(Part one of a two-part series)

Effective and actionable key/strategic account plans are an elusive quest for many sales organizations. Throughout my 30-year sales career, I’ve pursued this quest as both a rep and a sales leader. Still, it remains one of the more challenging sales issues I’ve faced. The good news is that help is on the way. Emerging technology is making the process of building and maintaining actionable account plans easier for sales teams and more beneficial for buyers and customers. At Forrester, we define account-based selling (ABS) technologies as:

Strategic account mapping and alignment technologies that help organizations’ account planning and execution efforts. These tools enable account teams to reveal complex relationships, identify white space, support opportunity planning efforts, and enable team collaboration. All of this makes it easier to identify, win, retain, and grow business in key accounts.

Evolution: The account-based selling market has been an evolving market category for the past 20-plus years. This evolution can be categorized primarily within three stages:

  • Early. These providers focused primarily on embedding a sales process or sales methodology within a technology framework.
  • Evolution. During this phase of development, providers focused on reducing manual data that reps needed to enter by refining, cleaning, and augmenting data to give sales teams better insights. Enhanced reporting and usability features were also part of this stage of the technology evolution.
  • Acceleration. Providers today are leveraging AI-driven insights and guidance about accounts, buyers, and stakeholders. Providers have also advanced beyond the basic capabilities and added collaboration spaces (internally and externally focused), deal/digital sales rooms, increasing seller adoption, and defining/measuring key metrics that show the value of these solutions.

The evolution of this space, along with current market drivers and pressures (see the second blog in this series), has positioned these solutions to be an essential component of any sales organization’s tech stack. Users of these solutions can expect the following business value:

  • Improved visibility for maximum customer lifetime value. These platforms allow sales leaders and reps to gain visibility, coordinate sales efforts, and maximize account revenue potential by identifying key stakeholders, mapping relationships, uncovering potential opportunities, and coordinating resources to qualify, close, and retain key, large, and named accounts.
  • Increased sales rep efficiency. These platforms automate the time-consuming and labor-intensive process of identifying multiple opportunities within an account, mapping account relationships, identifying white-space opportunities, and tracking and managing these opportunities throughout the pipeline and sales process. These platforms streamline account planning processes to increase overall rep efficiency.
  • Increased pipeline value (deal size), win rates, and forecast accuracy. By integrating and combining account data from multiple sources — both human and digital — reps can develop deeper insights that are used to identify larger opportunities, advance these opportunities at a faster rate, and improve retention and growth.

To learn more about what’s next for this space and what to think about when selecting an ABS provider, stay tuned for part two in this series.