Standard Sales vs Account-Based Sales

With the basics of Account-Based Sales for More Predictable Revenue in place, next comes a deeper explanation as to how “standard sales” differs from account-based sales. First, let’s start with an example.

At Pardot, every August the new Inc. 5000 would come out and Account Executives (AEs) would would go through different relevant categories like software and claim “ownership” of any new accounts on the list that weren’t already in the CRM. Then, they’d go in to LinkedIn (or LinkedIn Sales Navigator) and find the right people based on their department and seniority level. Next, using a scraping tool like LeadIQ or Hunter, the names in LinkedIn would be turned into CRM leads with email addresses. Finally, the AEs would call and email the leads a few times, giving up quickly if there was no response.

This outbound approach, combined with following up to any inbound leads, represents how the majority of companies do standard sales. A few characteristics of standard sales:

  • Reps do both prospecting and selling (no distinguishing between SDRs and AEs)
  • Reaches out to any company that’s loosely relevant
  • Builds a list of two or three people per company
  • Sends an email or two personally and/or makes a phone call or two to each person on the list with generic messaging (most reps give up too early)
  • Treats all companies the same

Now, contrast that to the characteristics of account-based sales:

  • Prospects via SDRs and sells via AEs (specialization of skills)
  • Reaches out to accounts only if they fit the ideal customer profile
  • Looks for every relevant decision maker at the account and has them bucketed into a specific persona based on department and seniority level (e.g. marketing director)
  • Runs a coordinated engagement cadence that involves multiple people in the organization (e.g. the CEO reaching out to the CEO, the marketing director to the marketing director) with persona-based messaging that’s relevant and timely with 10+ touches per contact over time
  • Treats each account uniquely using a system that manages Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 accounts via a predictive marketing platform (e.g. Tier 1 accounts get 120 minutes of effort per month, Tier 2 accounts get 30 minutes of effort per month, etc.)

Standard sales is more “spray and pray” while account-based sales is targeted and deep.

Entrepreneurs would do well to initiate an internal shift to account-based sales and deliver more predictable revenue.

What else? What are some more thoughts on standard sales vs account-based sales?

Account-Based Sales for More Predictable Revenue

With Rainmaker 2017 only a few days away and Revenue Summit 2017 the following week, the account-based sales and marketing conference season is in full force. Targeting specific accounts as a sales strategy has been around for decades. With more focus on high quality customers (larger deal size, shorter sales cycle, better lifetime value), increased pressure on sales and marketing to grow revenue faster, and the advent of high quality sales engagement platformsaccount-based marketing platforms, and account-based intelligence platforms, account-based sales has become more top-of-mind. In fact, when you look at the most common sales rep job title — account executive — the word “account” is front and center.

MatterMark recently published Introducing Account-Based Sales Into Your Process – The Four-Step Framework to help companies get started with account-based sales. Here are the four steps:

  1. Research your current customers – Analyze the existing customers to find patterns like industry, size, geography, tech stack, social presence, and more.
  2. Build your target list – Using the signals from your current customers, build a list of lookalike/net-new accounts that match the most important attributes.
  3. Identify prospects – With the target accounts, use LinkedIn to find the right people in the accounts based on department and seniority level.
  4. Reach out – Run a process to engage via email, phone, social, and more (too many sales people give up after three or four tries — go deep and be pleasantly persistent).

Think accounts, not individual contacts. Build an account-based sales program for a more predictable sales engine.

What else? What are some more ideas around account-based sales?

SalesLoft Rainmaker 2017

Next week SalesLoft puts on their excellent Rainmaker conference in Atlanta at the Loews Hotel. After raising $15 million, launching major new product features, and announcing key new leaders, SalesLoft’s Rainmaker conference is set to bring the sales engagement community together for three days of learning, sharing, and connecting.

A few event highlights:

  • 45 speakers
  • 700 attendees
  • 25 breakout sessions
  • 1 awesome community

Interested in sales engagement or SalesLoft? Check out Rainmaker 2017 next week in Atlanta.

