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How Account Based Marketing Strategies Promote Business Efficiency

The past couple of years have been challenging for salespeople; due to factors such as rising inflation, consumers have been forced to be more selective with their purchases, but sales professionals have been facing the same quotas nonetheless. A 2023 Salesforce report found that 72% of salespeople weren’t expecting to hit their annual quotas for that year, and some of them turned out to be correct. 

Repvue data demonstrates a persistent downward trend in the percentage of salespeople in the tech industry who are able to hit their quotas. In Q3 2023, only 42.8% of tech sales reps hit their quotas, compared to 51.1% in Q3 2022. And in a QuotaPath report on “Insights from 450+ Finance, RevOps, and Sales Leaders”, 91% of leaders were falling short of their sales goals for 2023.

Though a 100% (or even 75%) sales quota attainment is a tall order in the best of circumstances, the data shows a notable decline in sales performance, which is contributing to relatively low morale for salespeople. While inflation is a factor, it doesn’t fully explain why sales teams are falling behind. What is the source of these difficulties?

Jump to:

Why can’t salespeople reach their goals?
What can leaders do to support sales and boost revenue?
What is account based marketing?
What are the benefits of an account based marketing strategy?
How do you structure an account based marketing strategy?
How to boost your prospecting efforts

Why are sales professionals unable to reach their goals?

Sales teams are facing a serious productivity issue. Sales reps only spend an average of 28% of their week selling because they’re burdened by tool management and administrative work like data entry. Sales teams use an average of 10 tools to close deals, which can lead to confusion and scattered data, causing reps to spend more time searching for and organizing data than actually connecting with prospects.

According to HubSpot’s 2024 Sales Trends Report, 54% of surveyed sales professionals said that selling has been harder this year than in previous years due to factors such as inflation, stiff competition, and a lack of high-quality leads. Salespeople are facing increasing difficulties when it comes to cutting through the competition and connecting with viable prospects.

Per LinkedIn, the average conversion rate of cold calls is around 2%. To compensate for this low rate, some studies have recommended that salespeople average 60 cold calls a day in order to hit their quotas. But is more really better in the context of prospecting, or should sales professionals focus on quality over quantity?

"Spray and pray” sales methods, which involve mass cold calling campaigns and minimal targeting, are falling out of favor. Closing deals and retaining customers today requires sales reps to focus on building rapport with leads and maintaining strong relationships with clients. In order to successfully book meetings with prospects, sales teams need to increase the number of follow-up calls they make, rather than spending more and more hours on outbound cold calls.

According to Invesp, 60% of customers say no four times before saying yes, and 80% of sales require five follow-up calls, indicating that salespeople need to be persistent and invest significant time into prospecting in order to close.

Responding quickly to inbound inquiries is also key. Harvard Business Review has reported a 7x increase in lead qualification rates when sales reps replied to a customer query within 60 minutes, compared to reps that waited more than an hour to reach out.

Team silos, especially silos between sales and marketing teams, affect sales performance as well. In HubSpot’s 2024 State of Marketing report, only 5% of surveyed salespeople said leads they received from marketing were very high quality. This may point to a disconnect between what sales and marketing consider ideal prospects, and result in salespeople wasting time pursuing unqualified leads.

So, what can leaders do?

It takes more work than ever to cut through the competition, yet the software and strategies meant to help sales professionals seem to instead be bogging them down. Rather than pushing for more and more daily cold calls, the primary focus for sales managers and for organizations as a whole should be maintaining operational efficiency.

Sales managers should look to consolidate their tech stacks as much as possible, and work to adopt efficiency-focused strategies, such as Account Based Marketing (ABM).

ABM is made to cut down on wasted time by enabling sales reps to focus the majority of their time and energy on pursuing best-fit leads and high-value accounts. How does this strategy refocus the efforts of sales reps, and how can organizations implement it?

What is Account Based Marketing (ABM)?

In short, ABM is a strategic approach in business that focuses sales and marketing resources on targeting high-value accounts. ABM is normally used by companies targeting B2B buyers. The ultimate goal of ABM is to maximize profits through strong relationship building.

Buyers today are looking for companies that will provide them with personalized attention. Salespeople are increasingly needing to adopt “consultant” type roles, guiding prospects through the sales process and displaying a mastery of their product and service offerings. Approaches involving canned cold outreach campaigns, pressure on leads to close quickly, and lack of attention given to customers post-purchase are surefire ways to lower your conversion rate and increase customer churn.

ABM offers a way for companies to exceed their prospects’ and customers’ expectations by creating personalized buying experiences, building and maintaining productive relationships with target accounts, and generally improving the customer experience in order to increase customer acquisition.

A core tenet of this business strategy involves making your clients feel valued, but sales isn’t the only team responsible for managing ABM. In order for ABM to work, marketing must be looped in as well, to ensure lead generation campaigns are targeting the types of leads that are most likely to convert. Sales and marketing need to be aligned on their goals and work together to streamline the sales cycle and drive revenue growth.

Benefits of an account based marketing strategy

Cutting out inefficiencies in the sales process is crucial for sustainable growth, especially during difficult economic climates. This is why ABM is emerging as a popular growth strategy - it helps businesses eliminate hours of wasted time and allocate valuable resources to processes that directly drive revenue and build the foundation for future success.

ABM tactics afford businesses numerous benefits. Let’s dive into the main ones.

