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Sales & Marketing

How to Build Your Account-Based Sales Pipeline Using Web Data

account-based sales


February 20, 2023

Account-based selling (ABS) has gained 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.

Understanding target accounts requires cooperation between sales and marketing teams. These teams will need a lot of data to do their jobs. 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 selling (ABS) is a sales strategy that identifies and targets high-value accounts using personalized tactics. Rather than having a single contact point or a lead within the company, ABS targets multiple stakeholders and decision-makers.

Unlike traditional lead-based selling, which aims to convert as many leads as possible, account-based selling uses a qualitative approach. It seeks to maximize revenue from a small batch of potential clients.

Since account-based selling requires a lot of resources, it is not well-suited for small or even medium-sized companies. The account-based model works best for enterprises capable of committing to complex, high-value contracts.

Account-based marketing

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, partly due to cases of 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.

a bunch of skyscrapers

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, allocate resources, and project revenue with the help of a sales pipeline. 

The account-based selling pipeline works much the same way, but it is only applied to large target accounts that continuously make subscription-based or high-value purchases.

A pipeline of high-value accounts

An 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. 

Complex solutions

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 to meet the customer's needs and provide additional solutions to address their pain points.

Focused approach

Account-based selling stands out due to its focused approach. It allocates 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.

Higher-closing rates

Account-based sales pipelines have 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 the 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 you want to keep selling the same account for as long as possible and grow with the client.

7 steps to build an effective account-based sales pipeline

The framework of the account-based sales process can be defined in the following 7 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.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Identify your target accounts

Based on your ideal customer profile, you can 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.

4. Research and planning

At this stage, dedicated teams work together to understand each account and create a plan to engage with them. Another analytical tool - buyer persona helps here. Buyer personas describe decision-makers in the account’s buying committee with whom you will have to know how to engage.

5. Targeting key accounts

When you have done your homework, you can start targeting the accounts with personalized marketing campaigns. The 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 you have about the prospective customer’s company. The more insights you draw from web data, the better you can customize.

Account managers should aim at high-value customer engagements 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.

6. Consider the different value of the accounts

The idea behind the account-based selling approach is that not all accounts are equal. Even those on your target account list will be different in how well they fit 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.

7. Track performance

Your account-based sales pipeline will stay strong over time only if you keep reassessing your strategy. Leverage existing customer data about your interactions and transactions 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.

big glass building

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 meeting your ICP criteria for your target account list. Data about company size, number of locations, and annual revenue will show which accounts have the highest potential value.

Web data about the company’s technological stack is crucial when providing technological solutions. 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 it is preparing for expansion, which would make it 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) measures the average cost of acquiring a customer over 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). With account-based selling, the value that the customer is expected to bring to the company over the entire relationship is also high. 

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.

Summing up

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 you use for account-based selling can drastically increase the quality and success of your pipeline.

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