ABM Success: Aligning Sales and Marketing Teams

August 31, 2016 by Suma EP

Account based marketing (ABM) is now accessible to mid-size B2B companies. That is indeed great news, as it gives these companies the right tools to tap into large accounts in meaningful ways at scale. But to ensure ABM success, you need to get the sales and online marketing teams to be fully aligned. They have to be committed to each other’s (and the company’s) success. Here are some things that will enable this:

Agree upon the goals

Both sales and marketing teams now need to be working on the same goals broadly, though the sales team will have the goals etched out in greater details of revenue, geography, type of service to be sold, and so on. But both teams have to agree that this is the specific number we are all after. The CEO of the company or the steward of the ABM initiative should ensure this alignment.

Change ways of working

The days of working in silos are over. So online marketing and sales teams have to be talking to each other a lot more,  communicating far more, answering each other’s queries a lot more.

One key change for digital marketing teams would be to change their focus from a larger (inbound or otherwise) marketing perspective to sharper specific personas being reached out through ABM. So the need to now understand the persona, her business and challenges in greater detail become critical. Where will they get this information? From the sales team, of course. But once a quarter email exchange won’t help in this. A fortnightly catch-up on new insights and requirements, would be needed; maybe oftener in some cases.

For the sales team too, a mindset change has to come about. So far many of them would have tried many ways to engage with prospects, but they have had little data or analytics to get insights into a prospect’s behavior. And very often because of target pressures, one ends up sending more cold emails than one would even want to. In the hope of getting a new lead.

Marketing content would try a more indirect approach, focused on building trust and visibility to ease a prospect into the brand story. So by design, marketing works on a long-term strategy, which involves experimenting, learning and modifiying. Sales teams usually work in a far more urgent mode so it will take them a while to align to this approach.

The best approaches that work both for the sales and marketing team would involve identifying a middle path, a different messaging for lower hanging fruits and something else for a longer term approach. And that can be worked out through a good brainstorming with both teams in the room. As the team starts registering quick wins, the buy-in for ABM success is built.


Get used to technology

If the sales team is comfortable with their good old mail clients, that has to change. If the digital marketing team has worked with good mail platforms but with limited capabilities they should now leapfrog to platforms that give them more detail, more relevant data, better features for targeting.

Usually marketing technologists and inside sales people well versed in mailing platforms find it easier to make the leap. However, a sizeable part of the sales force will not find it easy to move to new marketing automation platforms. So teams have to gear up for training, re-training, being handheld and so on. This will enable everyone to have a good grip on the features to exploit to help them hit their targets while adhering to good email etiquette.

Clear misconceptions

Since ABM brings in a more collaborative way of working which might not have existed before, expect a lot of misconceptions or even miscommunication to happen. But keeping an eye on this and resolving them as they come up without blaming anyone would work in the interests of all. For example, when someone from the marketing team makes a demand from a sales person to share a database for running targeted ads, the sales person may mistake it for the marketing team wanting to run an email campaign on his database. This is just a simple misunderstanding. And it is quickly solved on a phone call. It may be best to have a steward or a champion for the initiative who can step in and resolve stuff quickly.

The faster the sales and digital marketing teams build trust with each other, the better it is for the sales of the company, and quicker the chance of ABM success.

These are some of the insights we have been getting as we run ABM campaigns for our clients. What are your insights of embarking on ABM?