New and Improved: The Story of Account-Based Sales Development

April 6, 2016 Mark Emmons


Wander through the aisles of any store and you’re likely to see products labeled as “new and improved.” It’s all about rebranding and repackaging. And at first glance, it probably seems like something similar is happening in the B2B sector with the emerging trend of Account-Based Sales Development.

The name itself is relatively new. But the business concept? Not so much. ABSD, as you may know, combines automation and hyper-personalization as front-line sales reps drive targeted campaigns at companies that are a good fit for your products. That probably sounds a lot like the age-old idea of selling into named accounts . . . because that’s exactly what it is.

“We had just been doing our thing when everyone started preaching about account-based,” said Mark Kosoglow, vice president of sales at high-frequency sales platform Outreach. “I just thought, ‘Well, how else would you do it?’ To me, it’s really a no-brainer.”

But while ABSD might not be new, it represents something improved.

LeanData Account-Based Sales Development - ScreenshotAn eBook called “Breaking Down Doors: A Guide to Account-Based Sales Development” takes a closer look at how this strategy meets the challenges of the modern buyer’s journey. It shows how focusing Sales Development Reps on penetrating high-value accounts using relevant, individualized content can start better conversations with prospects and book more initial meetings. The result is getting a foot in the door that allows Account Executives to then take over as the deal closers.

Those tactics are familiar for anyone involved in enterprise sales. But what has changed is the rapid innovation of tech tools that have made account-based selling techniques accessible for any business.

“I believe in the principle that there’s nothing new under the sun,” said Tawheed Kader, founder and CEO of sales acceleration platform ToutApp. “In traditional enterprise sales, mapping out individuals within named accounts that you want to go after has existed forever. What’s different is that now you can do it at scale. Before, you would have to do it manually at 50 enterprise accounts. What’s changed is that you can apply it to 1,000 target accounts. Technology has evolved and more data is available. That’s the shift.”

Account-Based Sales Development is a relay race. The SDRs run the first leg — booking those all-important meetings — before passing the baton to the AEs. But it’s far more than just an efficient division of labor. It refines outbound prospecting by integrating:

  • The right people
  • With the right messaging
  • At the right time

Yes, that concept of “right, right, right” comes perilously close to being sales and marketing cliches. But in this case, it’s not just jargon and theory.

“At a very high level, Account-Based Sales Development is figuring out who you should be talking to and then deciding how best to talk with them,” Chris Rothstein, co-founder and CEO of sales accelerator Groove.

And that’s not easy because the buyer’s journey has become convoluted. Products are more complex. Sales cycles are longer. More people need to reach consensus to make a purchase decision. So the best way to navigate that winding path is not just to sit back and wait for prospects to show up at your doorstep. You need to be proactive by identifying who should be your customers. Then, you unleash the sales development team to go after them in a strategic fashion that’s more person-to-person than business-to-business.1802461698_dd4d0a4fc4_z

“At the end of the day, Account-Based Sales Development provides a way for the AE and SDR to work together to provide air cover so that they soften the beachhead of a potential deal,” said Brian Birkett, vice president of sales at LeanData. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s about understanding the account and the people inside them, and then creating a strategy to break into it.”

There is both an elegant sophistication and common-sense simplicity to ABSD. On one hand, it involves leveraging cutting-edge technology that involve predictive analytics, intelligence gathering, sales automation and account data management. Account-Based Sales Development brings science to the world of sales.

“It’s true that sales can be an art,” Sean Kester, vice president of product strategy at SalesLoft. “But when you’re just trying to get somebody to talk to you or set up an appointment, it’s less about sales skills and more about using the data in your favor to be more strategic, more efficient and more actionable.”

Yet at the same time, ABSD also requires nimble orchestration by early-stage sales reps who are shrewdly trying to gain entry to the key decision-makers at target accounts with individualized messaging.

“There’s a lot more personalization,” said Matt Amundson, senior director of sales development at predictive analytics firm EverString. “It all really requires a human touch.”

In this eBook produced by LeanData, two dozen business leaders discuss how ABSD strategies can generate more pipeline, improve sale velocity and create a higher Average Sales Price. It also explores how a smart technology stack makes ABSD repeatable and scalable. It’s why, Outreach’s Kosoglow added, if you put a strong SDR-AE team up against a traditional end-to-end sales model, it won’t be any competition. “The account-based sales crowd will crush them,” he said.

And that success explains the growth in Account-Based Sales Development. Creative businesses not only are opening the doors to their most lucrative accounts, but breaking them down.

“This is something that has been brewing for awhile” added Jeff Zelaya, sales manager at the account-based marketing software company Triblio. “Buyers have changed their process. Salespeople have to adapt to that. It’s an evolution. It’s not something that happens overnight and I don’t know where it will end. But this is happening. Now.”

You can download the eBook here to learn more about how Account-Based Sales Development is transforming B2B sales.

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