Q&A: When Should Sales Get Involved In The ABM Process?

Strike while the iron is hot.

It’s a shared sentiment between Sales and Marketing teams. Both organizations are dedicated to figuring out the right moment to engage potential prospects and get the wheels turning towards conversion.

Traditionally, goals are siloed. Marketing sits at the two ends of the customer journey, with engagement at the top, and re-engagement or nurturing on the other side. Sales comes in only when a prospect is deemed engaged enough to qualify their time.

ABM intends to close this gap by redefining the way companies view prospects and leads. Data and real-time analytics can help Sales and Marketing teams identify prospects who may be the market and ready to purchase.

We asked John Steinert, CMO, TechTarget, how his team views ABM, and how purchase intent data can help align sales and marketing teams to improve workflow and close deals with speed.

DMN: How should Sales and Marketing teams approach workflow under ABM?

Steinert: The decision to use marketing resource versus sales resource is somewhat based on interpretation of where account is in terms of “hotness,” or qualification. And we generally take a step back from that first to say, well, have we agreed on the ideal customer profile that we prefer to go after? Have we agreed on that profile being embedded into an account list, so we know what type of account we want to go after? And, after we’ve created an account list based on that profile — and do Sales and Marketing agree on that? So if Sales and Marketing can agree on the types of accounts that are most important, that’s great, because Marketing doesn’t send the wrong accounts to Sales, only to be told “this isn’t an account we like, so we’re not going to follow up.”

The next thing they need to agree on is: “can we agree that we prefer to spend more energy on accounts that are showing active purchase intent, versus accounts that are not?” This becomes really interesting because it begs the question: if at what point in a company’s qualification as a lead, should Sales get involved?

DMN: So, where is the line? How do the roles change once an agreement to change approach and focus on intent is made?

Steinert: What we see is that the more space there is between Marketing and Sales, sort of philosophical space, the later sales is really interested in getting involved. The worse the breakage is between Marketing and Sales on alignment means the more qualified a lead has to be before Sales is willing to be involved. If you flip that around, the most the most innovative clients [we have] are the ones where Sales — thanks to Marketing — is now believing this data and is willing to act earlier than it really ever has. They can get in the deals earlier.

DMN: How is purchase intent data different from traditional lead scoring?

Steinert: The definition of a “lead” is that they’ve responded to something from you, right? Yet, all you see is people who should be interested in the solution you sell, because they are active in the category of where you do business. So we call them “active prospects.” Now the challenge is for marketers to go out and engage those folks, and get them to respond.

Webcast: The Changing Face of Lead Gen

DMN: Where does Sales play a role?

Steinert: The question is for companies: “do we have enough time to wait for marketing to try to get these folks involved?” And the most innovative are saying, well, if they’re showing what we call “prolonged intense activity,” then, in fact, it’s time for SDRs and Sales to get involved, even though they aren’t lead.

What we see is the real bridge between Marketing and Sales believing in the quality of the data, and then having the ability to change the service level agreements the SDRs have from a volume-oriented agreement (that is really just called massive lists of people) to an account-service level agreement, where they make sure to concentrate on those accounts that are now known to be in market.

DMN: Tell me more about the role of the SDR.

Steinert: SDRs (call them inside sales, SDRs, BDRs), in a way, are the glue between Sales and Marketing, because they’re essentially executing marketing tactics. But they’re doing it at a higher volume than field sales can, and so they help close the gap.

More: Customer Success: ABM’s Secret Sales-Marketing Alignment Weapon

DMN: How can marketing teams use data to support Sales initiatives?

Steinert: If Marketing can work to provide the data to both, to all three organizations [Sales, SDRs, Marketing] and if Marketing and Sales — assuming SDRs are part of Sales, sometimes they’re part of marketing — can talk about who’s gonna do what, when, based on the intensity of the information, then you actually close this gap. Everybody’s aligned and each person has a set of roles agreed, so that there’s no breakage in the process.

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