Over the last two years, SalesLoft has completed a full implementation of an account-based model (ABM), that buzzword of a sales strategy that’s been taking the sales and marketing world by storm.
The results are impressive.
They’re doing bigger deals, and the company has grown from 50 people to over 200 in the last two years.
But, here’s the thing…
SalesLoft’s real-life execution of ABM does NOT look like the ABM process you’ve probably seen in all those LinkedIn articles or trade magazines.
They haven’t, for example, abandoned “inbound” techniques in favor of ABM.
Quite the contrary.
We talked with Brad Ansley, manager of sales development at SalesLoft, to give us the details…
Note: If you’re running an account based sales model at your company, Leadfeeder will show you which accounts are visiting your website. You can try it free for 14 days and see who visited in the last month. 5-minute setup: Start here.
Spearfishing Without Throwing Away the Net
If inbound marketing is like fishing with a net and ABM is like fishing with a spear…
SalesLoft is quite happy doing both.
In contrast to the advice you might have read, SalesLoft’s marketing team hasn’t stopped its lead generation efforts.
Far from it.
There are two main reasons for that…
1. There are lots of fish in the sea
First, SalesLoft understands the companies on its target list aren’t the only companies that might be interested in its products.
“No matter how good our list is and regardless of how aligned we are with marketing, you can’t say we know who are the only companies we should do business with,” said Brad Ansley, manager of SalesLoft’s sales development team. “That is completely unrealistic.”
2. Inbound lead gen directly supports ABM
Second—and more importantly—the way SalesLoft’s marketing team generates leads is not in conflict with the overall ABM approach.
That’s because SalesLoft’s marketing team generates plenty of inbound traffic and leads from companies already on its target list.
If an employee from a target account visits the website or requests a demo, for example, that activity will automatically be routed to the assigned sales rep.
“That part is great,” Ansley said. “If I get a lead like that, I already know what’s happening in the account, and I’m probably already working with multiple people in the company. It makes the whole process much easier.”
In that way, SalesLoft has broken the usual dichotomy commonly described when talking about ABM…
That you have to create a list and focus ONLY on that list and no one else.
And that your marketing team must stop all its inbound generation efforts and—instead—help you reach people in your target accounts.
The big takeaway?
Grab your spear.
But don’t throw away the net.
How SalesLoft Created Its List of Target Accounts
When SalesLoft adopted ABM, the biggest thing that changed was the way it created its lists of target accounts.
No longer would marketing create leads and “throw them over the wall” for sales to qualify.
Nor would sales development reps create their own lists using LinkedIn and then hammer them through cultivation sequences.
Today, account lists are created through a collaboration between sales and marketing.
Together, the teams decide which companies to target and which ones are the most important. Then, they assign those accounts to different members of the SDR team—with marketing supporting their efforts.
How do they decide which accounts to include?
By looking at what makes their best customers great.
“I think one of the most difficult things for us was creating the list,” said Brad Ansley, manager of sales development at SalesLoft. “We really had to look hard at our best customers to see what it was about them that made them a good fit for us.”
Specifically, the team uses three primary criteria as it evaluates companies for their potential:
- Size of company
- Size of sales team
- Existing use of Salesforce and other sophisticated software tools
The size of the company and the sales force are signals of how many seats SalesLoft could potentially sell into the account.
And if a company had Salesforce or other sophisticated software tools—that was a sign that the firm was already comfortable using software tools similar to SalesLoft.
Setting New Responsibilities within the Sales Team
Once a list is created at SalesLoft, each sales development rep (SDR) is assigned roughly 100 accounts to pursue in a given month.
The SDR’s job is to do everything possible to catch the attention of people within the companies on their list—with the goal of setting appointments for account executives.
That’s a big change from the old process, where SDRs would create a list of prospects (on their own), then work them through a cultivation cadence trying to create as many appointments as possible.
Under the old process, if someone on a prospect list didn’t respond when the sequence was over, the SDR would eventually send a funny “break-up” email.
“Usually someone being chased by a hippopotamus or something like that,” Ansley told us.
Under ABR, there are no break-up emails.
“I’m not going to stop chasing someone just because they haven’t responded to me,” Ansley said. “These are my accounts. I’m just going to try to be creative and strategic and find another way to get their attention.”
Aligning Marketing to Support the ABM Approach
When SalesLoft adopted ABM, its marketing team didn’t stop generating leads.
It did, however, realign its efforts to generate as many leads as possible from contacts working at SalesLoft’s target accounts.
For the top companies on the target list, marketing can do a variety of things to provide “air coverage” specific to a target account.
They can create custom landing pages, for example.
They can also create physical mailers to individual accounts, which are designed to coordinate with the cultivation sequences the sales reps use as they’re trying to create new relationships.
The marketing team works closely on a daily basis with the SDR team to support their engagement with top accounts.
“We have different tiers of accounts,” Ansley said. “For our top accounts, marketing gives us direct support. For lower accounts, they’re not creating custom landing pages, but they do provide more general support.”
The bottom line?
The entire effort is aligned—both in sales and marketing.
And all the team’s efforts are pointed squarely at one thing: landing bigger deals.
Sales Tips for Reps Converting to ABM
For individual reps, converting to ABM might feel a little different than a traditional sales model.
Throughout our talk with Ansley, he dropped a series of strategies for reps who might be new to the ABM approach.
If you (or anyone on your team) are new to the ABM approach, here are a few specific, actionable tactics Ansley mentioned that you can try:
1. Let people see you looking at them on LinkedIn
Set your LinkedIn to allow people to see you when you visit their profile. One of Ansley’s reps was worried that he’d visited a certain person’s profile too many times, that the prospect would think “I was stalking him.”
“It’s better to let people know that you’ve done your homework,” Ansley said. “It lets them know you’re serious about working with them.”
2. Send a video
Trying to reach someone and not getting a response? Try embedding a quick video in your email.
Make it short, around 30 seconds of so. And the key is: in the thumbnail image you put in the email—the one people will click—show yourself holding a paper with the person’s name on it. Vidyard makes this easy to do.
“We’ve had a lot of success with that,” Ansley said. “It tells people you’ve at least put some effort into reaching them.”
3. For new accounts, start with the people who are most active on social media
Trying to reach a new account? Start by identifying the people in the company who are the most active on social media.
“There are more ways to reach out to someone on social media,” Ansley said. “That’s why I have my team start with the most active people.”
4. To get engagement, comment with a question on the articles they’ve shared on LinkedIn
Once you’ve found active people on social media profiles (LinkedIn especially), engage with them by leaving comments on articles they share in their feed.
Don’t just comment through. Ask a question.
“That way you get engagement right from the start,” Ansley told us.
From there, it’s a much easier transition when you begin to contact the person by email or by phone, since they already know you.
5. Companies hiring salespeople are companies that are growing
A growing company is a much better prospect than one that’s having financial troubles.
To find out if a company is growing, look to see if it has listings for salespeople on its website or on prominent job boards like Glassdoor.com, Indeed.com, or LinkedIn.
“Knowing this lets me reach out to them and congratulate them on the growth, then relate that to how we can help accelerate that growth,” Ansley said.
Note:* If you’re running an account based sales model at your company, Leadfeeder will show you which accounts are visiting your website. You can try it free for 14 days and see who visited in the last month. 5-minute setup: Start here.
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