-up on them. If anything, many sales teams focus on creating their own pipelines, based on relationships and knowledge of customer needs.

What’s needed, he said, is “a new contract between marketing and sales.”

In practice, this means providing sales with the right digital tools, and the confidence to use them. For very large accounts, Beck said, marketing has a justification—not least based on budget—“to be involved at all times,” being relevant and making an impact “specific to thje accounts.”

“That’s fine for ‘A’ level accounts,” he said, “but it’s difficult to scale.” A business might have thousands of accounts at lower levels of importance. “Marketing must give sales the tools to use,” including content assets, the ability to message, and the right analytics. This can take sales enablement to a whole new level.

I asked if there was likely to be resistance to this strategy, from both sales and marketing. “There’s no doubt this needs change management,” he agreed, “but the key to success is bringing everyone to the table.” Once the participants get over their initial reluctance—once you get sales “to believe in it, they’ll use it.”

Although it’s not necessary to begin the transition with existing accounts—although that’s one viable strategy—there’s a “natural evolution,” said Beck, “into account acquisition.” What’s important for each company, said Beck, is to find “the hook” to bring sales and marketing into the ABM process. “It may be existing accounts, it may be something else.”

Beck speaks from experience. He came to Folloze from Juniper Networks where he led go-to-market strategy, and in particular how to provide sales with focused and relevant messaging. “Nobody called it ABM then.” Folloze itself is geared to teach sales reps to “act as mini-marketers,” allowing them access to content dashboards to develop and deliver “account-specific campaigns.”

“Sales is one of the most important channels” in any business, he said. “Give them the right digital capabilities, you have the best of all worlds.”

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