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Account Based Sales: The Complete Guide to Exceeding Quota with ABS

9 min readJuly 21, 2022

In a noisy competitive landscape, providing personalized experiences to your prospects is more important than ever. An account-based sales strategy targets a specific set of priority accounts, making it easier for sales and marketing teams to focus their efforts while offering a tailored buying experience as well.

More than two-thirds of B2B brands are currently using an account-based model, and that number is steadily rising. Focusing on account-based sales allows your reps to exceed quota and drive more revenue. With the right approach, you’ll be able to target more lucrative accounts and generate annual recurring revenue (ARR) that boosts your bottom line.

What is Account Based Sales?

Account-based sales is a relatively new model based on a much older concept. Typically, sales development reps are focused on a smaller number of key accounts, targeting multiple stakeholders within each company. This replaces the more traditional model of targeting a single contact within that company.

Of course, enterprise salespeople have been using this account-based method for decades. It’s only recently that account-based sales and marketing have been rolled into the all-important account-based-everything model, which requires sales, marketing and customer success teams to work together throughout the revenue cycle.

If your sales team has been falling short of hitting quota, you may be interested in attempting account-based selling. You may already have a few target accounts in mind, but implementing ABS takes much more than that. You’ll need to strategize carefully in order to create a successful account-based sales plan.

Checklist Before Starting ABS

Although it is becoming increasingly popular, the account-based sales approach is not for everyone. Before you invest in ABS, consider whether your go-to-market strategy meets the following criteria:

You have a subscription-based product

One of the primary advantages of the account-based model is integration between sales, marketing and customer success. With this approach, you can ensure your messaging remains consistent across all departments, which offers a much better experience for your customers as they move through the buying process.

If you offer a subscription-based product with different package options, various teams have the opportunity to work together to upsell and cross-sell. The account-based approach demands alignment that equips all teams to better handle these opportunities.

Companies that mainly provide a one-time purchase product may not benefit from an account-based model due to the investment required for each target account.

Your average deal size is greater than $50,000

If you’re mainly targeting enterprise-level customers, you definitely need to look into developing an account-based model. For mid-market customers, you may be wise to implement ABS if your average deal size is more than $50,000, according to Trish Bertuzzi, author of “The Sales Development Playbook.” The account-based approach is likely not sustainable if your prospective customers are mostly SMBs.

Another option is to implement a mixed approach, particularly if your target market is a mix of enterprise and mid-level companies. You can start by using ABS for a handful of lucrative customers while you refine your solution. Eventually, you may be able to move your entire sales team to an account-based model.

You can target buyers with a robust, multichannel tech stack

Account-based selling requires dedicated resources. You may not be able to pull it off if you aren’t able to invest in a robust tech stack. Consider whether your team can transition to a tech-based multichannel approach before banking on an ABS campaign.

You will be able to get account-specific data or leverage channels with the right data to get specific accounts

Account-based selling requires extraordinary precision. Without sufficient data on customers to pinpoint common characteristics, you probably won’t be able to execute ABS successfully. Even if you have plenty of customer data, make sure you know exactly how you can use that information to hone your ideal customer profiles (ICP).

Your sales and marketing teams have criteria in place to agree on account tier prioritization

Before you begin thinking about your target account list, take a step back to consider whether your sales and marketing teams are on the same page. If they’re not, you’ll need to develop a plan for aligning them before your ABS campaign starts to ensure you’re building on a strong foundation.

If your sales and marketing teams are already collaborating effectively, chances are you have the right criteria in place for these teams to agree on account tiers and how to prioritize. This is absolutely essential to launching a successful ABS campaign.

Who to Target

Once you’ve confirmed that account-based sales is a suitable model for your company, it’s time to make a list of prospective customers to target. Start by defining your ideal customer profile (ICP).

Think of an ICP as a buyer persona specifically for account-based selling, often with much higher stakes. Targeting the wrong company is incredibly costly, and yet you want to be able to move forward with a particular account without consulting the entire leadership team. Having a robust ICP allows you to make important decisions without the high risk of choosing companies at random.

Here are a few considerations as you develop your ICP:

  • Intel from your sales, marketing and finance teams
  • Data from your customer relationship management (CRM) software
  • Technographic data about which other products prospective customers are using
  • Behavioral data trends with your current customers
  • Predictive analytics for forecasting

After your ICP is established, you can make a target account list. In the initial stages of your ABS campaign, you will likely need to ensure buy-in across your organization when it comes to specific target accounts. Eventually, your sales and marketing teams may be able to rely primarily on your ICP when selecting new target accounts.

How to Implement Account-Based Sales

Executing a successful ABS campaign takes intentionality, dedication and patience. With careful planning, it’s possible to begin seeing results after just 30 days. Here are some key components to weave into your implementation plan:

Advocate for complete alignment across teams

Before you dive into building out your ABS campaign, you need to ensure everyone is on board. Don’t assume that account-based selling will automatically align different teams. On the contrary, ABS will expose any weak spots in your cross-departmental alignment.

Airtight alignment is the very foundation of account-based models. Without it, your marketing team may expend tons of energy curating unique content that targets specific accounts, only to drop the ball in communicating hot leads to sales in time. Or your sales team might put all their effort into winning over a target account, while misalignment with customer success results in an early churn. Eliminate these concerns by getting everyone on the same page before your campaign begins.

