Salespeople (Should) Love ABM

With account-based marketing (ABM) now a mature and widely adopted B2B marketing framework, countless salespeople from all corners of the world and many sizes of organizations are now not only familiar with ABM but also warmly embracing it.

Sales teams love well-executed ABM programs because they:

  • Focus marketing budgets around aligned sales and marketing priorities.
  • Deliver valuable, actionable insights.
  • Facilitate thoughtful engagements with the prospects most likely to be in-market.
  • Deliver results not only in acquisition programs but also for renewal, expansion, upsell, and cross-sell.

“I witnessed a transformation in our relationship with account teams after launching ABM,” explains Katie Beckham, senior field marketing manager at T-Mobile for Business. “Sales reps went from being apprehensive and not always understanding what marketing does to being eager to collaborate, hungry for support, and willing to try new things.”

A congratulatory message to countless ABM practitioners is due. Their efforts to bring sales and marketing together has seen much success and paid dividends.

ABM Fails Without Sales Support

When ABM programs underperform, a lack of sales and marketing integration is often to blame. In many cases, this crucial cross-functional partnership is not achieved largely because sales teams simply elect not to participate. This can feel counterintuitive to marketers. ABM offers massive opportunity for sales. Naturally, ABM leaders expect salespeople to buy in and contribute.

When cross-functional collaboration is lacking, it is easy to point fingers and dismiss sales as difficult … uncooperative … lazy. But sales teams often have legitimate reasons to feel reluctant to form allegiances with marketing:

  • Legacy marketing programs have not provided value, and it is not clear how ABM is any different.
  • They have been involved with poorly executed ABM initiatives in the past.
  • Sales and marketing teams are siloed and work from separate playbooks. They have no existing relationships with each other and therefore trust is lacking.

ABM leaders must approach sales teams with empathy, understanding the validity behind their hesitation to support ABM. At the end of the day, it is the onus of the marketing leaders to effectively communicate the benefits of ABM to sales teams to gain their support. This is achieved not only by reciting talking points on why ABM is a worthwhile endeavor but also by listening to concerns and responding thoughtfully.

“When all is said and done, I’ve witnessed many, many account teams blown away — absolutely in awe of the value account-based marketing can provide and practically begging for more,” explains Ricky Abbott, president of Transmission, a B2B marketing agency. “But I’ve also seen sales laughing marketing out of the room when proposing a new ABM initiative because significant levels of ongoing support is demanded from sales without first building trust and demonstrating how marketing will deliver.”

Sell ABM To Sales

If cross-functional alignment is lacking, it is time to take off your marketer’s hat and start acting more like a salesperson. It may fall outside of your comfort zone, but it is the responsibility of the ABM team to hook any critical stakeholders into enthusiastically buying in and supporting the ABM initiative.

“Sometimes, selling internally is harder than selling externally to the customer,” explains Richa Pande, head of global marketing at HP.

The good news is that ABM almost sells itself — key word: almost.

Tailor The ABM Value Propositions

Many ABM value propositions resonate broadly across sales functions. But each sales function may need a little extra convincing to dedicate sufficient time to help make ABM a success.

Thankfully, ABM practitioners already possess the skill sets to effectively identify and deliver the most resonant messaging for distinct audiences. Leveraging these skills to understand the unique needs of and pain points of individual sales functions so that you can communicate how your ABM program will address them empowers ABM practitioners to be more persuasive in building a case for cross-functional collaboration.

Forrester clients can read my latest report, Communicating The Value Of Account-Based Marketing To Skeptics In Sales, for additional guidance on crafting and delivering unique value propositions for four key sales functions from which ABM teams commonly require support: sales leadership, sales operations, account teams, and revenue development representatives.