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The new role of Sales in ABM

Account-Based Marketing
Ben Romberg

Ben Romberg

Client Strategy Director | ESG | Technology | ABM

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

Most people in marketing will be familiar with the quote above, or a version of it. It’s generally attributed to John Wanamaker (1838-1922), a successful American merchant regarded today as a pioneer in both sales and marketing; Wanamaker opened one of the first and most successful department stores in the U.S. which eventually became part of Macy’s.

While today we tend to recall this quote affectionately and humorously, it does point back to a time (not very long ago at all…) when one of the key criticisms of marketing (not just the advertising part of the equation) was that it was difficult to prove how and when it had worked.  With the creation of ABM and the technological tools at our disposal to identify, target, track and measure individuals through personalized engagement, the idea of not understanding where your marketing budget has gone is a thing of the past. It also takes away one of the key ‘sticks’ that sales used to beat marketing with.

One of the reasons ABM has proven so wildly popular over the last half-decade is its transparency and visibility. Because it’s clear to show how ABM is working and what results it’s getting, it helps unify teams behind a common goal.  Put very quickly and broadly, the benefits of ABM include:

  • Increased revenue
  • Enhanced loyalty
  • Improved ability to convert the high-value customers
  • Elevated reputation and advocacy
  • Accelerated pipeline

But perhaps the greatest benefit to be seen from ABM is the long-awaited closer relationship between sales and marketing.  These two departments, which are of course supposed to work hand-in-glove, have in far too many companies through business history been either distrusting or actively hostile to one another. So many opportunities have gone missing along the way either because the marketing department didn’t listen to ear-on-the-ground insight and experience from the sales teams, or the sales team didn’t take proper notice of what the marketing department were doing, and lost any relevant or timely advantage.

ABM’s genuinely changing all of that. And while marketers are rightly proud of their new skills (underpinned by some very smart MarTech), it’s probably fair to say that the biggest change to how people think has been seen on the sales side of the equation. Sales teams who get ABM actively welcome the chance to input their own research, to feedback on suggested campaign messages and creative, and to take briefings from marketing on when and how will be the best time for them to connect with their prospects, based on the ABM roll-out.

Alignment and acceleration

While many people have offered their own definitions of ABM (all of which are broadly in the same space), here are two of my personal favorites:

“A strategic approach to marketing and sales, working in combination, to identify and target your most important customers – both new and existing.” – B2B Marketing

“A strategic approach that coordinates relevant departments to open doors and deepen engagements.” – Andrea Clatworthy, Global Head of ABM, Fujitsu

Two big things I take from the above are that ABM aligns and coordinates departments behind agreed messaging and strategic direction – not only Sales and Marketing, but other departments too.  And I love Andrea’s thought that ABM “opens doors” – whether at new clients or existing ones, ABM is at heart all about driving more relevant and timely engagement.

It’s worth, however, also reminding ourselves what ABM is not.  It’s not a ‘one size fits all’ solution or a panacea for all problems.  It’s not a quick and easy way of increasing revenues.  And it’s also not all that quick and easy to understand and implement properly.  It needs experience, and it needs care and attention in the planning and execution.

But when done properly, the results speak for themselves.  Today, 97% of marketers doing ABM identify it as the highest ROI driver in their marketing portfolio.  The benefits and results are being seen by marketing and sales departments across the board – making organizations insight-centric, deepening account penetration and improving visibility on spend.

As well as aligning your internal teams more harmoniously and productively, ABM can make your partner and channel relationships much more valuable. Now’s as good a place as any for me to float the consideration that everything should now be under the ABM umbrella to make your industry marketing more valuable and your demand generation more effective. It’s time to stop thinking of ABM as a ‘line-item’ in your marketing budget; it should be central to your overarching marketing strategy.

Just ask your sales and marketing departments.