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Episode 4: How Account-Based Marketing Closes Bigger Deals Faster

If you’re running a business and you want to increase your efficiency in closing those big ticket sales, then you should practice account-based marketing.

ABM is a B2B strategy where marketing and sales work together to close big, complex deals at a discrete number of target accounts. And the higher your price point, the more likely ABM will be worth your while. Anni offers up three things to focus on when starting ABM at your company.


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Episode Transcription

Hi. I’m Anni Kim from HubSpot, and this is Skill Up, the show where you’ll learn how to take your sales, marketing, and service skills to the next level.

Let’s say you’re running a business. Let’s say you want, no, need, a strategy that’ll increase your efficiency in closing those big ticket sales. 

Now, you might be thinking, “wait a tick, Rebecca, I thought you were all about inbound marketing.”

First off, rude, my name’s Anni. Second, you’re also right. We’re huge advocates for inbound here at Skill Up, and I’d never recommend any strategy that conflicts with inbound philosophy.

The good news? You can do both! And it’s called Account-based Marketing. Segment me!

Account based marketing, or ABM, is a B2B strategy where marketing and sales work together to close big, complex deals at a discrete number of target accounts.

While inbound is relevant to practically every company, ABM will be most useful if your sales process is B2B, high-ticket, and complex.

Let’s take a crack at these two parts. First -- B2B. The thing that makes ABM “account-based” is that you focus your marketing efforts on targeting particular companies. Companies, not consumers. Sorry B2C.

Next -- high-ticket. If you sell the sort of product that someone can pay for using their credit card, you probably won’t see big enough returns from ABM to make it worth the investment. 

ABM is all about increasing the efficiency and frequency of closing big deals. The higher your price point, the more likely ABM will be worth your while. 

And finally -- Complex. ABM will work best if you regularly sell to a buying committee of at least three people. 

I want to stress this final point.. ya know, ‘complex ‘buying committee of at least three people.’ It’s a simple rule of thumb, but there are some caveats.

Think about a typical sale for your company. How many people are involved on the buyer’s side? If it’s one or two, ABM probably isn’t a good fit for you. I mean, you could use ABM if you wanted to, but it’s unnecessary. 

That would be like using a sledgehammer to put a nail into a wall. You can do it. But do you really need to?

But if it’s three or more, you should definitely consider ABM as an option. And similar to deal size, the more people involved on the buyer’s side, the more benefit you’ll see from ABM. So if your team often finds themselves selling to a buying committee of half a dozen people, you should absolutely be using ABM. You’d be crazy not to. 

If you still aren’t sure -- if you’re thinking, ‘maybe two out of three things on the list describe me,’ or ‘I’m not sure if some of them describe me or not’ -- remember this: Buying committee is the most important factor in Account-Based Marketing. 

Why do ya think I took it outside the segment music and gave it so much extra time?

Chances are, if you’re selling to a buying committee of at least three people, ABM is going to work great for you, even if, for example, you don’t consider your product to be “high-ticket.” 

So, if this all sounds like it applies to you, then ABM is going to provide at least three major benefits: increased deal size, increased alignment between marketing and sales, and increased sales velocity. 

First, increased deal size. And I know, I said you have to be closing big deals before you start with ABM, but the point is, you’re going to close even bigger deals. ABM is all about focusing on your biggest opportunities, and when that becomes your focus, you’re naturally going to see deal size increase. 

Second, increased alignment between marketing and sales. You’re going to see marketers and salespeople working together in partnership, with shared goals and increased visibility and, ultimately, an empowering sense of unity. Get ready to see it. It’s magical.

And third, increased sales velocity for your biggest deals. Now, fair warning out the gate, you might see your overall deal velocity slow down because you aren’t going to be closing as many small deals. Since small deals tend to move faster than large deals, you might feel like ABM is slowing you down, but don’t worry. 

