ABM Insight Report: How to manage change in an ABM project

Hitting people with a stick works to a degree but getting people to buy in is fundamental... It's true that people selling to people works.

Change, as we all know, is tough in business, just as in any other activity of life. Making big switches in focus, or in how the organization executes on a strategy or creates and adapts a model to achieve success, can be threatened by all sorts of challenging factors from inertia to employees feeling threatened, to partner discomfort, botched processes or disagreements on the best way forward. Account based management is one way to drive new insights and to sell and market more smartly to key accounts but it’s subject to the same growing pains of change. Often, business transformation efforts center on where companies realize the way they’ve been marketing and selling in a certain way with a certain service or product to a certain audience needs to change. Organizations will then investigate and use a mix of insights to decide on next steps and they might well turn to ABM to help them. But how do you make change happen when instituting an ABM project? Paul Mackender of Agent3 says that while there’s no magic formula, there are some ingredients to be sourced for likely success.

“Hitting people with a stick works to a degree but getting people to buy in is fundamental,” he says. “It’s true that people selling to people still works. There has to be a real recognition in ABM that, when they do engage, it comes down to people and their relationships, and mutual understanding.”

It’s become a cliché to describe long-term projects like ABM as a journey, but Mackender sees some value in the analogy.

“Change management is certainly not an overnight exercise and you could describe it as a journey,” he says. “That said, there are milestones and quick wins that can be made and benefits realized. Critically, it requires strong leadership and a vision for change, where the mandate is given to do things differently. But it can’t be wholly a top-down exercise, it needs to be balanced with grassroots buy-in and building a model that is right for the organization. This is where the role of communication comes in, sharing updates, best practices, lessons learned and, most importantly, sharing wins and progress.”

Julie Woods-Moss, chief marketing and innovation officer at network services giant Tata Communications, sees huge value in identifying people with strong team-working skills as a good fit for making ABM change happen.

“I was with the head of transformation for McKinsey and she said something that really resonated with me,” Woods-Moss recalls. “In those types of roles where you’re really wanting significant buy-in, of course you need competent people who understand the industry but you really need collaborative people who aren’t afraid of being experimental. The integrators, people who can work together… that’s a key characteristic of this new breed of people, whether that’s a CDO or head of ABM.”

Change takes confidence, she adds, but it shouldn’t be daunting.

“Of course, at my level, I can share a strategy and provide evidence that these programs are getting well established, deliver an ROI and all that good stuff. But, and it hasn’t changed in decades, people want to be part of something that’s successful.”

Click here to download the full ABM Insight Report and learn about more ABM best practices across the following fundamental areas:

  • Selecting the right accounts
  • Targeting the right decision-makers
  • Aligning sales and marketing
  • Leveraging the power of predictive analytics
  • Proving the value of ABM
  • Identifying the right channels of engagement throughout the customer lifecycle
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