Streamline outreach using an outbound dialer with real-time guidance

For all outbound sales – and especially ABS – you need a reliable sales dialer. Reps should be able to contact key stakeholders within target accounts quickly and efficiently, leaving pre-recorded voicemails and following real-time guidance. The RingDNA Dialer automatically captures 100% of data in Salesforce, so reps and managers can review important information as they strategize on how to reach out to target contacts.

If you’re targeting international accounts, make sure to employ a globally-supported dialer with local presence. You can double connection rates with Local Presence Dialing, which allows reps to easily call prospects from a local number. Sales calls are key to the account-based approach, and an excellent sales dialer with real-time guidance is paramount.

Create a content plan

You might think of content as relating more to inbound strategy, but it’s actually crucial to account-based selling as well. Rather than creating generalized content that appeals to a wider audience, you’ll need to hone in on curating content that’s tailored to your target accounts.

A suitable content plan might include the following avenues:

  • Email – personalized to key stakeholders within your target accounts
  • Short videos – to quickly engage your audience
  • Custom reports – including relevant research and data
  • Social media – for establishing connections with customer stakeholders
  • Webinars – on topics of particular interest to certain stakeholders
  • Trials – allowing potential customers to try our your product before investing
  • Training sessions – hosted after the sale
  • User events – bringing together users from different companies

Notice how your content initiative should flow through the buyer decision process into initial product adoption and beyond. It’s important to stop thinking of content as a marketing vehicle and start viewing it as an interdepartmental imperative.

Utilize sales automation

Imagine asking your sales coaches to manually notify reps every time they need to contact a target account. Frankly, managers do not have enough time for that, and this type of account-based model is utterly unscalable. Sales automation is essential to account-based selling because it allows reps to prioritize the next best action when targeting specific accounts.

Guided Selling by Revenue.io guides reps with top-performing sales cadences, so they know exactly who to contact, how to reach out and what to say at any given time. This type of sales automation software drives engagement by delivering proven messages and content throughout the buyer and customer journey.

For account-based sales to work properly, reps will need to reach out to target accounts countless times throughout a lengthy sales cycle. It’s crucial for them to be able to follow an automated sales sequence so they can stay in line with the overall ABS strategy.

Key Metrics to Monitor

The last step to put in place before launching your account-based selling initiative is to select which metrics to monitor. You’ll want to set clear, measurable goals that make it possible to see at a glance whether your ABS campaign is successful. For example, instead of setting a general goal to drive more revenue, lay out a specific goal to increase average contract value (ACV) by at least 60% over the first 90 days,

While there are numerous key performance indicators (KPIs) you could potentially focus on, start by tracking these three metrics:

Prospect engagement

How effective are your sales development representatives (SDRs) engaging prospects? Track this by monitoring the ratio of outreach attempts to productive conversations as well as the ratio of productive conversations to meetings booked. A reduction in both of these ratios points to progress.

Deal size

One of the main outcomes of account-based selling is an increase in average deal size. This is what empowers reps to exceed quota, and it points to the overall effectiveness of your ABS campaign. According to TOPO, some best-in-class programs have experienced a 75% increase in average deal size since implementing ABS.

Lifetime value

Lifetime value (LTV) combines average revenue per user (ARPU) and retention rate. It points to overall customer satisfaction and value. The TOPO study cited above found account-based campaigns resulted in a 150% yield in LTV for many organizations. Set your specific company goals based on past LTV and industry benchmarks.

Account Based Sales Technologies

With the right tech stack, your implementation of account-based selling can become more fluid and efficient. Your ABS campaign might benefit from the following solutions:

Revenue.io

Revenue.io is a complete RevOps platform for conversation guidance, sales engagement, and live call insights and analytics. It features cutting-edge sales automation software and outbound dialing capabilities with real-time guidance for account-based selling.

6sense

6sense gives you a window into what your customers are researching and other data. Use it to help you build the perfect target account list.

Qualified

Qualified analyzes your website to reveal visitor behavior. It can notify you when your target accounts are showing buyer intent.

Sendoso

Sendoso allows you to send gifts to your prospective customers. This can help you add a personalized touch to your account-based sales campaign.

A Framework for Shifting to Account-Based Sales

If you’re still feeling a bit hesitant about upending your entire business model in favor of account-based sales, you’re not alone. Companies that rely on an established high-volume sales approach worry the dramatic shift to ABS might dry up their lead flow, and they would be right to consider this risk. That’s why a gradual change may be more appropriate for many companies.

Here is an account-based selling framework that eases the transition:

  1. Ensure company-wide buy-in, particularly from sales, marketing and customer success teams.
  2. Acquire a suitable revenue intelligence platform for account-based sales.
  3. Define your ideal customer profile (ICP).
  4. Establish a target account list.
  5. Create an effective content strategy.
  6. Select which specific key performance indicators (KPIs) to monitor.
  7. Designate 30% of the sales development team to begin pursuing target accounts.
  8. Evaluate your content strategy and alter if necessary.
  9. Pull 30% more of the sales development team into account-based selling.
  10. Review KPIs and assess progress.
  11. Shift the remaining 40% of the sales development team to the account-based model.
  12. Consider whether new hires are appropriate for growth.

If you’re considering adopting an account-based sales model, our team would be happy to show you specific ways Revenue.io can make your ABS campaign more effective. Book a demo here.

About the Author

Heather BakireRevenue.io

Heather Bakire is the Content Marketing Manager at Revenue.io, the complete RevOps platform for conversation guidance, sales engagement, and live call insights and analytics. Heather loves a good story, and she is passionate about international travel and all things outdoors.