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How to run a successful ABM workshop with sales

Zoe Hominick, head of business marketing at O2, shares some tips for effective sales and marketing alignment for ABM.

ABM is the most effective tool for marketers to generate sales pipeline. But it won’t succeed if the sales team aren’t engaged and feeding their insight into the programme.

So perhaps the most important part of the entire ABM process is the kick-off workshop. It’s vital to get it right first time, and establish a repeatable model as you scale your ABM. In my experience, that involves three things: preparation, engagement, and clarity.


This doesn’t just mean having a clear agenda for the workshop. Everyone invited needs to understand the objective and output for the session, and to have read the account plans in advance – otherwise you’ll waste time regurgitating the basic context.

Be clear about the roles and responsibilities upfront, agree what you need from each person in the room, and set a clear charter from the beginning.

ABM programmes

will only be successful if there’s commitment from all. ABM should not be about order-taking or administration; it’s about adding value to customer engagements.

Agree the role of the

ABM programme

in advance, to ensure the marketing investment is making a measurable difference beyond the existing account plan. It’s so easy to get excited about the possibilities an account presents, but it’s important to stay realistic: what will have the biggest impact and what can be achieved in the time and budget available?


In the workshop itself, you need to make it engaging for all the attendees – otherwise you’ll lose the momentum and excitement you’ve worked so hard to build beforehand. Don’t fall victim to ‘death by PowerPoint’ – limit your slides and use them only as a visual aid where absolutely necessary, such as introductions.

Around 80% of the workshop should be a free-flowing conversation with key stakeholders within the account from sales to delivery, drawing out the insight and knowledge in a more informal environment. Take the time to examine the existing relationships with the account, key contacts and prospects, organisation structure and white space, competitor relations, and shared brand values. Avoid a strict question-and-answer format – tap into the expertise of those who know the accounts inside-out, this is the time to let them share their knowledge in their own words. This approach also helps sales feel like their input is appreciated, and sets the collaborative tone for the rest of the programme.


You want to get all the relevant information out of this one workshop, so you’re not chasing the team for details later. So make sure to challenge the thinking and expect to have your thinking pushed too. Everyone will have assumptions about the best approach – try to listen and keep an open mind, and encourage others to do the same.

If you ask a question and don’t get an answer, keep asking. The workshop is the chance to really get under the skin of an account. If a question is being evaded or no one knows the answer, there might be a good reason which you need to be aware of, so it doesn’t throw a spanner in the works later.

And finally, make sure someone in the room is nominated as the customer champion. They should take the customer’s view on everything. Imagine they’ve received the

ABM materials

: so what? What’s in it for me? What’s in it for my stakeholders? What’s in it for my staff?

Before everyone leaves the room, ensure that the initial objective for the account is still realistic given all the exploration and that everyone is bought into it.

Take-away points:

  1. Send out homework ahead of the workshop – so all are informed before you arrive.
  2. Ditch the slide deck – have an open conversation, instead of reading off a screen.
  3. Ask tough questions – make sure you dig deep and get all the information you need, first time.

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