Account-based selling: The ultimate guide for 2024

Posted May 13, 2024

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By Serena Miller

Editor, Sales Best Practices at Outreach

Account based selling: The ultimate guide for 2024

At Outreach, we believe that every seller's personal touch and attention to detail can work wonders in building strong customer relationships. Now, imagine your entire team harnessing that magic to collaborate on landing the biggest and best accounts, with everyone focused on a common goal. That's the essence of account-based selling: aligning the strengths of your sales, marketing, and customer success teams to target key accounts with personalized, coordinated strategies that simplify the path to success.

Account-based selling (ABS) is a strategic approach that targets high-value accounts as individual markets — delivering highly personalized engagement to convert those targets into customers. We’re here to provide the ultimate guide to account-based selling with a comprehensive understanding of the benefits of ABS, how it’s related to account-based marketing, actionable steps to implement an effective ABS strategy, and more. Let’s dive in.

What is account-based selling?

Account-based selling is a highly focused, multi-touch sales strategy that targets a selected group of high-value accounts, treating each one as an individual market. In ABS, sales and marketing teams collaborate to create personalized content and strategies that align with each account's unique needs. This helps build relationships, increase trust, and ultimately convert, upsell, and cross-sell across the entire customer journey.

Account-based selling vs. traditional sales

Traditional sales often involve broad-based outreach, messaging, and marketing campaigns that aim to engage as many prospects as possible. However, even with segmented strategies, this approach can lack the level of personalization necessary to resonate with key decision-makers. Account-based selling, however, prioritizes depth over breadth. A company’s ABS strategy should identify high-value accounts that align with the company's ideal customer profile (ICP) — focusing resources across teams to build personalized relationships with each account. This approach ensures that your outreach delivers the right message to the right person at the right time, creating a stronger connection with potential customers.

Account based prospecting
Swipe to compare both prospecting models.
Traditional prospecting
Swipe to compare both prospecting models.
Account based prospecting
Swipe to compare both prospecting models.
Traditional prospecting
Swipe to compare both prospecting models.
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Organizations that successfully implement account-based sales workflows make it easy for every member of the team to view account activity, understand the buying committee, and collaborate with stakeholders on how to best penetrate the account.

What is the primary goal of account-based sales?

The primary goal of account-based sales is to generate revenue by creating deep, personalized engagement with high-value accounts. This approach increases the likelihood of converting these target companies into customers — securing long-term loyalty while identifying cross-selling and upselling opportunities.

Closing one-time deals is not the goal of account-based selling. ABS’s comprehensive approach focuses instead on cultivating sustainable, long-term relationships. Teams can uncover more opportunities within existing accounts through strategic account management, maximizing customer lifetime value. With a long-term focus on personalized engagement, sales teams can ensure their approach remains customer-centric, driving consistent revenue growth. Align your goals with the goals of your target companies, and you’ll see your sales forecasts trending in the right direction. 

The account-based selling model

An account-based selling model is a comprehensive strategy that encompasses multiple stages to identify and engage high-value accounts effectively. Unlike traditional sales models that use a broad, generalized approach, ABS models are built on focused, data-driven methodologies that prioritize the most promising accounts. By combining deep customer insights with tailored engagement tactics, sales teams can strategically approach each stage of the buyer's journey with precision.

The ABS model leverages sophisticated tools and technology to analyze data, track progress, and refine engagement strategies, enabling organizations to adapt to changing customer needs and market dynamics. Alongside a sales execution platform, this comprehensive approach ensures a seamless journey that fosters meaningful connections and drives sustainable revenue growth.

5 benefits of adopting the model

Better alignment between sales and marketing

Improved collaboration between sales and marketing ensures a unified strategy, consistent messaging, and shared goals. ABS brings these teams together to work towards common objectives, increasing efficiency and enhancing customer experience. Additionally, the model allows the sales force to spend their time and energy pursuing the right prospective clients while also building a presence within target companies.

Increased conversion rates

The highly personalized nature of ABS drives deeper engagement, increasing the likelihood of conversion. By addressing each prospect's specific pain points and business goals, teams can establish themselves as trusted advisors. Some strategies include: leveraging subject matter experts to assess solutions with technical contacts, account executives engaging with leaders focused on business outcomes, and senior leaders connecting with their C-suite counterparts to facilitate high-level sales.

Efficient resource allocation

By focusing on high-potential accounts, teams can allocate resources where they matter most, optimizing their return on investment. This targeted approach reduces wasted efforts and ensures maximum impact.

Stronger customer relationships:

ABS fosters trust and builds stronger, more loyal relationships with target accounts. Effective ABS teams become invested in their customers' goals and the competitive landscape. By using strategic account planning to target key accounts, teams become trusted partners solving problems rather than simply selling products.

