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A quick guide to account-based sales

Riya Uppal

Although the account-based sales model has been here for a long time now, its popularity has consistently increased over the last few years.

But, what exactly is it? Is it an ideal strategy for you? How do you apply it?

Let us explore these questions in detail.

What is Account-Based Sales?

Account-based sales (ABS) is a strategic sales model in which organisations invest significant resources in pursuing highly targeted accounts.

Account-based sales is a multi-touch, multi-channel strategy carried across the entire company to pursue a target number of these high-value accounts. As this is usually more taxing than targeting individual leads, it’s better to have all your teams working together to close Account-based sales deals. Ideally, marketing and sales work together to close these accounts and customer success delivers a custom onboarding experience. Moving forward, account managers and marketers work collaboratively to upsell and cross-sell the accounts.

This hyper-personalised approach is ideal for high-ticket B2B sales as it increases the chances of sales conversions.

What is Account-based marketing?

Account-based marketing and Account-based sales go hand in hand and form the perfect solution for collaboratively going after high-value accounts with speed and precision.

Account-based marketing focuses on creating content and messaging that fits your target accounts, rather than casting a wide net for multiple leads at once. You identify the businesses that would be an ideal fit for your solution and market yourself directly to them based on their pain points.

The account-based approach needs your sales and marketing teams to work together in alignment with technology that executes a cohesive, detailed strategy. The process involves first identifying key decision-makers, then targeting them with personalised sales outreach.

The benefits of account-based sales

There are numerous advantages to taking an Account-based sales approach. Here are some key ones:

1. Increased conversion rates with personalisation

Targeting high-value accounts allows for more time researching and creating highly personalised messaging for a higher close rate. Today, personalisation in your outreach is table stakes and account-based sales one-ups it by providing context to content as you target individual accounts. With a personalised outreach approach to multiple contacts at a company, you increase chances of sales conversions.

2. Easier performance tracking

When you sell to multiple-stakeholders with Account-based sales, you can also diversify your KPIs to more than just open rates. You can track Target account coverage (how many contacts per company you reached out to) and engagement rate (rate of replies received from each stakeholder). As you’re only focusing on a few customers, it’s easier to track, process, and manage fewer account transactions, giving you more visibility into what is working and what is not.

3. Build trust with Decision-Makers

Building trust is an important part of the sales process. With Account-based sales, you build that trust by creating an engagement plan with multi-touch points and content tailored to the needs of your target account. When done correctly, it’s the perfect way to build large-scale relationships and trust. You prove to your prospects that they are not just another name in your prospect database, but instead accounts that you are investing on.

Is Account-based sales for you?

In the right conditions, account-based sales consistently delivers on its revenue-boosting promises. But Account-based sales is not for everyone. In fact, a mismatch between your business model and account-based sales can do more harm than good. It really depends on the type and purchasing behaviour of the customers you engage. 

As a rule of thumb, account-based sales is a good fit for B2B companies where: 

a)   Sales interactions are complex and involve lengthier cycles. 

b)  Major purchases require the tiered approval of several decision-makers. 

c)  Opportunities for upselling, cross-selling, etc., are unusually high.

KPIs for account-based sales

The most relevant marketing KPIs will vary between industries, but below is a good starting point – demonstrating the account-based mindset needed for accurate measurement and optimisation.

Engagement: At the top of the funnel and before moving to quantitative metrics, track how effectively SDRS are engaging prospects. Laser targeting accounts theoretically means more hits and lesser misses. Look at for instance, if there is a decrease in the ratio of outreach attempts to meaningful conversations and from meaningful conversations to demos to see if the Account-based sales strategy is working for you.

Annual contract value (ACV) or deal size: ACV is a key metric that shows you how much an ongoing customer contract is worth by averaging and normalising its value over one year. You can use ACV to measure the dollar value of all your customer accounts, whether they involve monthly subscriptions, differently priced plans or multi-year contracts.

ACV sales calculations are typically based on the recurring revenue generated by a single client or account and do not normally include initial or one-time setup, training or administrative fees.

Customer acquisition cost (CAC): Customer Acquisition Cost  measures how much an organisation spends to acquire new customers.

CAC is calculated by dividing the total expenses to acquire customers (cost of sales and marketing) by the total number of customers acquired over a given time.

Lifetime value (LTV): Customer lifetime value (LTV, or CLTV) is a metric that indicates the total revenue a business can reasonably expect from a single customer account throughout the business relationship.

