Building trust is an essential part of every sales process. Even in the B2B sector, people don’t buy from companies. People buy from people. By prospecting new clients with account-based selling, you can build trust by having an engagement plan with multi-touch points and content tailor-made for your target customer's needs. When done correctly, it’s the perfect way to build relationships and trust. You’ll prove to your prospects that they’re not just another row in your database and that you genuinely care about helping them succeed. We can call it "Prospecting 2.0".
To put it more technically, the account-based selling approach focuses on creating customized, customer-centric relationships with multiple decision-makers within highly qualified “targeted” businesses. It's about close cooperation between marketing & sales teams and their customers.
Should you apply Account-based selling?
First, it's important to understand that account-based selling (ABS) is not for everyone. So before you decide to change your sales strategy, do note down:
- What are you selling
- Your average deal volume
- The length of your sales cycle
- Who are your customers
Why is this necessary?
Because if you are selling SaaS products for let's say 79 USD/month and your target market are small and medium businesses, ABS might be a mismatch for you. In this case, the costs of the ABS approach would be too high, and it would take you too long to have any ROI from them. However, ABS is the way to go if your solution/service/product needs a five-figure investment and the sales cycle is longer and more complex.
TIP: One size does not fit all. You need to figure out if ABS is a good approach for your sales team.
We're talking about B2B, outbound prospecting and prospecting of new business or prospecting new clients.
It is for Tier 1 of your potential customers (10-15% of your target audience).
Account-based selling takes time. It's not instant magic.
We aren't just selling. We want to create connections and relationships.
Account-based selling step-by-step
Now, let's explore what is necessary to prepare for account-based selling. That will help us discover whether your business is suitable for the ABS approach. There are four main steps to consider:
1) Ideal customer profile
Create an ideal customer profile first. The goal is to personalize and maximize all the data you have at your disposal.
- Create a spreadsheet with all your customers' info.
- Deep dive into the data, adding information such as:
- Company name
- Industry description (SaaS, Financial, Retail)
- Number of employees (if relevant to our use case)
- Why they buy (pain points)
- Persona (who we are targeting)
- Average deal size
More factors to consider:
- Geography (Czech Republic, Poland, etc.)
- Business objectives (short term or long term)
- Notes (trends, common pain points, investments)
TIP: Search for patterns in there and create your Ideal Customer Profile based on them.
Once you develop a clear Ideal Customer Profile, the sales team continues researching each well-qualified account. This research helps them develop unique buyer personas for each individual decision-maker in each specific target account.
What to do next?
- Define your target departments
- Write down target personas within the departments and their seniority
- Write down their pains/challenges and our solution/benefit
- preparation for messaging (emails, Linkedin, etc.)
- think about C-level vs. C -1,2 pains / challenges
Once you're done with this, it's not over yet. You want to dig deeper. You already have your relevant departments and personas within the department listed. We are aware of pain points/challenges and what's the benefit of our solution for each department/persona.
The next step would be to look for specific job descriptions. Then, we can prioritize personas from top to bottom.
What to do if you don't have enough customers yet?
Do some research about trends in your industry.
Research the personas' priorities. (Deloitte, EY, LinkedIn, Google News, customer interviews, …)
What’s my value proposition (VP) that resonates with the challenges?
Prepare a VP for each persona and industry.
How to prepare leads?
The following points are a must during the preparation phase for account-based selling. We need the majority of the information to be ready before importing it into CRM.
- Get your data. Before we start the prospecting process, we would need some information for each person (prospect): e-mail, phone number, job title, salutation form, conversation trigger, LinkedIn URL, company name
- Do your research and focus on finding the personal/company trigger (news, shared content, interests, investments). Use that information and find how you might help them with your product.
- Find out their contact information. Use platforms where you can get e-mail structures and phone numbers such as: Hunter.io, Lusha, Seamless.ai, Merk, Albertina, Zoominfo, Apollo.io, LeadIq.
Once we're aware of what we're looking for, let's find what tools to use.
LinkedIn Sales Navigator
It's one of the best places where to build and maintain relationships with potential buyers. Once you know your ICP, use Sales Navigator to find your prospects.
4) Sales deck
Before the execution, we have to prepare a sales deck, a.k.a. a set of materials, templates, call scripts, and website adjustments. Let's go through some basics now.
What's most visible?
Adjust your website and tune your company's Linkedin. Let your prospects know you are available and easily reachable. Don't forget to list your email, telephone number, Calendly link etc. Your website or Linkedin has to sell your product/service.
Fine-tune your e-mailing
The next step is to prepare e-mail sequences. Again, it's a battle plan for prospecting. E-mail sequences are a series of email touchpoints sent over some time.
Prepare several sequences according to the target group. Create a nurturing sequence.
There is no universal magic formula.
Consider using sales engagement platforms: Outreach.io, Salesloft, Reply.io etc.
How to prepare your e-mails
Before you start composing, keep in mind that you will probably need more variants before you begin the execution (you have several personas, remember?)
You’re not selling; you’re creating connections and validating your added value. Personalisation is key. Therefore, you should use several calls to action, a unique one for each persona.
- Gather content
- Scout out how many e-mails you need to reach cadence with your personas. Sometimes, as few as 3 e-mails will suffice. In other cases, you'll have to send out 8 e-mails and have specific timings and several “reminders” in between.
- Define your Tiers. Realize when it's the right time to approach a CEO, a CTO or a manager. Each of these people is dealing with different stuff, and you'll also need to approach them differently.
SALESDOCk insight: We have very clearly set Tiers of customers that you can approach in every company. They range from Tier 1 (CEOs) through Tier 2 (CTOs, CFOs) to Tier 3 (managers, reps). Every Tier needs a different approach.
- Different value propositions for each persona. Multiple stakeholders. Multiple motivations and priorities. Find out pain points/challenges for each persona and highlight them while creating your messaging
Another part of the ABS approach is calling. Keep it short and straightforward. We want to build connections, gather information, validate and schedule the next steps. Do not sell over the phone. Play with different value propositions and write down all prospect objections.
You can run targeted InMail campaigns to syndicate your content and start conversations. At the same time, you can share helpful content with your connections to help build trust. As well as that, you can run targeted ads using LinkedIn. You can upload your list of target companies and show them your ads.
How to, now?
Prepare a content plan - determine what and when to post (but be consistently active). Think about the added value for your target group. Never post stuff just for the sake of posting.
Create a routine (like, comment, post).
Remember, it's a marathon, not a sprint.
Polish your account - build credibility, contact information, what you can do for the prospects, and a clear call to action.
To successfully execute the ABS approach, you need to go multichannel. So, you might want to send targeted B2B e-mails, LinkedIn outreach and social selling, host virtual or in-person events, create and share exciting content.
Aside from the visible activity, you also want to measure everything, track your open and reply rate, as well as the success rate with your calls and conversions from Linkedin. Then, do A/B testing to use the best performing messaging.
Think about all possible situations where you can meet your prospects (conferences, webinars). Do you know what they like? Send them a gift, then.
Just keep creating and validating hypotheses until you find the sweet spot. It's worth it.
The final takeaways
Account-based selling is a sales strategy worth trying if you are targeting high-value accounts. However, it’s not an easy task. You’ll need to spend the time, energy, and resources finding the right accounts to target, identifying decision-makers, and creating sales assets. But in the end, you’ll reap the rewards.
To wrap it up:
- Set up your clear plan.
- Invest time in research and preparation.
- Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
- Keep track of your numbers.
- Be persistent.