Informed customer acquisition:

While ABS helps reduce customer attrition through stronger partnerships, it can also serve as a valuable tool for acquisition. Understanding the most profitable existing customers can help identify high-quality prospects to target in future sales efforts.

By adopting a strategic approach, companies can improve their prospecting efforts, lower customer acquisition costs, and maximize the value of their existing customers through thoughtful account management.
David Ruggiero, President of GTM at Outreach

Who should use account-based selling?

Account-based selling is most beneficial for organizations targeting high-value clients with complex needs — especially in industries where the sales cycle is longer and decision-making involves multiple stakeholders. Additionally, this approach works exceptionally well for B2B companies where customers demand in-depth engagement and customized solutions. If you’re selling, for example, complex products or services, such as technology solutions, financial services, or consulting, this approach might be the best fit for your team. 

Sellers need to understand their customer's needs and goals to effectively move through the deal cycle. Successful account-based sales strategies rely on shared information, constant alignment, detailed planning, and structured workflows.
David Ruggiero, President of GTM at Outreach

To determine if account-based selling is the right fit for your organization, it's essential to evaluate your accounts based on specific criteria. These next 7 questions will help you identify whether your accounts align with the principles of ABS, enabling you to prioritize high-value opportunities and tailor your strategy accordingly.

Criteria for account-based sales

1. What is your business's ideal customer profile?

Identify characteristics such as industry, company size, and business needs that align with your solution. The ICP should represent accounts that are the best fit for your product or service.

2. How long is your sales cycle, and how complex is the buying process?

ABS suits companies with longer sales cycles and multiple decision-makers in the buying process. Understanding the buying journey helps tailor messaging and engagement.

3. What are the potential cross-selling and upselling opportunities within your target accounts?

Identify areas where additional products or services can add value to existing customers. ABS should enable seamless cross-selling and upselling, leading to expansion opportunities.

4. Are you using data-driven methods to make decisions and measure performance?

Leveraging analytics tools and metrics ensures data-backed decisions. Tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) helps refine strategies and improve engagement.

5. How are you providing customized content and solutions to your target accounts?

Delivering targeted content and solutions that align with each account's unique needs is essential. Tailored case studies, whitepapers, and blog posts help prospects understand the value of your solution.

6. Have you invested in specialized technology and tools to enhance your ABS strategy?

ABS requires tools for data management, engagement tracking, and automation. Sales engagement platforms and customer relationship management (CRM) systems can streamline ABS processes.

7. Do you have the necessary capacity and resources to effectively implement and manage ABS?

Consider whether your team has the bandwidth to develop targeted outreach strategies, the expertise to analyze and refine data-driven approaches, and the flexibility to engage key decision-makers across various channels. Allocating resources for ongoing training in sales automation tools and CRM platforms can enhance engagement.

What is an account-based sales strategy, and how has it evolved?

An account-based sales strategy revolves around treating each high-value account as a market of one, creating a hyper-personalized experience that resonates deeply with key decision-makers. ABS aligns sales and marketing efforts, compelling all client-facing teams to share goals, synchronize their messaging, and tailor their approach to engage decision-makers and influencers effectively.

ABS and B2B make a perfect match. Nine out of ten B2B companies agree, and a strong majority of them already run an account-based sales strategy. ABS delivers on its promises, especially the much-touted alignment between sales and marketing, which results in a significant return on investment through process efficiencies and improved revenue performance.

Account-based selling tactics have been around for some time, but it is only recently that ABS has become the preferred sales framework in the B2B market. Your company might even already employ ABS tactics without explicitly calling it that.

Traditional lead generation relied on casting a wide net to reach as many prospects as possible. However, this method often yielded low conversion rates and annoyed prospective clients — and account-based selling emerged as a response. ABS has since transformed sales from a transactional approach to one that emphasizes building long-term relationships, delivering personalized value to customers, and maximizing ROI.

How ABS intersects with account-based marketing (ABM)

Account-based sales and account-based marketing (ABM) are closely intertwined. Both aim to deliver personalized, high-touch strategies for key accounts. No surprise, ABM focuses on creating hyper-targeted marketing campaigns that cut through the noise to reach selected accounts with messaging specifically tailored to their needs. ABS, in turn, leverages these efforts by aligning sales strategies to convert these leads into revenue through strategic engagement.

Companies that use ABM are nearly 70% better at closing deals, and 58% of B2B marketers see larger deal sizes. However, aligning ABS and ABM requires collaboration and trust between marketing and sales teams. By sharing data and working together to target and nurture key accounts, both teams can maximize ROI, accelerate deal cycles, and build stronger, longer-lasting customer relationships. This alignment creates a seamless customer journey that enhances value and supports long-term business growth.

