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Account-Based Selling: Framework, Strategy, Plan & Tools

Learn what is account based selling (ABS), account based sales strategy and framework, and how to build an account based sales plan with examples and tools.

Hadar Peretz

6 minute read

What is account-based selling (ABS)
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Short answer

What is account-based selling?

Account-Based Selling (ABS) is part of a broad strategy to acquire, cater to, and retain high-ticket customers in a more dedicated manner. Account-based sales aims to close big deals (more than $50,000) with bigger customers

ABS can fill your pipeline with big fish and boost your ROI

So you’re finally looking into account-based selling (ABS). And not a minute too soon. Honestly, I think you’ve been missing out until now.

Do you like fishing? Sales is like fishing - you cast a wide net and pull up a bunch of little sardines (SMBs). But ABS is like sports fishing - you choose the right bait, and the precise location for catching only the biggest fish in the sea.

Doing ABS You'd focus on the big players, the ones that really matter. It saves time and resources and would likely boost your ROI. Plus, it's all about personal touch – understanding what each account really needs.

And think about the synergy between your sales and marketing teams; they'd be on the same page, targeting the same high-value accounts.

Your competitors? They're probably already on it.

Stick around to the end and I’ll help you position yourself as a competitor to be reconned with.

Account-based sales vs. normal selling

Account-based sales is a selling strategy in which the sales team targets and approaches high-value clients instead of casting a wide net.

This strategy uses a multi-touch, multi-channel approach using cross-department coordination to identify and nurture a specific number of targeted clients.

How’s this different from normal selling, you might ask?

In traditional selling methods, businesses try to sell to as many customers as possible without considering customer-specific requirements.

As per this Gartner report, 48% of the organizations using an account-based approach experienced a higher average win rate. ABS is the way to go if you're targeting mid-sized firms with an average deal size of >$50,000.

In such scenarios, you’ll find that the revenue generated by targeting a few high-worth accounts far outweighs the revenue generated by targeting multiple small accounts with a generalized product.

That's why ABS is more suited for complex B2B sales.

This strategy sometimes uses multiple teams, such as customer success and product development, in combination with sales and marketing.

It may also include elements of account-based marketing (ABM), in which the marketing team identifies high-value leads and targets them for business growth.

Are ABS and ABM the same?

Whoa, ABS and ABM sound kinda the same. What’s the deal there? In reality, Account-based sales and account-based marketing are quite different.

ABM is a marketing strategy in which the sales and marketing teams identify and target high-value leads to convert them into clients. ABM's main objective is to generate leads for your business.

In contrast, ABS is focused on revenue generation. Sometimes, lead engagement can be a part of the ABS strategy, but it is never the focal point of the process. The focal point of the process is always personalized engagement for closing deals.

Secondly, ABM only focuses on new leads. Actions taken by your ABM team do not take into consideration the preferences, demands, and requirements of existing customers.

On the other hand, ABS's strategy requires sales teams to cultivate long-term relationships and ensure that clients bring new purchase orders.

This means they must also consider existing customers and their requirements while designing their campaigns.

This also means that while the marketing and sales teams usually collaborate for ABM strategy, an ABS strategy can require collaboration from different departments, such as sales, marketing, revenue generation, finance, and customer success.

The metrics you would use to measure ABM’s success are also vastly different from ABS. For example, you would check the number of leads, engagement rate, click-through rate, pipeline velocity, etc., to measure ABM’s campaign's success.

In contrast, for measuring the success of an ABS campaign you would use KPIs such as the revenue generated, post-sale customer retention, account lifetime value, etc.

ABM is a great lead generation strategy, as 91% of the companies using ABM have reported an increase in average deal size.

For most organizations that use account-based strategies, the first step is using ABM to generate interest.

However, later there is a handover, in which seasoned sales professionals move from ABM to ABS to finish the job and complete the revenue cycle.

How to do account-based sales right? Framework and strategy

Let’s see how a simple account-based sales look like:

1) Identifying the right customers (your ideal customer profile)

While implementing an ABS strategy, identifying the right customers is half the battle.

Since you only have the resources and time to reach out to a limited number of organizations, you must be very meticulous in client selection.

Targeting the wrong clients can have a significant financial impact on your bottom line. And no one wants that, right?

That's why you need to create an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) to identify your most valuable prospects.

ICP is a fictional profile that contains the basic characteristics you need in your high-value customers.

To create this profile, you must take into account different qualitative and quantitative factors such as company values, business objectives, spending patterns, and yearly revenue.

Some organizations also consider market share, historical growth, and predicted growth while creating their ICP.

Lastly, you should also watch out for behavioral data such as brand interest and historical prospecting while researching the list.

This means you should use your CRM data to look at the current customer list and identify organizations that cover common ground.

You can also utilize it to identify accounts that are already using complementary products for cross-selling opportunities.

What’s an easy way to find out if a client is worth using ABS?

You can use lead scoring methods to assign scores to different accounts based on their attributes. You can do it two ways, start with 0 and assign points for attributes an account has.

Or you can start from 100 and remove points for attributes they lack. This will allow you to divide the relevant accounts into tiers and prioritize your marketing spend.

