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‘In one word, what’s the key to being a great ABMer?’

And so the ABM Conference is over for another year. But what a conference it was! With streams on sales enablement, technology, data and insight, and content and campaign execution, it’s fair to say that there’s a lot of things B2B marketers can improve on. But, to really break it down into its simplest terms, we recently asked our speakers this question: ‘in one word, what’s the key to being a great ABMer?’

The replies we received demonstrate the broad mix of both technical skills and personal attributes that any ABMer needs to be truly great at what they do.

And yes, we’ve allowed two or three-word answers in some instances. Who’s checking!?


Kate Owen, director of industry and ABM, Capita

Curiosity. ABM requires a different mindset – you’re moving from thinking in volume of leads to quality of accounts and conversations designed for the customer. Marketers need to ask different questions and put themselves in the shoes of the customer. If you wouldn’t engage with the marketing as a consumer, then it probably isn’t right. The best ABM marketers are the curious people in the room who constantly question and seek out more customer insight to inform their strategies to come up with the big idea that will stand your organisation out from the competition.


Mark Larwood, head of marketing – strategic ABM & advocacy, O2 Telefonica UK

It’s really important that ABMers have that tenacity in making things happen; tenacity in driving something through with a sales team and working with sales teams day-to-day; tenacity in understanding customers; and generally just getting the bit between your teeth and really going for something. Commit to it for the long-term. ABM isn’t about that quick fix in results. It’s about delivering value for the business over a longer-term.

Sales collaboration

Eleanor Pike, international marketing director, McGraw Hill

The key to being a great ABMer is sales collaboration. Working as a team with sales is required to identify target accounts, craft customised campaigns and to move accounts through the pipeline. Improved results in ABM are always as a result of improved teamwork and account alignment between sales and marketing in my opinion.


Yvonne Deegan, director – integrated marketing, Velo

Great ABMers really understand sales. That means knowing, understanding and appreciating every single step of the sales cycle, the lead times, the buying triggers, the roadblocks, the contract terms, the renewal journeys and using all of this in the formation, review and analysis of their ABM programmes. 

It’s not surprising for me to see that a lot of today’s top ABMers have a background in sales to some extent. I think ABMers need to be as embedded and invested in the sales process as the sales teams.


Nancy Harlan, senior director, strategic account marketing, Qlik

Passion to be 100% integrated into the sales cycle and sales team. Passion to work closely with the customer success organisation and with customers directly. An ABMer has to be a competent marketer, but it’s their passion to want to help drive the sale that makes them different.


Sangram Vajre, co-founder, Terminus

The best ABMers know how to drive business outcomes over vanity metrics by owning the go-to-market experience.


Andrea Clatworthy, global head of ABM, Fujitsu

Being an ABMer, in a one:one context, is akin to being the CMO of your organisation for that customer. For success, you need to be able to turn your hand to many things, not only being an awesome marketer and therefore all of what that involves, but also being able to skilfully stakeholder manage sales and account manager colleagues, plus orchestrate the rest of your marketing organisation so that they understand what you are trying to achieve and can support you. To do all of that, you have to really want to do it. And to do it well, you need enthusiasm.


Kaisa Valakari, campaign & demand operations manager, Ericsson

A great ABMer is always thinking about what contributes to revenue. ABM experts master the ABM strategy, and are familiar with the company portfolio and customer pain points. They have the channel and technology expertise to plan and execute ABM campaigns in the most relevant channels to target accounts. With good organisational and communication skills, this person is an asset for every company – the glue between marketing and sales that helps joined account planning.

Do your best

Shane Redding, founder, Think Direct

To quote Maya Angelou: ‘Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.’ How? By continually learning, which is why events like the ABM Conference are so important.


Renaye Edwards, co-founder & marketing account director, Digital Radish

Great ABMers need to be tenacious. ABM has really put marketeers in the driving seat. Gone are the days of working to the demands of the sales team, having to participate in some obscure event in the middle of Las Vegas just so they can have their yearly jolly. The roles have reversed, and this is our time to take ownership of both the numbers and the strategy. To be bold, be tenacious and lead with your instincts. ABM is a tried and tested method that gives us the confidence to thrive.

Context matters

Tim Riesterer, chief strategy officer, Corporate Visions

Acquisition is different to expansion. Instead of using the same approach for every message, consider your buyer’s situation and tailor your approach to match their motivations in that moment. 

Corporate Visions research shows that when acquiring new customers, you need to tell a disruptive story that shows them how their current situation is unsafe and unsustainable. By not changing, they’re at greater risk of not achieving their objectives.

In customer retention and expansion situations, you need to take the opposite approach and reinforce the relationship. Our studies show that disruptive messages backfire with existing customers, increasing the risk that they’ll shop around.


Phil Gosney, head of global marketing and product management, Maersk Drilling

Curiosity. Don’t assume that you know your customer well just because you have worked with them for a long time or have some great individual relationships. ABM thinking – specifically choosing the accounts, researching them and looking hard at your value proposition to them – has always uncovered some significant blind spots when we have done it. And where there is a blind spot, there is an opportunity to improve customer experience and increase your revenues!


David van Schaick, CMO, The Marketing Practice

See the world from the customer’s point of view (that’s the AB part). Then use marketing skills like positioning to give yourself an advantage (that’s the M part). Then you need great execution to open doors, minds and hearts to your cause (and that’s still the hardest part!).


