Account-based selling (ABS) is one of the hottest B2B sales trends in 2016, and it doesn’t show signs of slowing down any time soon. It is changing sales processes and the way that sales teams and individual reps sell. Let’s take a look at what exactly account-based selling is, what is driving this trend, and how sales leaders can use sales enablement to help execute a successful ABS strategy within their organization.
What is Account-Based Selling?
Account-based selling is a B2B sales model that uses an account-based approach (rather than lead-based or contact-based approach) to predict which companies have the greatest likelihood of purchasing. Sales professionals, from inside sales reps to account executives, focus on a set of highly-targeted, high-value accounts and place all of their efforts into converting them to customers. It’s about talking to the right people with the right campaigns, messaging, and content at the right time.
This strategy places quality over quantity, as opposed to a one-size-fits all approach that prioritizes high volume activities such as cold calling and mass emailing. Instead, sales is able to be methodical, maximize their efforts, and extract the most value from their sales activities. This more strategic approach increases effectiveness since prospects throughout the company are being hit via multiple channels and are (ideally) conducting internal conversations.
According to Sales Hacker, an account-based sales approach generates higher win-rates, shorter deal cycles, and larger deal sizes, as well as increases sales efficiency and productivity.
What is Driving Account-Based Selling?
While the basic tenets of account-based selling have been around for many years, this sales strategy has become popular recently because of several factors at play in the B2B sales space.
Increasing Complexity in the B2B Purchase Process
Account-based selling easily accommodates the challenges and complexities of the modern buyer’s journey. The B2B selling space has been evolving, with the balance of power in the purchase process shifting from the vendor to the buyer. At the same time, B2B sales have become more complex as more decision-makers become involved in the buying decision. According to a 2015 study from CEB, an average of 5.4 decision makers from various departments in the organization have to sign off on each purchase. This scenario of the consensus sale means that it is more important now than ever before to nurture multiple contacts across the company. Engaging multiple decision-makers within an organization also increases the rep’s likelihood of connecting, turning the account into an opportunity, and closing a deal.
The Rise of the Sales Stack
But just as the business world is changing, as must the sales execution. While ABS has been around for a while, it has become more buzz-worthy recently as technology enables a much more efficient and effective approach. Sales technology has come a long way in the past few decades. These technological shifts are disrupting the sales process and the way that reps engage and communicate with prospects, customers, coworkers, and the world at large. Although ABS often reduces the number of points of contact, the right tools are still required to scale appropriately and drive company growth. A successful account-based selling strategy requires leveraging the right technology to enable sales teams to work faster, smarter, and more efficiently. As LeanData says, “Account-based selling brings science to the world of sales”.
Account-Based Selling With Sales Enablement
A sales enablement tool makes it possible to successfully execute an account-based sales strategy and scale it within an organization. Read ahead to learn 5 key areas where a sales enablement tool adds value to the sales process.
Enable and Coach Sales Reps
With such a targeted program and with high-value prospects at hand, sales reps need to know what actions to take next in order to continue targeting the account and advancing the opportunity. They also often need direction in relationship management and guidance in balancing quantity vs quality.
Tools such as playbooks allow sales leaders to provide the just-in-time coaching that is key in ensuring reps have the information and instruction they need to use content effectively in their engagements and progress prospects from one stage to the next.
Add Value with Relevant Content
A key to account-based selling success is the ability for reps to customize and tailor their approach. B2B buyers expect an individualized purchase process and solution that takes into consideration their unique challenges and priorities. It is imperative that reps know who the audience is and how to best tailor the sales process for relevance and value. After identifying the right people at the right accounts, reps need to engage the prospects with relevant content that is appropriate to their stage in the purchase process and that speaks to their pain points. Personalized and appropriate messaging and content are how reps will get the attention of key decision makers and boost sales engagement. Indeed, an Aberdeen survey shows that 75% of B2B customers prefer an account-based approach because of the personalization.
A sales enablement tools supports this activity by recommending the best content based on sales situation right in the CRM and email. And it enables the sales force to execute at scale.
Build Trusting Relationships
ABS is less about selling product and more about selling value. And an account-based sales approach allows sales reps the time to build those trusted relationships where they truly understand the needs and challenges of the prospect and can offer relevant, valuable content and insights toward identifying a solution. Sales reps can position themselves as advisors and resources, providing prospects with the right content to make an informed purchase decision and feel confident that they made the right one. This tactic also helps sales reps to identify and leverage their internal champion who can help to promote the product/service amongst other decision-makers and, hopefully, advance the deal.
Improve Departmental Alignment
An account-based approach isn’t a sales-specific or marketing-specific initiative; it is a comprehensive, organization-wide strategy. Thus, a successful account-based sales strategy requires alignment with sales, marketing, operations, and even customer success to collaboratively identify, nurture, and close deals.
With a sales enablement tool, each team is working in-step with the others, with a unified approach, shared goals, and a built-in feedback loop as to what works and what doesn’t. Marketing can arm the sales team with the latest content, research, industry info, and messaging; sales can leverage marketing’s resources to deliver timely and relevant content to accounts.
Measure Goals and Refine Strategy
With an account-based selling approach, sales activities are performed at the account level. This makes it easier for sales leaders to track activity, get an idea of what’s working and what’s not, and identify areas for improvement since there is less en masse, noisy activity and more strategic endeavors. Sales leaders have insights, visibility, and control over rep activity, as well as improved funnel and forecasting accuracy (i.e. on the lead level, one person could be kicking tires and leading the rep on, when it’s a solid ‘no’ from the rest of the organization).
A sales enablement tool has dashboards and metrics that help organizations determine which factors advance sales throughout the sales cycle and optimize sales processes. This means that organizations can use data-driven decision-making to meaningfully refine their strategy and continually improve.