What you’re doing is being more intentional about where your teams spend their time, and that investment is going to pay off. Not only will your deal size increase, but deals that used to take a really long time to close will close much faster because of your improved focus, better alignment, and increased competency for handling large deals. 

So if you’re a B2B company selling high-ticket items to a buying committee of at least three people, and maybe rightfully so, you’re also interested in selling bigger deals faster, and increasing visibility and alignment across your customer-facing teams, then heck yes girl, look at you, ABM, who gave you permission? 

Now, if you’re interested in trying out ABM, here’s a three-step process for getting started: 

One -- define your Ideal Customer Profile -- or ICP -- and identify your target accounts

Two -- attract the attention of key stakeholders at your target accounts

And three -- tailor your outreach and engage key stakeholders.

Let’s break each of these down, starting with numero uno: Define your ICP and identify your target accounts.

Remember, an ICP is a list of basic attributes a company needs to have to be successful as your customer. This can be things like the company’s size, industry, or location. 

If you don’t already have your ICP defined, take a look at the 10 biggest deals your team has closed recently and ask yourself what those 10 companies have in common. Are there any patterns? That’s the beginning of an ICP.

Once you have your ICP, you can start to look for companies that match it and add them to your target account list.

Something that makes ABM very different from inbound marketing is that you look out into the world and identify specific companies that you would like to have as customers. Those are your target accounts. Your target accounts are a set list of named companies that marketing and sales have jointly decided to focus on. 

It’s very important that marketing and sales agree on who your target accounts are. If marketing is targeting one set of accounts, but sales is wanting to sell to a different set, you’re just gonna have an account-based mess. You might already know some companies you’d like to have as customers. If not, develop. that. profile. 

Also important to note here, your target account list shouldn’t be every single company that matches your ICP. I mean, I know, every company is the right company and all, but… target accounts are the companies your teams are focused on. And sorry Batman Christian Bale, it’s impossible to focus on every company in the world. 

A good rule of thumb, is to limit your target account list to no more than 25 accounts. Even 25 might be too much, depending on how much attention the accounts will require. In some cases, 10 might be the right number of accounts to have -- or even less.

That brings us to our next step, numero dos two: Attract the attention of key stakeholders at your target accounts. 

And here’s where ABM gets its negative ‘outbound marketing’ rap.

Instead of taking the typical inbound-marketing approach and attracting as many people and companies as possible, ABM works to attract only the relevant people at those target accounts.

And historically, a lot of ABM shops have practiced some pretty insane outbound marketing techniques: Raining down content, hocking lavish gifts and offers, pushing their way into the proverbial front door.

But regardless of today’s fashion trends, this isn’t the ’90s. There’s no reason to operate that way. Nowadays, it’s extremely easy to get highly-targeted social ads, or to spin up an entire microsite for a particular account.

Using modern technology, you can attract, engage, and delight your target accounts without having to berate them. 

Which brings us to our final step, numero tres: Tailor your outreach and engage key stakeholders.

Brian Halligan -- HubSpot co-founder, CEO, big deal around the halls here -- always says: Find ways to provide value before you try to extract value. And that’s sort of the guiding principle here. 

Make sure every interaction is custom-tailored to the person you’re working with. You want to turn as many of the members of the buying committee as possible into champions for your cause. And personalization is key to that.

You can invest heavily in personalized content for individual people and teams because you’re focusing only on large accounts. So don’t be afraid to try something big or unusual, but make sure you’re measuring and analyzing your tactics so you can always find ways to improve.

Now you know the beginnings of Account-based Marketing. Yaas, girl, Slay.

It’s important to note, you don’t have to go all-in on ABM to get started. 

Maybe create one small task force, give them a short list of target accounts, and see what results they’re able to drive. 

From there, you can iterate until you find an approach that works. After that, scale the processes you learned here.

But start small. And see where it takes you. 

Next week, we’re getting personal. And you will too. Yup. That’s all I’m saying! See you there.