2) ABS outreach strategy

ABS uses highly targeted content and personalization to reach out to potential customers and get their attention. That's why both marketing and sales teams are involved in content crafting and outreach.

For crafting such specialized content, you need to identify your customer pain points. You also need to understand what tone of content your client responds to (friendly, professional, authoritative, assertive, etc.) and know who to contact them.

Let's see this with an example. Let's say you're selling accounting software, and you have completed the first step of identifying key clients/organizations you want to sell to.

Once that's done, you need to identify the different decision-makers in the organization and how to approach them.

Simply take a look at a company’s website (their “about-us” or “our team” pages) or their LinkedIn page to see key roles in an organization.

If you're targeting the CFO/head of finance through your campaign, you need to craft personalized emails that address high-level challenges of the finance department and how your product will solve them.

Your sales team might call these individuals and ask them about their specific requirements.

Targeted personalized content can be extremely effective for converting these stakeholders. These could include:

If you're targeting finance officers and managers, your content should focus on ease of work and reporting.

For this, you can create blog posts and short videos exemplifying how to use your product and how much time it saves compared to other options.

You can also craft infographics and tailored case studies to display statistical comparisons between the common market solution and your product.

Hotjar case study testimonials example

Furthermore, you can host webinars where these stakeholders can see your product in action. Product videos are a great tool for this purpose, as you can use them to showcase the product’s best qualities.

The same can be done for special role stakeholders. You can create workshops on how your product specifically helps procurement managers and corporate treasury handle those aspects of their finances.

Lastly, you can use targeted emails and blog posts showing actionable solutions to target finance associates, analysts, and accounts through your ABS campaign.

You can also use social media to target them with video clips, snippets, and posts on how to use your products.

Such social media engagement would also exhibit your domain knowledge and position your product as the answer to their problems.

Furthermore, you can send them links for free trials and demos to help potential stakeholders get a feel for your product and spark internal communication.

An ABS strategy often employs a multi-threaded approach, creating dark sales funnels in the product journey.

Dark sales funnels address those touch points that are not traceable by traditional attribution software and data collection methods. These include word of mouth, events, online communities, podcasts, offline reviews, etc.

What's more, your content outreach doesn't even stop after the sale. You can still perform customer outreach through different forms of targeted content, such as training sessions, testimonials, and customer discussions.

You can also use these opportunities to upsell and cross-sell your product offerings.

3) Closing the deal

After you have used your outreach strategy and personalized messaging to reach out to key accounts, you can then move ahead with the sale.

This is one of the most crucial parts of the ABS strategy because you need to demonstrate actual value to your client.

So how would you do that?

Through personalized presentations, your sales team creates and highlights your product's ROI and benefits.

You can also use these presentations to address real-time objections from different stakeholders. They are mostly used for demonstrating how your product can solve client-specific challenges.

These presentations or meetings often include team members from different departments.

For example, the sales team handles the presentation and outlines the product value. You may also invite senior sales executives to facilitate price negotiations.

The support team handles the client queries about the bugs and product enhancements. The product team provides information about the next release and client-specific customizations.

Account executives should also attend these meetings to facilitate relationship-building and establish trust.

They should show apathy to the decision-makers and provide honest advice on how to move forward with the collaboration.

4 ) After the sales

Although the main goal of account-based sales is closing a high-ticket deal, it should not stop there. Valuable accounts have specific needs, and your sales team should continue providing value to them with the help of other departments.

Here are some additional tips:

  1. After the contract is signed, the client needs someone to facilitate the onboarding and address common integration issues. The account executive handles this.

  2. After a client is onboarded, regular check-ins must be done with them to keep them informed about the industry practices, challenges, and evolving needs. Account executives use these check-ins to handle client queries and demonstrate how their product can address these changing requirements.

  3. They also act as the first point of contact for support queries. This is very important for revenue generation, as account executives can offer clients additional services, upgrades, and enhancements to handle market-changing trends.

  4. It’s important to provide various means of communication with customers such as phone calls, chatlines, and help desk software.

  5. Take client feedback and try to include their requirements in the next development cycle. This feedback loop creates a strong partnership between the client and the account manager, which is useful for the ongoing success of the collaboration.

Best ABS tools to get you started

  1. HubSpot ABM Software: This tool offers an integrated account-based marketing software that seamlessly aligns sales and marketing teams, ensuring targeted account engagement.

  2. Terminus: This tool is a leading ABM platform that provides end-to-end solutions for targeting the right accounts, engaging them, and measuring the results effectively.

  3. Demandbase: This tool offers a comprehensive ABM solution, focusing on identifying and targeting high-value accounts using AI and real-time intent data.

  4. RollWorks: This tool stands out with its machine learning and AI-powered targeting capabilities, ensuring precision in reaching the right accounts.

  5. Triblio: This tool is a flexible ABM platform that supports campaigns across various channels and boasts impressive features for multi-channel engagement.

  6. Storydoc: This tool supports the AMS effort by providing your team with easily-made highly engaging sales and marketing collateral they can use throughout the communication with prospects to keep the conversation going.

Hadar Peretz

I am a Marketing Specialist at Storydoc, I research, analyze and write on our core topics of business presentations, sales, and fundraising. I love talkig to clients about their successes and failures so I can get a rounded understanding of their world.

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