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ABM: Aligning Marketing & Sales

Let me introduce myself. My name is Steven, and I'm the VP of Marketing here at Webs. I've built a career helping B2B companies that are sales-heavy become more efficient at generating pipeline and revenue.

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Sales-heavy teams often sell more complex and expensive products. Or at least least they should be. Otherwise, they will run into severe issues with their Cost of Acquisition (CAC).

You're not selling shoes online

And the thing is:  you don't sell expensive products the same way you would a pair of shoes online. It might get you some results, but it will (almost) never get you where you need to go.

I see Marketing teams at high-touch Manufacturing and SaaS companies running inbound lead-gen campaigns and sourcing less than 10 percent of the total pipeline. Operating at high efficiency, they should be able to source more than 50 percent.  

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Here are four reasons why

  1. Your purchase base is in the hundreds or thousands. Not in the millions. Your odds of catching the right fish get worse. Your Inbound feels more unpredictable, and scaling it is challenging.
  2. People (leads) don't decide alone. The average DMU in high-touch B2B is about six people. Sometimes, even more. One lead showing some interest doesn't mean the company is ready to buy. They often don't want a call from Sales. Yet.
  3. Your Buyers are making important decisions, and making mistakes will hurt their reputation. They need to make sure they can trust you. Do you understand their business or industry? Are you speaking the same language? Generic Messaging often doesn't resonate. Neither does social proof from another Industry.
  4. Doing complex deals means navigating a more complex buyer journey. And being able to deliver an efficient Buyer Experience requires all of your client-facing teams to work together closely, providing a more relevant and personalised approach for a subset of your Market. 

Meet ABM or Account-Based Marketing

ABM is a strategy designed to help you deal with these complex Buyer Journeys in a more efficient way.

It's not going to magically solve all of your problems, but if you do it right and give it the time and focus it needs, you should see some great results. 

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Sadly, too many ABM programs get killed too soon because people have the wrong expectations in terms of ROI. Getting better at ABM takes time. It's a learning process. Take your stakeholders along on that journey. Get them excited.

The main goal is, of course, revenue and sales efficiency. But with a sales cycle of six months, you shouldn't promise it within three.

Don't just report on revenue. Add leading indicators to your reporting, impacting the short and mid-term. So that, at every stage, you've got something to show for it:

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ABM is not about Marketing

I know. The name is confusing. But don't let it fool you: ABM is not about Marketing. 

It's about aligning ALL your customer-facing teams on how to best market and sell to a specific list of companies: your Target Accounts.

ABM is a team sport. It takes all Stakeholders involved to optimise how your company is navigating these complex buyer journeys.

So beware of ABM programs run solely by Marketing, without Executive buy-in, and without alignment with Sales. They usually don't deliver the best results.

How to scan for alignment issues

If you're getting started with ABM or running your first experiments, and you want to do a quick scan for potential alignment issues, here are some questions to ask yourself.

There are two levels of alignment in ABM: strategic and operational. When it comes to strategic alignment, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have strong Leadership buy-in? 
  • Do they have realistic expectations?
  • Is there enough trust between Marketing and Sales?
  • Do Marketing and Sales have common goals?
  • Does Sales have realistic expectations?
  • Do they agree on the ICP and how to approach them? 
  • Did you get input from Service on everything?
  • Do they agree on the Target Account List?

When it comes to operational alignment, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are roles and responsibilities clear to everyone? 
  • Is everyone looking at the same data?
  • Does everyone trust the data?
  • Are there important frictions/gaps in the Buyer's journey?
  • Do we agree on triggers for Lifecycle stages and routing?
  • Does Marketing's job stop after the initial hand-off?

How to solve alignment issues

If you're getting too many red flags from doing your quick scan, you have some severe alignment issues, and you need to do something about it.

A big part of strategic alignment comes down to trust. Does the Leadership team have confidence in you? Do you and the Sales or Success leader trust and respect each other? If that's the issue, that's where you need to start.

Put the customer at the centre of your People, Process and Technology (PPT)

All the other issues can be addressed by mapping them onto your Buyer Journey.

In doing so, you need to look at all your customer-facing teams. You want to align them around your prospect and customers with only one goal: to create the right experience throughout their journey with your company because it's this experience that will ultimately lead to revenue growth and profit growth.

Map out the journey of your best customers, and map your PPT to that Journey. Then ask yourself: where do you still lack expertise, what content do you still have to create, where are the frictions in the process, and do you still lack the technology or is specific technology causing friction?

At Webs, we use a framework for it: the Growth Framework. That Framework is based on the Cyclonic Buyer Journey and the Lifecycle Stages in HubSpot. 

Download a copy of our Growth Framework here

Hopefully, this article and our Framework will help you solve your alignment issues. You can download a copy of that Framework via the link below.

I talk a lot about these topics. Feel free to connect or follow me on Linkedin.

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Steven Schroeyens

VP Marketing at Webs