“It’s a standard ABM mantra that sales alignment at the outset is an absolute for the success of a programme but no one seems to be very clear on what that actually means. In our experience getting everyone facing in the same direction and agreeing it’s a great idea simply isn’t good enough. Sales have to be fully immersed and invested in the entire process. It can’t just be about creating conversations. It has to deliver a fully supported sales dialogue that’s completely in step with customer experience from first contact, through co-creation, into RFP and finally the ongoing relationship with customer success.” says JPC’s James Mollard.
It’s not news that a successful ABM campaign depends on aligning sales and marketing functions. In fact, you can’t get beyond about page 2 of any ABM ‘How to’ guide without having this point driven home. But is it enough? And what does sales and marketing alignment actually mean?
From the outset, both sales and marketing teams must have heart-felt belief in the programme and be pulling in the same direction. They must understand what their dependencies are and what they are responsible for. They must share relevant insight and context into the challenges facing their target customer and the sector overall. And of course they need to get their heads together to identify and research key stakeholders, and agree what makes them tick from both a personal and business perspective, as each can bring very different perspectives.
Towards this aim, agencies like JPC spend a lot of time working with client sales and marketing teams to understand where the current skill sets, relationships, knowledge, and other contextual insights sit within each area of expertise. We then hatch a cunning plan that weaves both their activities nicely together, so that when the ABM activation is developed, the role each team plays is distinct, clear and optimised.
For example, we were approached recently by a major technology business with a highly complex, high-value offering to help build relationships and generate more business with one of their highly prized key accounts. During workshops with the sales team, we found we needed to change their customer’s perception of our client significantly. We decided the best approach would be to identify and engage those individual stakeholders with the greatest influence and decision-making power – many of whom had been previously overlooked as our client had an over-reliance on the technical buying team.
Working closely with the sales team, we then created a suite of forensically focused content they could deliver personally to each target. This ensured they believed in the value of each asset and felt the content earned them the right to have a conversation and follow up by canvassing stakeholders’ thoughts to spark a dialogue. We also created sales enablement tools, to maximise the chance of the assets reaching their targets, including messaging for social selling, inmails and emails, while also coaching the sales team to engage with their client in completely new and more innovative ways.
Although sales were driving the main thrust of the campaign, particularly some of the more ‘white glove’ tactics (1-2-1), the marketing team were primed to widen the stakeholder audience to drive awareness and shift perceptions across other key influencers in the business by delivering broader messaging that helped our client to land and further expand influence within the account (1-2-Few). We also worked with marketing to create related assets that would launch the concept to the sector overall with a consistent message, adding further value (1-2-Many), while still retaining a very personal approach across every tier of the vertical.
BUILDING LONG-TERM PARTNERSHIPS
This ticks all the classic ABM boxes and some, by also aligning with a broader vertical marketing push. Job done? Well perhaps it would have been had our customer sold a series of distinct products the sales team could easily negotiate their way around. But this was a large matrixed technology business looking to craft and co-create unique bespoke solutions for its customer to add value and stand out as a long-term strategic partner – the holy grail position that delivers ongoing revenue, trust and loyalty.
This meant sales and marketing could not maximise the opportunities and ensure success alone. Following initial engagement, they needed to bring together key solution specialists, strategists and innovation teams from across the business to come up with personalised, disruptive ideas and perspectives, while also building practical solutions to address the customer’s specific needs.
Shifting from being a supplier to strategic partner by building valuable long-term relationships should not be left solely to sales and marketing. It’s about drawing on experts across an organisation to surround the customer, developing targeted account-based experiences – ABX – that deliver the highest levels of personal relevance at every stage of the sales journey.
It demands breaking internal silos and bringing everyone together towards a common cause. You must deliver a truly personalised offering, incorporating a roadmap for your target customer that solves their business challenges and aligns with their goals and objectives. This is the route to true ABM – or rather ABX – success. And much coveted strategic partner status.
At JPC, we’ll help you raise your gaze above the sales and marketing parapet, explode the silos and head towards an altogether more holistic company-wide account-based approach. Get in touch if you would like to know more.