Align marketing and sales

A surprisingly insidious source of delays in the sales process is a lack of communication between marketing and sales teams. Companies that leave those two teams siloed tend to encounter inefficiencies and miscommunications. Marketing and sales may have differing roles, but their end goal is the same: Engage qualified leads to drive revenue growth. This goal can’t be met if the two teams don’t agree on what your company’s best-fit leads are.

Per Gleanster Research, only 25% of marketing-generated leads are of a high enough quality to immediately advance to sales. Yet the marketing-to-sales handoff is often not discerning enough; 61% of B2B marketers send all leads directly to sales.  

For both teams to understand your company’s best-fit leads, all team members need access to information from both sides of the conversion process. Marketing needs to know what percentage of marketing qualified leads (MQL) that they hand over to sales end up converting. They also need to know the characteristics of the leads that do convert. In addition, marketing teams need to communicate to sales what campaigns they’re running on what platforms.

Sales, on the other hand, needs to keep track of conversion data and follow up on MQLs in a timely fashion.

Most importantly, both sales and marketing need to have access to a single source of truth - a digital space where pertinent customer data from all software converges and is stored for easy access. Switching to an all-in-one CRM with both marketing and sales features like HubSpot, or using an integrated reporting dashboard that pulls data from multiple systems, will allow both teams to monitor their progress towards shared goals, and adjust their methodologies accordingly.

Deliver consistently excellent customer experiences

When marketing and sales are honing in on the same ideal customer profile, your leads and customers will benefit in multiple ways.

  • Personalized, relevant marketing content. Your teams will know what type of content your qualified leads interact with, what platforms they frequent to find content, and when they visit said platforms. Thus, your company’s marketing content will reach more qualified leads. It will also be easier to personalize email marketing content for specific customer segments.
  • Consistent sales interactions. No matter where in the sales process a lead or customer is, they’ll always be able to count on a consistent experience when interacting with your sales team. If a lead gets differing answers to a question depending on which salesperson they ask, they may be less likely to trust your company.

Customers value consistency; according to a survey by PwC, 48% of consumers say consistency and reliability in a brand’s services is a significant factor in whether they’ll remain loyal to that brand. 

Easily measure ROI

Integrated customer data systems make it easier to track the outcome of your campaigns, and see exactly how your allocated time and resources pan out. With ABM, not only are you able to see overall performance, but also how much value each individual account provides.

Granular data provides excellent fodder for future strategies.

Streamline your sales cycle

Since B2B sales tend to take longer on average, it’s vital to speed up the process as much as possible. Salespeople abiding by an ABM strategy are able to pour all their energy into the highest-value accounts, rather than spreading themselves thin over several accounts less likely to convert.

With ABM, your sales team will know not only who their best-fit customers are, but also what strategies are most effective for getting them to close. This means less trial and error and higher close rates.

What does an account based marketing strategy consist of?

We could talk about the benefits all day, but how do you actually build an ABM strategy?

There are certain foundational elements required to kickstart every ABM strategy and keep it running. The following are some key account based marketing tactics.

Organizational alignment

Every member of your marketing and sales teams, including C-Suite executives, need to be on board with ABM, committed to the process, and settled on an ABM budget. All team members should understand what the purpose of an ABM strategy is, and how their progress will be measured via KPIs.

Sales and marketing should meet to go over any discrepancies between MQLs and SQLs, so both teams can focus their energy on high-value accounts. A single source of truth should also be established, so both teams know where to go to find customer data.

Delegate or hire ABM managers

Next, you’ll need to decide who is accountable for enforcing ABM processes. This can mean creating an ABM “task force” with one or two members of your sales and marketing teams, or, if you have the budget and a large number of employees, hire a sales operations professional to oversee the new strategy.

The structure that’s best for you depends on the size of your team. In general, you can use the rule of 10s: One marketer can stay aligned with up to 10 salespeople, and salespeople can manage up to 10 accounts. The more team members you have, the larger a task force you’ll need.

No matter what, both sales and marketing should be heavily involved in your company’s ABM strategy, both in terms of day-to-day operations and big-picture oversight. 

Pick your target accounts

Sales and marketing should look through past performance data to determine which current and future accounts to target. Some factors to consider include:

  • The budget and spending patterns of your highest-value accounts.
  • The MQL-SQL conversion rate.
  • The demographic and psychographic characteristics of leads that convert.
  • High-value leads that are currently in your sales cycle but have yet to convert.

Marketing and sales need to achieve alignment when it comes to the BANT of SQLs:

  • B - Budget. How much is the prospect willing and able to spend?
  • A - Authority. Who makes the ultimate decision, and what level of authority is your sales team targeting? The target account could be one of many decision makers, an employee that passes the salesperson up the chain, or the singular person that ultimately makes the purchase.
  • N - Need. Does the prospect truly need your product or service, and if so, how?
  • T - Timeline. How much time will the prospect need to make a decision?

Once you’ve chosen your target accounts, your best way forward is to use the inbound methodology to attract new high-value contacts. This will involve creating organic and paid media content that addresses the pain points of your target audience, and promoting it on the platforms your audience frequents. Personalized marketing efforts are a highly effective way to engage new target accounts.

Delight your leads throughout the sales process

Connecting with your highest-value leads requires a focused and targeted approach. Prospecting is considered to be one of the most important yet difficult parts of a sales professional’s job. 42% of sales reps consider prospecting to be the hardest part of their job, as opposed to closing or qualifying.

For a refresher course on prospecting, download our free Complete Guide to Sales Prospecting. In it, you’ll find tips on how to employ a mix of inbound and outbound tactics to build rapport with leads and close more deals.