James Carbary

Founder at Sweet Fish Media

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How to Get Your Whole Company to Sell to Ideal Customers

James Carbary

Founder at Sweet Fish Media

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You’ve heard of account-based marketing. And a new buzzword is account-based sales development. But Craig Rosenberg, Co-Founder and Chief Analyst at TOPO, says these aren’t enough—businesses should move toward account-based everything. The idea is to target a set of accounts that you believe should be your customers, then organize your entire revenue chain—from marketing, to demand gen, to sales development, to sales, to upsell, to product—in order to capture that particular set of accounts. We recently interviewed Craig and asked him to explain the benefits and purpose behind account-based everything, since it’s a fairly new concept (or at least uncommon) concept. Here’s what he told us.

Why Account-Based Everything Makes Sense

Let’s back up to when you (or your founder) built your company. You had a target market, which was probably big because you were trying to convince everybody you’re the greatest company ever.

But when you want to win, you start to dig in and research trends for those accounts that are most likely to buy from you in the most efficient amount of time. Essentially,  you make better bets. You narrow your goals to focus your search.

That’s really hard for a lot of companies to accept.

Actually, CEOs generally buy into this. VPs of Sales agree, too. It’s marketing that says, “Whoa, we wanted to sell the whole world!” Silly marketing…

How Do You Even Begin to Implement This?

Great question. You do it by looking at current customers in two ways:

  1. Quantitatively – Look at deals you’ve sold with reasonable sales cycles, and deals where you see data-centric patterns.
  2. Qualitatively –  Even if your sales reps aren’t closing deals, they should be able to tell you what resonates with prospects.

Then you combine those two types of data to create your ideal customer profile (ICP), and start targeting accounts that fit the profile. For some companies, the ICP is verticals, but the ICP of others might have lots of different attributes.

Here’s a vertical example: we all know that relevance works. But how many times as a salesperson have we gone in to pitch a healthcare guy with the horizontal deck? No, we want to be built for healthcare, to walk in and say, “I understand you. I understand that your number one issue is compliance, so let’s talk about how to solve that.”

When you make these targeted bets, everything starts to get easier. This idea of personalizing the experiences you’re providing your buyers becomes something you can do at scale, because you’re putting accounts in groups, allowing you to build enablement materials that are relevant to them.

What Should You Look for to Identify Your Ideal Account?

Another example should help here.

Let’s think about the ERP/accounting software market. You can’t knock on someone’s door and rip out their ERP—you just can’t. Sure, some miracle sales guy can, but it’s generally not within the realm of possibility.

Yet, these ERP companies are somehow delivering massive revenue every year. That’s because they’ve identified that their software is great for particular verticals, and most are very honest about that. (E.g., SAP and Oracle are really good for manufacturing. Netsuite isn’t as good.)

Then ERP companies look at the behavioral attributes of potential customers. International growth in general creates a massive amount of problems; same with new funding or any other major step up in finances; or things like mergers. There are all these cool things ERP guys are looking for in accounts.

As another example, Craig recently talked to a guy who does security. They started with the vision that “everybody needs to be secure.” Then they narrowed their focus, only targeted accounts with valuable data. Then they continued to narrow it down to companies with valuable data and whom they could likely close. On and on, until they had a very specific ICP.

The great news is that this decision-making goes beyond how big a company is.You don’t have to have hundreds of customers to narrow your focus right where you’re at.

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Through Which Channels Should You Reach Out to Your Targeted Accounts?

Once you’ve got your ICP nailed down, the real first step is to identify the channels by which you’ll reach out to them. For marketing, the answer is something really personalized.

If you’re using email, make it as personal as possible. If not, try out a crazy new marketing trend: direct mail.

Yep, that’s right.

Dimensional mailers is a micro-trend from the “account-based” macro-trend. People are bringing back personalized direct mail. It makes sense: you’re not getting to the CIO by sending a webinar invitation, but you might from a personal letter from your CEO.

So figure out the channels you want to use, and if you want to get started right away, to start the chain across the entire revenue chain, choose a subset of the ICP to iron out the kinks.

People always say, “Oh, we’re doing account-based everything, so let’s do it big,” and it takes nine months to add value. But Craig suggests starting with the highest value sales reps and enabling them to try the new approach. It can be really difficult otherwise to effect this in your entire organization.

The opposite is the worst you can do: many companies want to fix the bottom 30% of their sales reps, but you may be wasting resources that way because the brutal truth is that many of them won’t make it.

Conclusion

To recap: before you can implement account-based everything, you have to nail down who those accounts are. You have to come up with a narrow, specific ICP.

After you do that, though, you can see some wonderful results by going to an account-based approach. Believe it or not, you can’t sell your product or service to the entire world.

But you can do a whole lot better at selling to the crowd available to you.

This post is based on an interview with Craig Rosenberg from TOPO.

You can find this interview, and many more, by subscribing to the B2B Growth Show on iTunes. If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode by clicking here.

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