Why ABM Needs Sales and Marketing Alignment

By Madison Taylor
April 30, 2020
board with "goal plan action" on it

ABM is the latest and greatest strategy for B2B companies, but it requires an all-in mentality. Historically, a drastic switch from traditional marketing to ABM has been met with some significant pushback from the sales department. Why? Because you’re asking them to work with a lot fewer leads than they have before, and everyone knows sales is a numbers game.

But ABM needs the sales department to be on board if it’s going to work, and that means getting everyone’s goals aligned. Conversion increases when sales and marketing teams share ownership of lead acquisition, nurturing, and conversion, and a rising tide lifts all ships. Lucky for you, ABM inherently brings sales and marketing teams together in common goals. Here’s how to get your sales team on board.

ABM is Good For the Sales Team

One of the biggest hesitations that salespeople tend to have when switching to ABM is that they’ll see a reduced number of leads, which will bring their sales down. But ABM replaces quantity with quality.

When targets are pre-selected for their fit with your company, the quality of the leads goes up significantly — not only is fit predetermined, but salespeople will have a lot more information about each lead before they get started. That means that salespeople aren’t wasting their time making phone calls or sending emails that don’t go anywhere. When it comes to ABM, there’s no such thing as an unqualified lead.

ABM Needs Sales’ Help

The sales team has valuable insight, gained over years of paying attention to what works and what doesn’t, that makes them vital to the ABM effort. For one, they can help identify target accounts. Every salesperson starts to develop a sense of which customers are likely to convert, so they can be a huge help in picking out future targets. They also know the big players in your industry — ask your sales team who the big fish are that they haven’t had a chance to land yet.

The same goes for developing buyer personas. Over enough sales calls, your salespeople will start to notice patterns when it comes to how various people respond to your product and your sales materials. That information should be what’s already informing your buyer personas, but if it’s not, it’s a great opportunity.

How Alignment Works for ABM

Sales and marketing alignment always starts with communication. The more the two teams talk — about goals, clients, personas, leads, strategies, data, and results — the better. That means keeping the two teams working closely together, and we don’t just mean on a Slack channel. Mingle the two teams together physically in your building. When marketers talk to salespeople all the time, they’ll share stories about what they’re working on and what they’re struggling with. Getting your two teams to get along starts with getting them to talk.

Generating a Target List

The next step is to generate a list of target accounts for your ABM strategy. This is the job of both departments — marketers have been trawling the web and social media looking for companies that will be a good fit, while salespeople may already know about potential big clients through their experience with your existing customers. Make sure everyone’s in the same meeting — each department can come to the table with their own list of targets, but everyone should leave the meeting with the same list.

Developing Buyer Personas

Developing personas will be a collaborative effort, too. Whether they know it or not, marketing and sales departments have both been working toward this goal already. Everyone wants to target and convert the same set of prospects, but roles don’t have to overlap. Instead, focus on details. Marketers can look into companies, titles, positions, business priorities, and the like, while the sales team focuses on the elements that might come up in conversation — frequently asked questions, pain points, obstacles to making a sale, favorite sports teams, and so on. All of it will help turn prospects into customers.

Choosing Content

Choosing your content is crucial to closing an ABM sale. Start with the pieces of content that get the most attention on social media, the most clicks on your blog, the most conversions on your website, and so on. Marketers should have all that data. Combine that knowledge with the experience of your salespeople — they’re the ones sending whitepapers and answering questions, so they can tell you which pieces of content have worked best for actually closing.

Your Multi-Channel Strategy

Most of your multi-channel work falls to marketing, from blog posts to website content to social media and paid advertising. But salespeople use their own channels — emails, phone calls, and in-person meetings. You need to keep track of which targets have seen which pieces of content so that no target sees the same content twice from two different sources or receives something that isn’t relevant to them.

Measure Everything

Sales and marketing teams are both collecting data on a daily basis, but that data needs to be shared across the entire company so that everyone knows what’s working and what isn’t. Engagement metrics and pipeline metrics are both relevant to the broader goal of running an effective ABM strategy

The Bottom Line

The simple truth is that the success of your company is dependent on the success of every department in it — for an ABM strategy to give you the success that it’s given so many others, both sales and marketing teams have to be invested. That’s a hard sell for team members that already think they’re doing their best work, but it’s a pitch worth making. If you can get everyone on board, there’s no limit to how far your ABM game can take you.