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ABM Sales & Marketing

Aligning Sales and Marketing (blog 2 of 3) – Key to Successful ABM

This is blog no. 2 in our 3-blog series about aligning sales and marketing. In the last blog we talked about how there has been a sea change going on in the sales and marketing works since the early 2000s, and described the need for executives, boards, and the sales and marketing functions need to understand and embrace the new world of high volume, low priced deals that are being tracked through a precisely defined pipeline with a heavy dose of analytics and the resulting transparency.

Which brings us to the next key to success, namely the cultural changes needing to go along with implementing an ABM system:

2. ABM drives cultural changes throughout the organization:

One of the aspects of implementing new processes is navigating the transition to becoming data driven. There are two challenges here. One is obvious, while the second is subtle:

  • The more obvious challenge pertains to the mechanics oflearning the pipeline models the organization uses; understand and knowing how to interpret the various metrics used at each pipeline / sales stage; as well as knowing how to use the available software tools to obtain and interpret the data.
  • The subtle challenge is the fact that the use of these systems implies a profound cultural shift away from political or emotion-driven decision making to data-driven decision making. Which in turn drives the need for the management team as well as sales and marketing to be analytically trained to utilize these systems and base their actions and decisions on the data underlying their pipeline.

The ability to navigate this transition to becoming data driven is most important among the executive staff. If the CEO and her / his team base their decision on fair and rational assessment of the underlying facts and act on the data, understand analytics and reward honest reporting, and have a clear grasp of the needed budgets to navigate this transition, then the impact ABM and the underlying systems can have on organizations is profound.

Implementing ABM in the sales organization means three things:

  • Sales reps need to get into the habit of inputting accurate information and data into the sales and marketing automation systems. This data includes pricing, likely close dates, probability of moving to the next sales stage or to closure, lead sources, and contact information. If the entered data is inaccurate, the whole effort will be for naught.
  • Related to the above issue, is a shift in thinking. All too often sales reps are uncomfortable at having their performance measured accurately. If sales management makes it clear that transparency is being valued and if someone’s pipeline is soft, they can expect help and coaching instead of a verbal lashing, then reps will use the ABM systems more willingly.
  • Third, sales reps need to accept SLAs (i.e. Service Level Agreements) or a minimum time within which they need to respond to and dispose of an incoming opportunity from the demand generation team. This way they are the lucky recipient of a rapid and growing opportunity pipeline. Once they get into the habit of responding quickly, their commission checks at the end of the quarter will benefit just by the sheer law of numbers (we’re assuming processes to assure lead quality are in place and demand generation teams are training in them).

Life within marketing will change dramatically in an ABM world as well:

  • Gone are the days of marketing being immune from measurable accountability, and or the days when if PR, events or branding initiatives were collectively deemed successful, then marketing was considered as having done a good job. The shift now, however, is away from such earlier focus to measurable results, preferably with pipeline impact. For example, how many social media likes or even leads were generated by a contributed article, or what was the revenue contribution of a series of speaking events, and so on.
  • Marketing professionals must become increasingly analytical. They need to understand the new lead flows and the associated systems used to measure progression through the various lead stages and identify observable behaviors of emerging leads. When we work with marketing teams new to ABM, we often ask them to take Excel classes, for example, and we expose them to basic analytical techniques and terms such as “MECE” or regression analysis to understand the pipeline contribution of various artifacts, and cohort analyses to model lead flows and needed budgets over time.
  • These analytical techniques are needed to assess whether new campaigns, pieces of content, or initiatives are working in terms of awareness building or lead generation potential. This also implies the need for experimentation and agile, “fail fast” approaches where new ideas get tested and, if needed, get modified or even aborted to give some other initiative a chance. Often marketing organizations are not used to the rapid pace of change that’s needed to optimize marketing-generated pipeline funnels.

All involved organizations (i.e. executive staff, sales, marketing, operations) need to meet for weekly analytics meetings to understand and interpret the previous week’s and month’s data to interpret what worked, what didn’t, and what should be planned for going forward. If needed, updates to the cohort model and the resulting marketing budget should also be initiated at these regular gatherings. As part of these series of regular meetings, sales and marketing need to agree on common definitions for what constitutes qualified leads and lead criteria. For example, when can a lead be considered qualified and sales ready?

Don’t turn that dial, we’ll be back with more …

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