February 20, 2023
Account-based selling (ABS) has been gaining ground in recent years as a focused, account-based approach to B2B sales. It is a high-focus account-based sales strategy that foregoes quantity in the name of quality and value.
Getting to deeply understand target accounts requires cooperation not only between sales and marketing teams. And to do their job, these teams will need a lot of data. Thus, let’s look at how you can leverage vast volumes of web data to build a high-value account-based sales pipeline.
What is account-based selling?
Account-based sales or account-based selling is a sales strategy that selects target accounts with expected high lifetime value for the selling company. As opposed to having a single contact point or a lead within the company, the ABS strategy aims at targeting multiple stakeholders and decision-makers.
Account-based selling is related to the more familiar term account-based marketing (ABM) and can be seen as an extension of it. ABM has gained prominence over the last decade in part due to cases of its successful application by leading companies.
With ABM, the marketing team aims to attract leads by targeting specific accounts. Meanwhile, account-based selling picks up where account-based marketing strategy leaves off, covering the whole sales cycle to turn the lead into a valuable customer.
Since a lot of internal resources go into account-based selling, it is not well-suited for small or even medium-sized companies. Account-based model is best for bigger enterprises that are capable of committing to complex, high-value contracts.
Account-based sales pipeline
A sales pipeline is an analytical and often visual tool to track available and upcoming sales opportunities. A sales manager can track performance, allocation of resources as well as projected revenue with the help of a sales pipeline.
Account-based selling pipeline works much the same way, only applied to large target accounts that continuously make subscription-based or high-value purchases.
A pipeline of high-value accounts
Account-based selling strategy produces a pipeline of high-value sales-accepted leads. These target accounts differ from the points of contact in the usual sales pipeline in that they are represented by multiple decision-makers within a particular company. The target accounts in the pipeline are nurtured by the collective effort of the sales team and various department reps.
Account-based sales pipelines are more complicated buying environments than their traditional counterparts. The post-purchase stage becomes increasingly important as the selling company aims at meeting all the needs of the customer and providing additional solutions to address their pain points.
Account-based selling stands out due to its focused approach, allocating resources to satisfy a small number of high-value sales-qualified leads. Dedicated teams become professionals in the very specific sphere of solving the issues of the clients in their account-based selling pipeline.
Account-based sales pipeline has higher-closing rates than more usual sales pipelines built on inbound marketing. Focusing on fewer accounts gives a competitive advantage as it allows for a deep understanding of a customer’s particular needs and customized solutions. This leads to avoiding wrong accounts and a greater probability of closing the deal with the right ones.
Less dependency on individual stakeholders
Another benefit of an account-based sales pipeline is that it reduces the dependency on individual stakeholders within the target company. Making a deal with one decision-maker leaves the selling company vulnerable to changes of mind or job. Targeting multiple stakeholders gives more access to the company and leeway for influencing buying decisions.
Building long-term relationships
Account-based selling is all about long-term, mutually beneficial relationships. Prioritizing quantity over quality means that you want to keep selling the same account for as long as possible and grow along with the client.
How to build an effective account-based sales pipeline?
The framework of the account-based sales process can be defined in the following steps. Each step, of course, has multiple layers involving cooperation between the sales and marketing teams. Here is what you need to do for account-based sales development.
Ensure internal cooperation
Creating an account-based selling pipeline starts with well-organized, dedicated teams within your own company. Make sure to integrate your account-based sales tools and all other digital selling tools as much as possible so that all department reps are on the same page when working on an account and have the same information.
Define your ideal customer profile (ICP)
An ideal customer is the kind of customer that both brings the most value to us and gets the most value out of us. To create your ideal customer profile, you need to consult key stakeholders within your company, from marketing and sales to finance and product development.
Identify your target accounts
Based on your ideal customer profile, you are able to tell which companies are your target accounts. These will be the firms on which marketing and sales efforts will be focused. Make a target account list that could be segmented based on their potential value and allocate resources for further research.
Research and planning
At this stage, dedicated teams work together to understand each account and create a plan on how to engage with them. Another analytical tool - buyer persona helps here. Buyer personas describe decision-makers in the account’s buying committee whom you will have to know how to engage with.
Targeting key accounts
When you have done your homework, you can start targeting the accounts with personalized marketing campaigns. Account-based model is all about personalization. Sales and marketing departments need to work together to create highly personalized messaging campaigns.
Here it all depends on the data that you have about the prospective customer’s company. The more insights drawn from web data, the better you are able to customize.
Account managers should aim at high-value engagements for the customers whenever their sales rep or other team member communicates. For example, this could mean providing information on how to use your subscription-based products to improve customer success.
Consider the different value of the accounts
The founding idea behind the account-based selling approach is that not all accounts are created equal. Even those on your target account list will be different in how good of a fit they are for your product.
Thus, evaluate and score potential and existing customers to see how they rank against each other. The account manager, sales teams, and other company reps should be assigned to accounts according to their prospected value.
Your account-based sales pipeline will stay strong over time only if you keep reassessing your account-based strategy. Leverage existing customer data about the interactions and transactions you have with them with new web data that will inform you about the changing situation.
Tracking performance will allow you to both improve upon previous shortcomings and identify how the value of key accounts changes over time. For this purpose, you will need to look at pre-selected key performance indicators.
Using web data to enhance your sales pipeline
A successful account-based approach depends on data more than anything else. Various types of web data can help you at each step of the account-based sales process.
Firmographics will allow you to identify companies that meet your ICP criteria to be in your target account list. Data about company size, number of locations, and annual revenue will show which accounts have the highest potential value.
When providing technological solutions, web data about the company’s technological stack is crucial. Technographic data informs you whether the technology used by the firm is competitive or complementary to your product.
Online job posting data can also indicate a company’s growth. If a firm starts posting a lot of open positions, this might mean that they are preparing for expansion which would make them a potential key account.
Web data on the decision-makers, including the job title and description data, expertise, and interests, will inform the creation of buyer personas. Any news about events relevant to your target companies might give out buying signals indicating that it is time for your sales reps to engage.
Measuring the account-based sales performance
Just as with traditional sales, key performance indicators (KPIs) provide a way to measure the success of your account-based selling strategy. The following key metrics should be tracked to analyze performance.
- Customer acquisition cost (CAC). This metric measures the average cost of acquiring the customer in a particular period of time. Naturally, CAC is higher with account-based selling as targeting high-value accounts requires more resources.
- Average sales cycle (ASC). It will also usually take longer to sell to high-value target accounts.
- Average contract value (ACV). The average deal size should go up along with CAC if your account-based selling model is working. It measures the revenue brought in by an average deal.
- Customer lifetime value (CLV). The value that the customer is expected to bring to the company over the entire relationship is also high with account-based selling.
As mentioned, rising conversion rates should indicate that your account-based selling strategy is successful. Another classical KPI - customer retention rate is crucial to making lifetime value a reality.
An account-based sales pipeline is comprised of high-value accounts, making account-based selling a very profitable approach. Building and maintaining such a pipeline, however, requires dedicated teams and multifaceted resources. Adding web data to the resources that you use for account-based selling can drastically increase the quality and success of your pipeline.
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