The age of ABM is now – but beware

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The age of ABM is now – but beware

...That was the message that came out loud and clear at our recent webinar ABM theory to (best) practice

Peter Lundie, Managing Partner, agent3, and Dorothea Gosling, ABM Centre of Excellence Lead, CSC, presented a compelling case why it’s time to start selling (and marketing) ‘smart and not hard’.

But this rallying cry came with a word of warning. Dorothea talked about the rise of marketing suppliers that have jumped on the ABM bandwagon, rebadging mass marketing solutions under the ABM banner. Her advice: choose wisely and make sure you select a partner who really understands sales and marketing and how ABM works. In CSC’s case, this was agent3.

You can access a recording of the webinar here and if you are attending the 2015 SiriusDecisions Summit in Nashville, 12th - 14th May, please pop by the agent3 stand 226 and/or register for our joint presentation with CSC.

The webinar ended with Pete and Dorothea outlining 10 points that define ABM best practice:

1. You need a vision and executive sponsorship

ABM is a strategic initiative that needs support from the CMO and VP of Sales from the get go. It requires a change in behaviour, and without the support from the top you’re likely to encounter resistance as people return to type, using outdated mass marketing and sales approaches. Inherent in this is the need for clear and consistent communications so that sales and marketing alike understand the objectives and measures of ABM.

2. It needs people; it’s a strategic program and needs dedicated resource

ABM is a not a fad or a passing trend; it requires sustained focus and resource if you’re going to build an effective ABM strategy and drive the necessary behaviours and actions across sales and marketing in a sustained manner.

3. To be relevant you need insights

Without insight ABM is a non-starter. It’s impossible to truly understand your customers, meet their expectations and differentiate from the competition without intimate knowledge about them. Reinforcing this point, Pete cited a number of statistics about B2B buying and the need for insight, including:

  • 50% of customers are more likely to purchase from a vendor when they personalise their sales and marketing materials to a customer’s specific business issues (ITSMA, 2014)
  • (1) Knowledge and understanding of my unique business issues, (2) knowledge and understanding of my industry and (3) fresh ideas to advance my business – these were the three most important factors in shortlisting and making a final decision on an enterprise sale (ITSMA, 2014)
  • (1) Provide product/service information, (2) provide unique perspectives on the market and solutions and (3) provide ongoing advice to help me make the right decisions and avoid landmines – these were the three most critical things a sales rep should be doing during a purchase process (ITSMA, 2014)
4. Generic insights add no value

Insight into a customer is critical, but generic insight about a sector or brand doesn’t in itself deliver the level of knowledge and understanding required. For ABM to have real cut through, it requires you to understand a brand at a sector (including competitor), account and executive level. Furthermore, the insight then needs to be filtered and match customer needs against the ‘big bets’ and sales triggers that a vendor can fulfil against.

5. Without sales you fail…

Dorothea reinforced that as CSC has developed its award-winning ABM practice, it’s been predicated on having sales and marketing alignment. This alignment comes from having a common understanding of the customer between sales and marketing, and an ability to jointly plan and activate coordinated engagement strategies.

6....and good ABM is about every touchpoint with your customer

ABM is about understanding your customer on a new level. That means considering the entire customer experience from first engagement to post sales and support. This reinforces the need for insight across all communications channels on an ongoing basis, at an account and executive level.

7. You are unique – plan your own route

There isn’t a one size fits all approach to ABM. Dorothea talked through how she has marshalled CSC’s strategy over a two year period through three phases of maturity to the current state of ‘Industrial ABM’. ‘Plan your own ABM path relevant to your corporate culture, the resources you have to hand, and the way you are structured.’

8. ABM is not a catch all – you need to focus on the key accounts

ABM takes focus and resource, and is only right for key or named accounts. You need to select the accounts that matter based around criteria that support your sales and marketing strategy.

9. Take a phased approach and invest properly in a pilot

Start with an ABM pilot and build an ABM strategy based on your learnings. In CSC’s case it started with 30 accounts, and today has 175 ABM accounts having gone through three phases of adoption. At each stage CSC has evolved the offer, garnering feedback, and iterated the approach to deliver maximum value to CSC, using the tools, skills and resources at hand.

10. ‘Start with the end in mind’

Taken from Stephen Covey’s ‘7 habits of highly effective people’, Dorothea concluded by saying that you need to plot your end goal if you are to succeed with ABM. You need to be clear on your strategy for ABM – is it about cementing existing relationships and up-selling, or cross-selling and building new green field opportunities, or something else?

While there are potentially a number of variables, internal and external, to consider, the fundamentals of ABM are simple: understand and engage your key customers and prospects in a programmatic way, intelligently aligning your sales and marketing strategy.

If you are attending the SiriusDecisions Summit we look forward to connecting with you. For those of you not so lucky to be in Nashville, we’re always happy to share our experiences around the power of ABM.

Finally, to quote Joel Harrison, Editor-in-Chief at B2B marketing: ‘the time is right to explore ABM - if you’re not doing it, you can bet your competitors are’. Are you willing to leave it to chance?

Posted by Paul Mackender

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