The role of the seller is constantly evolving to face new market challenges including the cost of acquiring new customers, intensely scrutinized group purchases, and difficulty standing out from competition. These shifts mean more companies are taking an account-based approach to both closing new business and expanding within their existing customer base. 

Getting started with account-based selling

Getting started with account-based selling requires a foundational understanding of your ideal customer, careful target account selection, and the establishment of cross-functional teams (across sales, marketing, customer success, and executive leadership). This ensures that all customer-facing interactions reinforce the value proposition and create a seamless buyer journey. By developing a unified strategy and sharing data-driven insights across departments, organizations can effectively implement an account-based sales process that prioritizes personalization and delivers value to the right accounts.

An Outreach + 30 Minutes to President's Club Masterclass
Advanced account-based strategies for sales teams

Check out our free ABS masterclass with Armand and Nick from 30 Minutes to President’s Club. Together, they’ll cover how Outreach can make you an expert in your target accounts long before the initial conversation. Get on the waitlist to learn how to build a 5-minute point of view, successfully break into accounts, and implement 6 strategies for multi-threading.

Implementing an account-based sales process in 2024: 10 key steps and best practices

10 steps to implement an account-based sales process: Define your ideal customer profile, create buyer personas, develop outbound strategy, create target account list, build team, develop messaging, build a content plan, draft account content, use omnichannel tactics, track and measure results

Step 1: Define your ideal customer profile

Defining your ideal customer profile (ICP) is the first crucial step. Your ICP represents the set of characteristics that determine the types of accounts most likely to benefit from your solution. Include company size, industry, and their specific challenges. 

Step 2: Create buyer personas

Identify the key personas involved in the decision-making process and their pain points to craft relevant messaging. Each persona should include information on their role, goals, and how your solution can help address their challenges.

Step 3: Develop your outbound strategy

Create a multi-channel outreach plan that resonates with each persona and addresses their specific needs. Leverage channels like email, social media, direct mail, and phone calls to engage decision-makers effectively.

Step 4: Create a target account list

Select the high-value accounts that fit your ICP and offer significant potential for cross-selling and upselling. Your sales and marketing teams should work together to prioritize accounts based on revenue potential and alignment with your solution.

Step 5: Build a cross-functional team

Sales, marketing, customer success, and leadership teams should work together to align their strategies and messaging. The seamless collaboration between these teams ensures a unified approach to achieving ABS goals.

Step 6: Develop personalized messaging

Tailor your messaging to each persona's specific challenges, industry language, and goals. Customize email templates, phone scripts, and social media posts to address key pain points and present your solution as the ideal answer.

Step 7: Build a contact cadence plan

Establish a consistent cadence for contacting key decision-makers across multiple channels without overwhelming them. Each touchpoint should provide value and align with the buyer's journey.

Step 8: Create account-specific content

Create content assets that address the unique challenges and needs of each target account. Case studies, whitepapers, and blog posts should be tailored to resonate with different personas.

Step 9: Implement an omnichannel approach

Leverage various channels, including email, social media, direct mail, events, and phone calls, to maintain engagement. Consistent messaging across these channels reinforces your brand identity and builds trust.

Step 10: Track and measure results

Use key metrics to evaluate engagement, conversion rates, and overall ROI, continuously refining your strategy. Metrics such as sales pipeline progress, conversion rate, and average deal size provide insights into performance.

How to use content in account-based selling

Content plays a pivotal role in engaging prospects and delivering personalized value in account-based selling. Tailoring your content for each prospect requires understanding their needs, business challenges, and goals.

Understanding the “who” & the “what”: Perform comprehensive research on the target accounts

Conduct in-depth research to uncover the key decision-makers, personas, and pain points within each target account. This information forms the foundation for building personalized content strategies that resonate with each stakeholder.

Tailoring the message: Create highly relevant, valuable, and personalized content

Craft unique messaging that speaks directly to the specific challenges and needs of each account. Provide valuable insights that demonstrate how your solution can offer immediate impact and long-term benefits.

Choosing the right moments: Focus on sharing content selectively

Timing is crucial. Share content strategically at critical moments in the buyer's journey to build interest and engagement while avoiding information overload.

Diversifying the channels: Distribute content in different ways on various platforms

Engage prospects across multiple channels like email, social media, direct mail, and webinars. Each platform provides a unique way to share content and reinforce your messaging.

Tracking success: Measure the engagement and effectiveness of the content

Track how target accounts interact with your content to refine future strategies. Monitor key metrics like click-through rates, open rates, and conversion rates to identify what resonates best.

