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Account-based Marketing (ABM) and account-based selling requires tight alignment

Account-based Marketing (ABM) and account-based selling requires tight alignment

All organisations intuitively realise the benefits of alignment, regardless of how they define it.

In their 2022 article for Harvard Business Review, “Keeping sight of Your Company’s Long-term Vision”, best-selling business authors Ron Ashkenas and Peter D. Moore emphasise the power of business alignment when they write

“for over 20 years Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has been using a planning method V2MOM— vision, values, methods, obstacles, and measures. At the beginning of each year, Benioff drafts a one-pager for the entire company which, articulates the firm’s overall vision and then spells out his thoughts about the key steps needed to move towards it. He then gives the document to each of his direct reports and asks them to work with their teams to create a V2MOM document for their own groups. The leadership team then goes through all the V2MOMs to achieve full enterprise-wide alignment and commitment to their strategic intent for the next 12 months. Doing this ensures that every unit of the company understands and has agreed to the balance between short term goals and the longer-term vision in their daily work.”

Alignment is essential for successful account-based marketing (ABM), and establishing agreement between sales and marketing often starts with defining clear processes, responsibilities and even terminology. These functions must understand how their strategic approaches differ and what aspects they share.

In this blog, we will look at how to secure and maintain alignment through 3 joint phases; business alignment, functional alignment and executional alignment.

Business Alignment

Step one to securing sales and marketing alignment on ABM is centred around business alignment and how it maps to company goals and what go-to-market model sales has in place to achieve those goals. To achieve cross-functional business alignment you need to take the following steps;

  • Understanding the foundational approaches for sales and ABM. Business alignment commences with an assessment of the organisation’s strategy, specifically where growth is expected. Is the company going to enter new markets, launch new offerings or identify new potential buyers in existing accounts? Is growth expected through productivity improvements or future acquisitions? Understanding the corporate strategy will drive successful sales and marketing approaches.
  • Aligning the goals. Understanding the corporate goals, sales and marketing can view the total addressable marketing and determine the go-to-market architecture and those important routes to market.
  • Developing an ABM charter. The last step in business alignment is to develop a formal ABM charter linking ABM scope and activities to growth and goal alignment. Many of you will already have an established ABM charter that acts as an internal binding contract for sales and marketing around your ABM strategy. But if not, the ABM charter summarises key elements of the ABM strategy including; program vision, program objectives and scope, team members, key activities, milestones and timeline, critical success factors, and assumptions, risks and constraints. 

Functional Alignment

Following business alignment is functional alignment. The aim being to ensure sales and marketing have a common view of the engagement planning requirements driving ABM and the roles and responsibilities of sales and marketing across the ABM process; goal setting, audience identification, insights, resources, and engagement planning.

  • Goal setting. Functional alignment commences with defining sales account goals (SMART goals) for individual large accounts or groups of accounts. Sales as owners of the accounts take the lead in developing goals, with the ABM team supporting sales to refine them and making them specific. The ABM team can then deliver tailored activities mapped to these goals.
  • Audience identification. The next step of functional alignment for selected ABM accounts requires identification of buying centres, buying groups, personas and individual contacts (c-level, decision-makers and influencers). Sales typically map how these different contacts relate to each other, include selling sentiment and how these audiences are involved in buying decisions.
  • Insight requirements. After identifying audiences, the next step is gathering cross-functional information about the business needs, challenges and requirements of each contact. These insights are typically driven by what sales already knows about the ABM accounts, however insight gathering is a team exercise and includes the ABM team, sales operations, marketing operations, customer services through to administrative functions. Aggregating these insights tends to fall to the ABM team as it builds out the engagement plan.
  • Resource inventory. This next step is for sales and marketing to review and consider what existing marketing assets and support is available and needed at a high level. This exercise is led by the ABM team, but securing interlock requires insights from sales account owners so that their assessment of what resources are useful and can be included. A great place to start is by producing an inventory audit of content used across the buying journey.
  • Engagement planning. The final step in the functional alignment phase involves the development of engagement plans mapped to the specific needs of the contact audiences within the account and include detail specific tactics. Effective engagement planning is a result of collaboration in the sales and marketing processes; with both functions playing active roles. The ABM team takes the lead in building engagement plans and validates them with the sales account owners.

Executional Alignment

The final phase of sales and marketing alignment in any ABM programme is about driving communications and measuring success.

  • Establish communication. This is the most critical step of ABM execution alignment, the need to establish a formal process for sales and marketing communication, a regular cadence. ABM teams need to work with sales leaders to ensure ABM performance has a place in weekly, bi-weekly sales updates as well as monthly and quarterly business reviews so they can share progress and collect sales feedback in order to make adjustments to specific ABM engagement plans and programme as a whole.
  • Agree on measurement. As we’ve found establishing communication is an essential part of executional alignment, so is developing and sharing ABM measurement and success. In our ABM charter sales and marketing have aligned, set and agreed our ABM milestones and measurements. It’s important now for the ABM team to identify the metrics that matter to the organisation and report back.
  • Address friction points. The final step to ABM executional alignment is to identify any friction points that could cause ABM programs to slow down. Friction points may be as simple as a lack of understanding and then buy-in from senior leadership or perhaps there is a lack of key processes and procedures essential to specific functions, for example marketing are uncertain of the organisations sales process and need to learn this element.

To summarise:

  • For account-based marketing to be successful, you need to have alignment of your sales and marketing teams throughout the end-to-end process, ensuring that they all have clear visibility and agree on the long and short-term goals for the account.
  • This alignment is achieved via 3 components across the ABM process:
    • Firstly, we need to align the ABM approach to the business, ensuring it maps to the goals of the company, where sales see the growth potential, what markets they want to access and from that, we create an ABM charter that binds your sales and marketing teams together.
    • We then align it functionally in the strategy development, by identifying the sales account goals; agreeing the key decision makers and personas; collecting key insights on the business’ strategy; developing an engagement plan; and conducting a content audit, to see what is readily available and where ABM content needs to fil in the gaps.
    • Finally, we need executional Here, sales and marketing establish regular cadence to ensure the ABM programme is carried out efficiently and everyone is regularly updated; they all agree on how the success of the program is measured with key milestones; and finally, the teams establish any possible areas of friction, which may slow down the delivery process.
  • ABM is only successful with this end-to-end alignment between sales and marketing teams. Having a clear and agreed strategy will ensure sales are made aware of the key account messaging, and the marketing teams can provide them the right tactics to take it to market.

If you would like to know more about how to make sure your ABM programmes are a success and you need support with sales and marketing alignment then contact us here

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