Selling Products Through Resellers

Last week the topic of selling a product through resellers came up in two separate conversations with entrepreneurs. Historically, I haven’t had much success selling through third-parties but I know of plenty of other startups that have done it well. From what we’ve tried and what I’ve seen others do well, here are a few thoughts on startups selling through resellers:

  • Ensure Credit Towards Quota – One of the most important things in a reseller relationship is that the sales reps of the reseller get credit towards quota. Without quota credit there’s little, if any, incentive to sell the other product. Alignment is key and it starts with credit towards quota.
  • Monthly Champion Calls – The champions of the relationship in both organizations need to talk monthly about what’s going well and not going well. Too often, the reseller partnership is signed and everyone goes back to what they were doing before and nothing happens. Regular, recurring communication is key. Go head, put it on the calendar now.
  • Regular Training – Products, especially technology ones, are complex and nuanced. For the sales and marketing teams of the reseller to feel comfortable selling a new product they need to be trained initially as well as on a recurring basis when new functionality comes out. Ask a sales person if confidence is an important part of selling something and they’ll all say yes. If a product isn’t well understood, the sales rep isn’t going to be as confident, and that hurts the chances of success.

Selling through resellers is tough as most of the sales and marketing is outside your control. Increase the chance of success by aligning interests through programs like quota credit as well as recurring communication and training.

What else? What are some more thoughts on selling products through resellers?

The 3-Step Startup Marketing Framework

Hiten Shah has a great post up titled The 3-Step Startup Marketing Framework where he outlines the process he used to help grow popular startup Kissmetrics. Here are the three steps:

  1. Identify your target customer by understanding:
    • What your product does
    • The problem your product solves
    • Who wants this problem solved
  2. To find out where your target audience hangs out:
    • Create a master list of potential places
    • Establish criteria for ideal marketing channels
    • Vet your list according to those criteria
  3. To engage with your customer
    • Identify your method of engagement
    • Expand as far as this method allows
    • Confine your reach only to the target audience
    • Aim to deliver a high amount of value

Go read The 3-Step Startup Marketing Framework and follow his process.

What else? What are some more thoughts on this startup marketing framework?

Q4’s Sales Results Inform Next Year’s Budget

As entrepreneurs are putting the last minute, final touches on the 2017 operating plan, there’s an important point that is often overlooked: Q4’s sales results inform next year’s budget. Meaning, entrepreneurs are an optimistic bunch and like to make big plans using a combination of a bottom-up and top-down sales forecast. Only, these forecasts are made before Q4 has finished, and Q4 is often the best sales quarter as many companies make purchases at the end of the year with fresh budget in place for the new year.

Here are a few thoughts on Q4’s sales results informing next year’s budget:

  • New sales drives a number of other functions like the number of people needed for support, customer success, customer implementations/on-boarding, etc. such that Q4 sales results affects hiring plans for the new year
  • If Q4 sales exceed plan or are below plan, that means there’s a higher/lower run-rate to start the new year, and budgets will need to be adjusted
  • If Q4 sales are off plan, good or bad, that’ll reset sales expectations for Q1 of the next year higher or lower

As much as budgets and operating plans for the next year are reviewed and finalized, the reality is that they’re built around hitting sales expectations for Q4. If Q4’s sales are better or worse than expected, budgets should be revised.

What else? What are some more thoughts on how Q4’s sales results inform next year’s budget?

Marketing Orchestration Platform

After sharing the story of 27 SaaS Products for the Marketing Department with an entrepreneur, I got to wondering if there’s going to emerge a new category of product: marketing orchestration platform. Today, marketing departments run as a federation of specialized functions managed by a central project management app like Trello or Asana. Only, the project management app is just for the projects, not for coordinating all the moving parts.

Here’s what a marketing orchestration platform might do:

  • Connect via APIs to the major applications used by marketing
  • Automatically show all campaigns/programs/processes running
  • Collect all the relevant metrics and data for processing and visualization
  • Apply machine learning to the data and make recommendations
  • Facilitate coordination and timing of on-going programs
  • Profit!

Then again, it might be too complicated and cumbersome and make all that happen elegantly. If someone can pull it off, it feels like a gap in the market. I’m curious to see if a standalone product emerges or if the marketing automation vendors get better at becoming a platform that other apps integrate with (the same way Salesforce.com has done) and marketing automation becomes the marketing orchestration hub.

What else? What are some more thoughts on a marketing orchestration platform?