Outreach Data Insights
When more than one contact is engaged, deals are 37% more likely to close

Sales cycles are getting longer, and more voices need to be heard before any contracts are signed. You already know multithreading is a great practice, but cross-department threading could be your strategic advantage.

How to structure your sales team to support ABS

Building an effective team (across departments) for an account-based sales strategy requires clearly defined roles and responsibilities to ensure seamless collaboration.

  • Sales Development Representative (SDR): SDRs identify and qualify potential target accounts. They conduct research, reach out to prospects, and nurture leads until they're ready for further engagement by account executives.
  • Account Executive (AE): AEs are responsible for engaging qualified prospects, presenting tailored solutions, and closing deals. They work closely with SDRs to understand each account's unique needs.
  • Customer Success Manager (CSM): CSMs focus on onboarding new customers, ensuring their success, and identifying opportunities for upselling or cross-selling within existing accounts.
  • Sales Manager: Sales managers oversee the overall strategy and performance of the sales team, providing guidance, support, and training. They also ensure alignment between sales and marketing.
  • Marketing Manager: Marketing managers develop campaigns that generate leads for target accounts. They coordinate with the sales team to deliver personalized messaging and align marketing efforts with ABS goals.
  • Sales Operations Specialist: Sales operations specialists manage data analysis, CRM systems, and tools to streamline sales processes and provide valuable insights for decision-making.

Key KPIs and metrics for account-based selling

Tracking the right KPIs and metrics is essential for measuring the success of an account-based selling strategy. Important metrics include:

  • Account engagement: Measure engagement by tracking how often prospects interact with your content across various channels.
  • Deal velocity: Track how accounts move through the sales pipeline to identify bottlenecks and refine engagement strategies.
  • Conversion rates: Monitor the rate at which target accounts convert into opportunities, and then into closed deals.
  • Average deal size: Analyze the average revenue per deal to ensure that your strategy is delivering high-value results.
  • Customer lifetime value (CLV): Measure the long-term value of each account by tracking post-sale opportunities and repeat business.
  • Sales cycle length: Monitor how long it takes for accounts to convert, and identify ways to shorten the cycle without sacrificing quality.
These are the KPIs your sales team *should* be measuring

Tap into the metrics that stand between you and your revenue goals. Get our checklist of basic and advanced KPIs that best-in-class sales organizations use to measure success. Use these slides as the framework to anchor your sales team meetings, training sessions, strategic planning, forecast calls, or executive briefings.

Common challenges

Implementing an effective account-based selling strategy can present several challenges, ranging from navigating complex target accounts to balancing personalization with scale. However, the right solutions can help businesses overcome these obstacles and thrive.

Challenge #1: Navigating target account complexity

  • ABS often requires engaging multiple stakeholders with varying needs, making it challenging to address every pain point.
  • Solution: Build detailed buyer personas for each decision-maker and develop highly relevant messaging to resonate with their specific challenges.

Challenge #2: Balancing personalization and scale

  • Personalization is crucial, but scaling these efforts across numerous accounts can be resource-intensive.
  • Solution: Use automation to streamline repetitive tasks while leveraging templates for personalized messaging at scale.

Challenge #3: Measuring ROI and account engagement

  • It can be challenging to measure the direct impact of ABS strategies on revenue and engagement.
  • Solution: Track multiple engagement metrics, such as content interactions, email open rates, and sales cycle progress. Align KPIs with strategic goals to evaluate success accurately.
With Outreach, you can keep account plans updated as they evolve with customer partnership and get real-time account insights to drive personalized engagement and informed decision-making.
Lejla Rašić, Product Marketing Manager, Outreach

Account-based selling platforms

An ideal account-based selling platform should simplify the complexities of ABS and account management. By providing a single, unified space, every team member can know precisely how to contribute to landing, retaining, and expanding accounts. Whether that’s through accessing account activity, understanding the buying committee, or collaborating strategically with stakeholders to navigate the nuances of account-based selling effectively, this coordination enables teams to deliver personalized messaging and engage with different stakeholders seamlessly. A robust platform streamlines strategic account planning and management, empowering businesses to stand out in their prospecting efforts, reduce the cost of acquiring new customers, and maximize the value of their current customer base.

Work smarter, not harder with Outreach

Account-based selling doesn't have to be complicated. With Outreach, every member of the go-to-market team can view account activity, understand the buying committee, and collaborate with stakeholders on how to best penetrate the account — simplifying the complexities around account-based selling and account management. This unified, automated approach allows teams to coordinate their efforts and engage with different buying stakeholders strategically.

To see more of what Outreach can do, take a quick product tour of our account planning and management workflows. Or, for a more personalized consultation, request a demo to chat with our sales team. 


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