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How to get your sales team to love ABM

5 tips that’ll make your ABM campaigns way better and your life as a marketer a lot easier

For any account-based marketing initiative to be successful, it’s essential that sales and marketing collaborate right from the start: because let’s face it, never before has marketing been this useful for sales - and vice versa. It’s a no-brainer - building a cross-departmental team for your ABM campaign will improve the quality of everything you do: you’ll select the most promising accounts; establish better criteria for opportunity qualification; create content based on the types of insights that only salespeople have access to; and you’ll smoothly hand over opportunities and follow up with them. Win-win, right?

The sales/marketing chasm

The problem is: I’ve hardly ever seen it happen. And that’s because, by definition, account-based marketing projects tend to originate in the marketing team. And marketers are simply not accustomed to consulting sales; by the time they realise they need the sales team’s involvement, it may already be too late to get them on board.

Even when marketing does reach out to sales, they can be difficult to convince. In organisations where sales and marketing are completely separate, sales have often developed a fair bit of scepticism towards any ideas that come out of marketing.

This is ridiculous. It’s 2018, and we should all by now have realised that we’re ultimately trying to do the same thing. So, how do we get around the age-old chasm?

Here are five tips that’ll help you work more closely with your sales team, secure their support, and make your new ABM initiative more successful. (Trust me. I’ve seen it happen.) 

 

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Tip #1: Get some salespeople into that first meeting

From the moment you’re considering ABM, you should really get a few interested people from the sales team (you’ll know who they are) around the table, for two essential reasons

  • They need to understand the goals. ABM works so well in complex sales processes because there isn’t just one buyer. The aim of any well-run ABM campaign is to engage as many decision-makers and influencers in the nurture process as possible. It’s worth going through these fundamentals, as this is still new to many teams.
  • They need to understand the process. ABM is all about a deeper level of engagement before you pick up the phone to your prospect. That means both sales and marketing will have to adjust their existing touch points, scoring models, content frameworks and engagement tactics. (It’d be crazy not to chat through how this changes your everyday work!)

For all of that to happen, sales need to be there with you at the initial meetings and discussions, have access to the same case studies and information as your team, and attend the same events about ABM that you do.

Tip #2: Address the sales team’s objections

True buy-in comes with success, but you can only achieve that after you’ve run a trial project. Before you get that project started, you should be ready to address any objections the sales team have. Take their worries seriously, and show that you’re working towards the same goals. Here are three common ones:

Objection: “We’ll get fewer opportunities” 
How to address it: It’s true that ABM usually focuses on fewer opportunities, but every single one that you’ll hand over to sales will be highly-qualified; that means they won’t be wasting time on poor, unqualified leads anymore.

Objection: “It’s super complex and won’t work”
How to address it: ABM is a proven strategy with high ROI; share case studies and statistics of successful ABM initiatives in industries that are relevant to your project. This will help you demonstrate how and why it works, and create a business case.

Objection: “We don’t have enough time/resources”
How to address it: Run a pilot project, and make it just big enough for your team to handle; it’s usually better to deliver a smaller project in collaboration with sales than to push something bigger without them.

Resist the temptation to start a project without sales being onboard. You might think that they'll come around once they start receiving high-quality opportunities – but this approach has a significant problem: without the support of sales, those high-quality opportunities are much less likely to arrive. Your sales team’s unique insight into the fears and needs of your target clients is an essential ingredient in your success.

Tip #3: Give them content they can use

The term account-based marketing is misleading; it’s not about marketing, it’s about creating revenue. An ABM approach puts marketing in its proper place: supporting sales so that they can sign more and better clients. 

Ask your sales team what specific assets they need to help them close specific accounts. How helpful would it be if they had a case study, a whitepaper or an article that addresses the specific issues and problems that a prospect was experiencing in their business?

Every salesperson I’ve spoken to is keen to have highly-targeted assets to support them; the problem is that sales and marketing often disagree on what counts as useful. Creating assets that sales feel they can use straight away, and guiding them to existing material (that they may not even know about) is a surefire way for marketing to make friends with sales.  Check in regularly with your buddies in sales to get their feedback - after all, they’re your ear on the ground. You may be able to pull data on which content works with your prospects and what doesn’t. Sales can help you understand why.

Tip #4: Keep up collaboration throughout the project

A successful ABM campaign requires sales input throughout the process; it simply won’t work without it. The sales team should be involved in identifying accounts, planning content strategies, and creating specific assets. Without their unique client knowledge, you are working in the dark. 

By creating a series of regular strategy meetings between sales and marketing, you will not only increase the chances of success of your project, but you will also vastly increase the buy-in from the sales team. By working together regularly, you will break down barriers between the teams – you won’t be sales and marketing, you will be the ABM team.

Tip #5: Share the success

Marketing teams love to accept awards and plaudits for well-run campaigns – who wouldn’t? However, don’t forget that an ABM campaign is impossible without sales – any success is as much theirs as yours. When you share that success, as well as the process, you will get true buy-in from the sales team.

If you have any other tips on aligning sales and marketing around ABM, I’d love to hear about them. Comment below, or get in touch.