An Introduction to Account Based Sales Development (ABSD)

Account-based selling is something that has existed for quite a while. There have always been enterprise sales teams that have assigned sales leaders to a small number of accounts as a sales strategy for high-value accounts.

The most important thing you can know about account based sales development is that you can get results just like these using our approach:

  • In a 1:1 play with an average of 30% personalization, we will earn 411% more engagement across a portfolio of 250 accounts.
  • When those same accounts have intent and there is no personalization we see a 278% increase in engagement over accounts with no-intent signals.
  • When account-based sales development reps work an account over the course of 4 months we achieve greater buying council penetration volume and higher buying council quality. Volume means that if there are 24 suspected members in a buying council we can get roughly 70% to engage with us during the period measured. Quality means that out of the C-suite leaders only (excluding VPs and Directors) we can get roughly 43% to engage with us.

There is so much control and power in knowing that you can go after a group of accounts and methodically bring your brand into their consideration as they enter an in-market cycle. Once you’ve done it a few times, you’ll look back and think how crazy it was to do it any other way.

What is account based sales development (ABSD)?

Account based sales development is the action of putting your typical business development or sales development rep (we call them Account Development Reps or ADR’s) on a marketing team and localizing all their activity around a group of accounts.

(For some of you reading this, I’m sure your eyes are about to pop out of your head so let’s deal with the elephant in the room and you should go read our position on a NOMQL mindset in sales. hint- sales should never touch an MQL until they are ready for a deal. Like I said go read it, then come back)

If you’re still here, this is a very non-traditional approach to driving growth but it’s born out of some very good intentions.

The top 4 benefits of account-based sales development

 

  1. By sitting in the marketing function, their marketing acumen goes from non-existent to pretty high. This is valuable as an AE because later they can work with marketing in a way that your organization wishes your sales teams would, but can’t because that’s not the way things are today. Our ADR’s are integral parts of our ABM services who work with graphic designers, revenue marketing teams for data, marketing automation specialists, ABM strategists, as well as our senior enterprise sales leaders to go after accounts. They are learning way above their paygrades and fast.

2. They become familiar with target accounts. I don’t just mean superficially. They know where they are investing as an organization, where growth is occurring, when executives leave, their patterns on social, and their newest initiatives. ADR’s become intimate with the buying council by name and map them out during plays. Knowing how to break down a company like this and understand triggers/compelling moments are what make an account-based selling strategy work.

3. From a process perspective, they get to see and inform how a multi-channel campaign gets strategized, mapped out, implemented, measured, evaluated, and most importantly how to read the plays for what the next two plays should be.

4. One of the best ways to grow a company of any size isn’t to hire A players but to have a systematized process that takes C players to B players, and B players to A players. This takes your average sales development person and immerses them in the mindset, strategic discipline, and behaviors that we want a VP of sales to have. One that methodically breaks down our entry into accounts and turns strategy into action across a portfolio of high-value accounts.

When you buy in on Account-based sales development you are buying in on growth transformation. Not just in general, but in the go-to-market transformation that acknowledges how buyers are actually buying and then reflects that in their sales processes to go after target accounts.

What does an Account based sales development program need in order to work?

The same things that have to be true for an account-based marketing program need to be true for an account-based sales development program.

How long are your sales cycles?

If you have short sales cycles with enterprise customers then an account-based sales development program is going to leave a lot of growth on the table.

Here’s why: If you’re closing deals fast then multiple people are not getting involved in the decision. That means you need to get a lot of data on a single persona and get your messaging and content in line with that buyer (even if there are multiple types of buyers in different accounts).

How big is your Annual Contract Value?

If your average deal size isn’t over $160k, then the payback on the tech, time, and people in an account-based selling program is going to have your CAC: LTV ratios out of whack, and your CRO or CEO is going to have heartburn on any and all deals that fall out of the program because the math doesn’t make sense.

With that said, if your beachhead deal sizes are smaller but selling tall, deep, and wide yields an increase in annual contract value that does meet the $160k+ criteria, then you should be focusing on how to get this program started ASAP because that is literally leaving money on the table without a focused strategy to go get it.

What’s your addressable market look like for this type of GTM play?

We’re never fans of a one-size-fits-all approach to anything. If you have a segment of the market that means additional growth, and you know you need to take a focused approach, then an account-based sales development program may fit.

The underlying current in everything account-based is focus. Focus takes time, and that means investment. It also means expectation shifting. If you take the same sales process development approach to an account-based program, you’re going to get meager results but worse than that you’re going to be sadly disappointed when you realize you’ve burned through your segment addressable market for that product or service and turned off people from your brand.

What’s your Buying Council Composition look like?

If you don’t need buy-in from multiple areas around the business then you’re probably not a great fit for account-based sales development. In order for this to work for you, your sellers need to care about how much buying council coverage and engagement occurs as they sell. We call this “softening the dirt” for a great landing and improved sales cycle.

You know this is an issue if your sellers get into a target account and have to have meetings after meeting to expose your brand and what you do to people who have never heard of you. Generally, we’d like to see between 7 and 25 members of buying councils in order for this to be a fit.

What’s the experience level of your sales team?

If your hiring strategy in sales has been to hire senior sellers and your entire sales team has over 10 years of experience and has sold to brands multiple times and you’re expecting them to sell to those same black book relationships for you, then account-based sales development will aid you in that effort.

What is the Ampfactor account-based selling model?