As you are dedicating greater resources to individual amounts, your customer acquisition cost (CAC) will rise. Compare your previous LTV:CAC ratio to the current one. If your former ratio was 2:1 and now it is 4:1, you are on the right track. The rise in time, energy, and resources to acquire a new account is more than justified by the growth in profits.

Account-Based Sales Plan

Here is a high-level view of the steps you need to take to implement Account-based sales:

1. Align your outreach strategy

Account-based selling is neither a sales nor a marketing initiative– it is an all-encompassing approach that requires collaboration of teams and technologies so that everyone is on the same page. 

Here is what you need:

  • Collaborate your sales and marketing teams so that your outreach is laser focused and defined in terms of content and strategy. 
  • Get a sales automation tool to set up multiple threads with different stakeholders in the buying committee to progress your deal from multiple angles.
  • When it comes to analysis, make sure there is a single dashboard for metrics to avoid a big divide between the teams. Keep everyone on the same page by using shared dashboards and performance reports.

2. Define your ideal customer profile

In order to target the right accounts, you need to first define your ideal customer profile. There are two broad levels to consider when defining your ideal customer profile (ICP) that is company level and individual level.

  • Company level

At the company level, you zoom in on the characteristics of the ideal company you want to target. Below are a few of the factors to consider:

Country – the country or region (e.g: Germany, UK, EU)\

Company size – the range of employees (e.g.: 11-50, 51-200)

Industry – the industry or market (e.g.: Marketing, Computer Software)

  • Decision-maker level

The decision-maker level’s factors define the ideal profile of the target people in a company. Here are a few of them:

Age range – the age or generation (e.g.: 35+, generation Y)

Experience – the length they have been at their job position (e.g.: six months, 25 years)

Seniority – their position in the hierarchy of the company (e.g.: CxO, CEO, Salesperson)

Gender – their gender (e.g.: Male or Female)

Department – the department that they work in (e.g.: General Management, Sales)

3. Visualise the buying committee within accounts

Now that you are clear on internal alignment and characteristics of your best customers, it is time to target and engage with them to get the ball rolling. 

Think about account coverage i.e the number of target accounts you identify and engage with from each account. Having high engagement but less contacts will mean more time spent in closing the deal as you will need to wait to be introduced to the rest of the team. On the flip side, if you reach a ton of target accounts but have poor engagement, you will struggle to convert them into buyers. So, you want to strive for a high amount of accounts and high account engagement.

A powerful sales automation software like hubsell can source your target accounts and set up multiple threads with different stakeholders in the buying committee to progress your deal from multiple angles.

4. Build a targeted outreach strategy for individual contacts

Account-based selling relies on highly targeted, personalised sales outreach—not just in terms of the company but also in terms of each key stakeholder within an account. Each contact will differ in their job responsibilities, purchase preferences and their role within their company’s ecosystem. So when it comes to targeted different stakeholders- there is no one size fits all. 

Your outreach sequence must familiarise each stakeholder with your brand and your product using personalised message copies and on their preferred channel of communication such as email, LinkedIn, phone or a combination of all. For instance, using hubsell’s platform you can run simultaneous and parallel campaigns with varied messaging for each contact in the same company. Our dynamic placeholders also automate one-on-one personalised messaging using each prospect’s seniority, department, tenure, and much more.

The importance of message-market fit holds true not just for different contacts in a company but also for different companies in your ICP that may be in different stages of the AIDA buying process. This is where account based marketing comes into the picture as you can plan different types of marketing campaigns for nurturing your customers the right way. 

5. Iterate and scale your outreach approach for repeatable success

The success of account-based sales rests on fueling your pipeline with the right data and sales intelligence technology as well as analysing it to find out what is working and what is not. 

For this reason, it is important that you prioritise the data within your sales contact database and also take the time to analyse your account-based selling results. Check your performance at the template, campaign and even segment level to find out the engagement rate. Make sure to target contacts through different channels and A/B test different copies to get a high success rate. 

Conclusion

The account-based sales model can be a game-changer for your company but only when it fits your sales model and is implemented correctly. With strong alignment within teams, understanding, and access to data you can make the shift to account-based selling smooth and effective. 

For more information about account-based sales or if you need a hand, check out hubsell’s page and get your pipeline flowing.

A quick guide to account-based sales