Sales Executive Corner

Account-Based Sales and the Death of Inbound Marketing

Manny Medina's Avatar

Manny Medina



When the quality of inbound leads starts to suffer, it can leave even high-performing sales reps struggling to meet quota. In this regard, the marketing arms at many enterprise companies haven’t been doing their reps many favors of late. As the cost of their tried-and-true, demand-gen gambits such as content, webinars, and whitepapers have gone down, the ensuing flood of content has left the marketplace crowded and noisy. The result? A deluge of bad leads to process, a corresponding drop in conversion rates, and frustrated front-line sellers. Worse, traditional inbound lead-gen is becoming an unforgivably inefficient vehicle for driving top-line growth.

To combat, we need to take a hard look at retooling our marketing to perform against sales targets. Call it Outbound Marketing. Doing so is not only certain to drive up inbound lead quality – important when, according to an Accenture report, only 25 percent of enterprise sales come from those leads – but it will also close gaps in the other 75 percent of sales that come from pure, unaided outbound activities.

To get there we will need to build outbound muscle in both sales AND marketing, with a focus on account-based efforts. A prerequisite is a tight collaboration between sales and marketing to identify target accounts, personas within those accounts, and agreed-on value propositions to use on each persona. It will also require a novel set of analytics and tools to see what activities work for the target accounts and personas. These efforts, regardless of whether sales or marketing tools are deployed, must be measured according to sales effectiveness.

What does this look like on the ground? We start with focused efforts as early in the engagement process as possible. In fact, we redefine where marketing engagement starts by identifying specifically who we want to bring it to: the set of account cohorts with the highest monetary value and velocity based on what we sold in the past and our own running hypotheses. Predictive scoring tools such as Infer and Node can help pick profitable targets, and in a pinch, good old pattern matching and educated guesses can also get us up and running.

We will also need additional account-level data from sources like Datafox or Node to help compose personalized outreaches and to come up with talking points targeted at the persona we are trying to reach. Lastly, and most importantly, we need a rich repository of account contacts with title information, segmentation, and additional data: Discoverorg, Zoominfo, Avention, D&B, Ringlead or Datanyze can all provide this raw material to sales teams for getting targets in hand.

From there we work smart, using account-based tactics to generate solid footholds for our reps. For example, rather than using the traditional passive opt-in tools, we instead look for signals that high-value prospects are engaging our marketing – clicks from known IPs, for example – and begin active engagement. A click yields an actionable prospect; analytics and automation let us respond to them with tailored landing pages, content, and ad retargeting to help them along in the buyer’s journey.

This notion is already catching on in diverse corners. Both Brian Bell, CMO of Ping Identity and Wendy White, Head of Global Business Campaigns at CenturyLink, are creating a process and adopting a toolset that will help their teams to identify accounts they want to land based on intent data and other predictive markers and use targeted advertising and content to move them along the buyer’s journey. Mrs. White is betting on a combination of Demandbase and Marketo.  Mr. Bell has been evaluating tools such as Bombora.

Both the justification and the technology for targeted marketing practices are here. The question is, are your marketing and sales teams ready to take on this brave new world of outbound marketing?

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