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Account-centric lead generation – the answer to the sales and Marketing alignment conundrum?

Jamie Hallitt

September 20, 2021

We all know that sales and marketing alignment is a perennial issue in most medium to large enterprises.  And solving it is seen as something of a holy grail given that countless industry bodies tell us that, when sales and marketing are aligned, revenue increases faster.  There are many reasons why sales and marketing alignment is so challenging but one major issue is the disconnect between how each party defines what represents a lead.  Get agreement on that, and maybe, just maybe, sales and marketing might start to align that little bit better.  But how to drive that joint understanding of a lead?  Perhaps, the answer lies in taking an ABM, or account-centric, approach to lead generation, rather than fixating on volumes of leads.

Let’s take a step back first and look at the issue of lead definition.  Being reductive, the core of the challenge is that, all too often, marketing is goaled on lead volume whereas sales are goaled on closed revenue.  Despite many sales and marketing teams at many companies over many years viewing lead generation in this way, and failing to drive alignment accordingly, the problem still persists.  In short, marketing teams are working hard to produce leads in high volumes and at high speed, then sending these across to sales and saying ‘this person expressed interest through downloading our whitepaper, they’re now yours to follow up.’   The hit rate on follow up for SDRs is then poor, because downloading a whitepaper is really not enough to suggest an interest strong enough to warrant a sales call, leaving sales frustrated with marketing for supplying more leads.  And so marketing teams crank the handle and drive up the volume to create MORE leads.  And the vicious cycle, the inefficiency and the waste continues.  Not to mention the disconnect between sales and marketing remaining a yawning chasm.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  

Let’s begin by defining what we at Agent3 mean by account-centric lead generation.

Whereas many organisations strive to get campaigns live as quickly as possible, then test, learn and optimise along the way, for us, it’s all about the preparation up front.  Working from an agreed list of accounts, we create campaigns that factor in elements of an ABM workflow: insights, data builds, stakeholder IDs, research and, subsequently, messaging for that audience.   Doing so increases sales teams’ chances of conversion by ensuring that the proposition and messaging is relevant, and therefore resonates with the target audience. 

 Sure, the numbers of leads you ultimately hand over to sales as a result of this won’t be in the tens of thousands that perhaps a traditional leads-centric generation campaign might produce, but equally, neither will the volume of waste and inefficiency be as high.  Working from account lists, scrutinising your audience, defining different segments and working out what you have to say to each audience ‘cluster’ up front makes the sales job at the end of the process so much easier.  

Putting the hours in to pre-campaign insight avoids sales teams having to do so at the end of the campaign via their follow up calls, and goes a long way to helping solve the marketing and sales alignment conundrum by delivering something that’s more joined up and far more likely to end up with a real result – ie: revenue. Why do the filtering after the event?

In addition to making account-centric lead generation more efficient, another important factor is simplicity. 

At Agent3, we want the sales teams at our clients to be clear about what’s expected of them when a lead lands on their desk.  By applying ABM principles to demand generation and working in an account-centric way, it is so much easier for sales teams to understand what’s expected of them when a lead arises if the process has been explained at the start of the program.  Account-centric lead generation means marketing is able to communicate to sales the audience profile, the type of campaign going to that audience, the messaging being taken out to that audience and the plan of action if successful in generating a lead from that audience. 

With a non-account-centric approach, however, leads can be at lots of different points.  Maybe they’ve downloaded an asset but not opted in.  Maybe they’ve said yes to one thing, but no to another?  It can get messy, and the ask on the sales teams then is much harder because they’ve got to figure out if the lead is qualified or not and, if so, what type of qualification it is:  just a lead?  A marketing qualified lead?  A sales accepted lead?  An opportunity? Having a lower volume of marketing qualified leads from an account-centric approach means fewer, more qualified calls for sales teams to handle and convert.  

So while there’s always pressure on marketing to produce high volumes of leads for sales teams to follow up, the clue lies in that very term ‘follow up.’  Sales teams do not want to start qualifying leads with their first call, but by applying ABM principles to any demand generation programs that challenge will be solved and the sales person is more able to engage in a meaningful way.

If you know the fish you want to catch, find out first which waters they swim in and what they like to eat rather than casting your net overboard and hoping you’ll land your supper!

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