The Unanswered Questions for Account Based Selling

August 18, 2014 Adam New-Waterson


“Named accounts” is becoming a staple for B2B sales organizations. It’s a method for assigning accounts to a specific sales representative based on ideal account characteristics, which could include a combination of geography, industry, size and demographic criteria. The proxy: “This list of accounts is critical and filled with high potential for our bottom line. We are assigning a specific owner to it in order to maximize revenue from it.”

When we’re managing the sales funnel, especially the top of it, it’s not always easy to see how inbound and newly generated interest relates to accounts. In, leads come in as individuals, not accounts. So, until leads are converted to contacts, leads are not associated to accounts. Therefore, it’s not clear whether or not new leads are associated with other contacts, locations, and active opportunities. Similarly, when marketing is nurturing leads which might be in target accounts, it’s no wonder that marketing programs may be out of sync with sales activities and the account’s buying cycle.

Understanding how much these problems affect your company’s relationship between sales and marketing is your first step to finding a resolution.

You might hear questions around the office like:

  • Why did inside sales follow up on a lead in my target account? Don’t they know that I have an active opportunity with that company.
  • How come no one told me that my prospect showed up at our trade show booth 3 months ago? It would be helpful to know that they saw a demo of our new product.
  • Why did you send a competitive upgrade offer to my customer? Now they want a discount on their renewal.

In the same vein, why does it seem impossible for marketing execs and sales management to get accurate and useful answers to questions on closed opportunities, such as:

  • Which marketing campaigns sourced or heavily impacted this deal?
  • How much pipeline can be attributed to the top 5 campaigns?
  • How many leads in the last 90 days fit into target accounts?
  • What are the most recent opportunities created in target accounts?

Solving these questions will take a different approach than you’re used to. It’s not about throwing big data, business intelligence, and an analytic engine at it. There’s a fundamental challenge within whereby the inbound leads are not associated to accounts until a sales rep manually attaches the lead to the account. While it seems like a basic act to do, it simply doesn’t get done for a number of reasons:

  • Leads don’t route to the right rep.
  • Sales reps don’t spend time in the assignment view; they focus on opportunities.
  • Company names and abbreviations make searching for potential account matches an onerous task.
  • Companies have a hybrid of named or strategic accounts, customer accounts, and territories making it difficult to know who should get the lead with a complex set of routing rules to maintain.

Here’s a couple recommended steps:

  1. Named accounts – clean-up this list. Make sure you have the base demographics, account owners, and their properly tagged in
  2. Account review program – maintaining your lists and corresponding account owner detail is critical to keeping your accounts in order.
  3. Lead traction reporting – alignment between sales & marketing. In addition to tracking MQL to SQL conversion, be able to report how inbound leads are opening up new opportunities in target accounts.

In order to have the visibility we need to improve sales effectiveness and to accurately measure and improve revenue generation within target account, we must rethink the tools and the processes we use to manage them. When we can’t answer key questions, how can we partner effectively with sales to drive target account revenue growth with our next set of marketing investments and activities?

Contributed Blog by Ken Rutsky. Ken is a consultant, speaker, author, facilitator and coach, and has spent 20+ years in the technology industry. @jayrutz

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