Account-based selling at Ampfactor is rooted in understanding the client personas, their problems and priorities, their desired future states, and their undesired future states. This is key for everything the ADR will do. Their job is to be that front line of where strategy is tested in the market.

Cold outbound emailing, spammy LinkedIn messages, and poor cold call techniques all don’t work because there’s no effort put into understanding the buyer, where they might be, and where they might be trying to get to, and for us at Ampfactor, it’s unacceptable.

So ADRs are focused on 1 thing, getting as much attention as possible. We often start with customer surveys and interviews if your pipeline isn’t already pretty healthy, so we can get new information. Why? because it would probably be the worst idea in the world to take what your teams have already been using and sending out and failing with, and then running it in an account-based marketing and account-based sales development motion (btw-we never do one without the other).

Things we’ll do:

Define your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

In our world, we prioritize list, offer, creative, and in that order. Your target accounts have to be hand selected based on fit and we must have tight criteria for this. If we or you are loose in your definition here, you will decrease the effectiveness of the entire program.

Define your buyer personas, typically we pick 3

In order for you to matter to the people in the buying councils you’re targeting you have to get really smart on the issues they’re dealing with, their priorities, and their problems. If you don’t, you’ll never win their attention and never have the opportunity to get them interested in seeing their world with you in it.

Understand your buyer personas

All the research in the world is nowhere near as good as hearing it from a customer. We specifically focus on understanding the context of where they were when they first knew they had a problem, when did the problem get big enough for them to care about considering a solution, what finally made them go research possible solutions, and then why they didn’t buy from the competition. Our goal is to pin them down to a target account problem maturity level and understand the context around how they progressed away from their current solution, overcame the urge to do nothing or get a bandaid solution, and then finally drive change towards your solution.

Test, test, test!

Now we stand the best chance possible at creating a scalable model for producing meetings with buying council members in accounts that are perfect for our balance sheet. But no plan survives contact with the enemy. So we develop multiple hypotheses and test in paid and outbound channels. First, we test for high attention. We want to see open rates go north of 70% and click-through rates stay above 50% and warm reply rates in the 7 to 15% range.

Finally, we scale

A successful account-based approach in more complicated buying environments needs a variety of content, creative, and activity to scale effectively and account for multiple mediums and channels for awareness and initiating first interactions. Our final, final step will be to increase the number of ADR’s and grow the number of accounts targeted so we are represented in our segment addressable market in force.

What does an Ampfactor sales-developed account look like?

When you’re running an account-based sales development program you care about four things primarily.

  1. What accounts have high buying council engagement coverage AND high buying council engagement quality. This engagement needs to occur multiple times to drive account engagement scores higher and higher as intent spikes on topics relevant to your sale.
    engagement scores higher and higher as intent spikes on topics relevant to your sale.
  2. You’ve delivered multiple pieces of content to that account that frame who you are, how you think, and how you solve enterprise problems. Engagement for engagement’s sake is really no value. We want to ensure we are educating and creating meaningful interest with the attention we get from highly personalized messaging.
    with the attention we get from highly personalized messaging.
  3. What level of efficiency and responsiveness are you able to muster around intent spikes. Whether its third-party or first-party intent data, being the ones who establish the storyline before other brands beat you to it, means the difference between burning sales cycles and leading them.

What are account-based sales development reps accountable for?

The best way to explain this is exactly how we explain it to the ADR’s we hire.

Client Products, Services, and Value Proposition Knowledge: For one of our high-value enterprise clients, you will need to learn everything possible about the client’s services and products. And you’ll need to do this quickly — we expect you to be up-to-speed and ready to start prospecting within three weeks of hire. You will be an expert on the client’s business and be able to passionately speak about how the products or services can make a difference. We expect that you’ll feel as if you’re a member of the client’s team.

High-Value Relationships in Target Accounts: Skillfully build interest and create qualified opportunities with new prospects. Work with the Sales Account-Researcher team to identify relevant prospects in target companies and organize, map and segment these prospects as appropriate. Most importantly, you’ll be responsible for hitting monthly quotas and goals for appropriate ABM KPIs, including pipeline generation, meetings set account engagement and opportunity creation. You will connect with our clients’ prospects across email, phone, chat, and social channels. Finally, you’ll be responsible for nurturing early phase opportunities for future pipeline potential.

Internal and External ABM Team Relationships: We partner with high-growth enterprises, and you’ll need to collaborate across various levels of our partner organizations to deliver value. You’ll work with client account executives, sales leaders, and marketing team members, as well as internally with members across the Ampfactor Marketing Operations team. In addition, you’ll work extensively with an ABM Manager on strategy, timelines, and goals for the client. This is a relationship-building role.

Ampfactor Processes, Procedures, and Tools: Become an expert at using Salesforce, Outreach, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, ZoomInfo, and many other prospecting tools that will help maximize prospecting efforts into target accounts. You will keep exact notes about each activity in our CRM and will track and record all client interactions. If it’s not in Salesforce, it didn’t happen. You’ll also follow detailed Ampfactor procedures to ensure consistency in our operations while working across our teams to improve every facet of our operations. Finally, you’ll invest in your self-development, focusing on the skills and attributes that will make you successful in your core role and get you set for future success.

If we’ve kept your interest until now, you owe it to yourself to get a meeting with us and see how we might implement our model for you.

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Put the power to decide in the hands of those on the front lines.

The very best in Demand Gen and ABM technology enabled service subscriptions for B2B teams.