Kirsty Dawe, CEO, Webeo

Insight is the most powerful word in ABM. It’s the one single catalyst for creativity which ensures your campaign delivers. Without insight, ABM is just an expensive way to reach valued decision-makers without showing them what they really mean to you. More importantly, insight ensures you are focusing your energy on the right ABM targets. The process of gathering insight ensures you build true a understanding of your prospects and supports sales and marketing alignment – one of the major benefits of ABM. I would commit 50% of your ABM planning time here.


David Reid, client partner, Transmission

This keyword has two hats. Firstly, being able to pull many parts of an organisation together to focus on a common goal, integrating the siloed divisions and capabilities and using ABM as the driver for business change and overall marketing performance. Secondly, not relying on one source of activation to reach your target audience, and recognising you have to leverage a blend of activation strategies to engage your intended target.


Barry Richards, planning and strategy director, Transmission

ABMers need to wear many hats to be truly great. Here are three big ones, but by no means are they the only ones. Innovation: tech is evolving at a pace, and we should be trialling new platforms and tech to deliver better experiences. Insight: you need to understand the account and the stakeholders to drive any kind of customisation – the more you know the better you can tailor. Orchestrate: it’s one strategic approach to accounts for the whole organisation, so time to align!


Charlie Nicholson, head of planning, Really B2B

Up to date insight is essential in our rapidly changing world. Where demand is shifting so rapidly, it is critical to factor in live intent insights to find companies in market. Within those companies, understanding their current challenges and any organisational structures shifts will enable the right contact to be targeted with the right message.


Alisha Lyndon, founder & CEO, Momentum ABM

Great ABMers are always learning, finding inspiration in the success of others. They embrace challenges that come with tough-to-crack accounts. They’re persistent in aligning internal teams. They’re not put off by the discipline and effort needed to grow valuable relationships. They take all available data on accounts and use it to constantly improve their approach and as a result they achieve stronger results.


Rossa Shanks, CMO, Dow Jones

Empathy is the most underrated attribute of any leader or marketer and, of course, of any ABMer. At its core, ABM is about creating relevant, personalised experiences for the accounts you care about (be they your ideal prospects or current customers). Being empathetic helps you understand a customer’s needs, putting yourself in their shoes. It also helps you appreciate and understand the roles of other departments within your organisation, helping alignment and collaboration efforts. The bottom line is that you cannot be customer-centric without empathy, nor can you create great relationships with your counterparts in other departments.


Andy Bacon, strategic marketing consultant, ABM specialist, B2B Marketing

ABM demands a broad range of both marketing and interpersonal skills.

Strong leadership

: a firm anchor by someone who knows their way round the organisation.

Robust and strong on their feet:

sales and marketing alignment is the essential prerequisite. To build team trust, enthusiasm and commitment requires effective communication, negotiation and persuasive skills.


determination and attention to detail

to deep dive into the data and intimately understand how existing business relationships could work better, how customers think and why they buy.

Strategically marketing savvy

to deliver tangible value to sales where it really matters.

Won’t take no for an answer.


Peter O’Neill, lead analyst, B2B Marketing

Being a great ABMer needs long-term strategic thinking that looks beyond the confines of the marketing function. It takes a certain mindset to be an ABMer, because ABM should be more than marketing. This includes the ability to rally a group of individuals with sometimes competing personal objectives around a central goal. In fact, the ability to develop and nurture internal relationships is just as crucial as building external ones with clients and prospects. The purpose of ABM is to change the way you approach customers and prospects, so, by definition, you’ve got to be open and willing to try new tactics.


Christa Norton, head of industry and ABM, Capita

For me, the key to being a great ABMer is the scale of insight that marketing can bring. A good account team will already know the inside workings of a customer account, and will have built close relationships with decision-makers. Where ABMers can add real value is to extend that depth of knowledge across industry trends, functional trends, competitor activity, customer experience and sentiment. We can help answer the unknowns and, by doing this, we can demonstrate to the customer not just that we understand them, but that we bring a new and informed perspective to the table.


Amie Stankiste, senior marketing director, S&P Global Market Intelligence

From the outset of any ABM strategy, creating internal advocates will help to set expectations and drive engagement across large organisations. This reduces internal barriers and increases buy-in for ABM. Starting with senior management, marketing should find every opportunity to showcase the potential impact of an ABM strategy, ideally through showcasing successful ABM examples. Once senior management are supportive, engaging teams, such as sales and product, becomes a lot easier. Find the champions across different functions, and then provide them with the tools to be strong advocates and celebrate ABM wins. Once you make your customers ABM advocates through delivering high value initiatives, then you’re really winning at ABM.


Jenny Leighton, account director, The Marketing Practice


A great ABMer should act as the CMO for the account that they’re marketing into. They are responsible for determining which marketing activity from across the organisation will be the most effective, and then orchestrating it into a joined up customer journey that delivers value for that customer. They should also be responsible for orchestrating the engagement of different stakeholders across the organisation in order to listen and understand the current situation, dive deeper into the potential opportunities and provide recommendations to achieve shared goals and objectives.


Bev Burgess, senior advisor and author

ABMers need empathy… especially now. A good ABMer is able to walk in the shoes of their client or prospect to develop new insights about how the pandemic is affecting their business and the support they need to achieve their goals. Strong ABMers also understand what drives the sales and account managers they are working with, and how to enable them in this virtual world so that they too are successful. And finally, great ABMers know what their own business leaders are focused on, and work to deliver those business outcomes with ABM.

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