How Does Marketing and Sales Alignment Lead to a Smarter ABM Program?


Sumeet AnandPR and Digital Marketing Strategist at UnboundB2B

Friday, January 24, 2020

Account-based marketing is important for businesses of all sizes. But ABM can’t work without input and support from sales.

Article 8 Minutes
How Does Marketing and Sales Alignment Lead to a Smarter ABM Program?

A survey conducted by TechTarget and HeinzMarketing on B2B professionals found that Successful ABM programs have the following traits in common:

Commitment and dedication

ABM is not about size. 64% of companies with successful ABM strategies only dedicate 50% of their marketing budget to ABM. This is good news for businesses operating on a small budget as it means that account-based marketing for small businesses is implementable.

Are you driving the right results?

Focus your demand gen strategy, reach new heights and build long-term relationships.

VISIT THE HUB ifp.ClickDetails"

Continuous improvement through changing processes, systems and tech stacks

3 out of 4 companies experiencing ABM success expect to change their tech stacks and their sales and marketing processes and structures. The result? Better lead hand-off and seamless communication.

A unique approach to reporting and data use

Although the companies surveyed said they still have challenges with their reporting systems, 90% report that with ABM, they not only think differently about data, but they also use data insights for process improvement and lead scoring.

New ways to use core marketing channels

Teams implementing account-based marketing have found new ways to use core marketing channels such as emails, events and phone calls. This has led to better strategies for prospect targeting and content creation.

A unified sales and marketing approach

Interdepartmental cooperation is a key factor in ABM success. With ABM, deals are not chased and closed individually by sales and marketing departments. Instead, opportunity creation and account conversion is a holistic process that requires participation of sales and marketing as a team.

In this article, we’ll discuss this last point in detail. We’ll show how sales and marketing alignment is the key to smarter account-based marketing and how you can achieve such alignment.

To learn more about how to better align your sales and marketing departments, listen to our interview with Greg Gifford on The Strategic Marketing Show:

Listen to the episode via your preferred pocast platform:

The importance of sales alignment in account-based marketing

The success of account-based lead generation strategies depends on organization-wide input.

Now, it’s clear from the statistics listed in the first part of this article that those who have implemented account-based marketing are better placed to grab the most lucrative accounts. As such, any resistance from your sales team only gives competitors a head start on targeting such accounts.

The success of your ABM strategy relies on how well you coordinate your resources and teams to pursue and convert such accounts.

It leads to a streamlined content marketing strategy

A survey carried out by CMI and LinkedIn on 208 marketers found significant differences between teams reporting high sales and marketing alignment and those with low to no alignment.

Frequency of content marketing and sales collaboration on related activities

Figure 1: High alignment between sales and marketing has better results for content marketing. (Source: CMI)

High ROI across main metrics

A paper on the impact of sales alignment noted high ROI in key sales performance metrics.

Influence of sales marketing alignment on sales pipeline parameters

Figure 2: High ROI noted where sales and marketing teams align

It’s very hard to bring sales and marketing teams together. But the intrinsic nature of account-based marketing makes it ideal for bonding teams within an organization, if the teams agree to tackle issues that might create barriers for such cooperation.

Now ask yourself: how can you get your sales team’s cooperation?  A great way to achieve alignment is by asking the right questions.

Ask the right questions to get sales buy-in

You can only attain buy-in and alignment if all stakeholders understand the benefits of account-based marketing. So, start by explaining those benefits. Then, show how sales input is pivotal for the strategy to succeed.

Below are two key questions you can ask to gauge satisfaction levels: 

  1. Are you currently satisfied with how marketing qualifies leads?
  2. Do you feel that marketing provides you with all the resources you need to close your leads?

The frustrations of sales teams are usually centered around these two areas. Showing how an aligned account-based marketing approach will solve these problems will create some excitement and encourage teams to start breaking their barriers.

Once you get buy-in, you can align your lead generation efforts.

What an aligned account-based marketing strategy looks like

Marketing and sales alignment in account-based marketing relies on two main factors:  

1. Collaboration

“Marketing” in account-based marketing suggests that the strategy is mainly a marketing-led one. However, sales input is necessary throughout all the stages of lead generation, including:  

Selecting target accounts

This collaboration reduces the likelihood of sales ending up with unqualified leads. Sales teams will only deal with accounts that are highly qualified and likely-to-buy leads. 

It’s highly likely that the sales team has already identified high value target accounts that they would like to go after. So why not ask them? Have both teams bring their two lists, compare both to identify and remove overlaps, then score the remaining leads to identify those with the highest likelihood to close.

Developing personas

Sales people also know who or what their intended targets look like. As such, getting sales people involved will add invaluable insight to this process and prevent problems in future. For example, sales may know more personal details such as the unique pain points, interests and FAQs that are unlikely to be in the scope of marketing. Working on persona development together will also make the next steps easier.

Creating a personalized content strategy

Based on the agreed personas or list of targeted individuals, marketing can then create personalized content. Before you create any content, it’s important for sales and marketing to have a prior agreement on content types. It’s also important to agree on when to deliver such content and the mode of delivery.

You can also use this stage to review how previous publications may be repurposed for different personas or different stages of the buyer’s journey.

Developing a multi-channel sales and marketing approach

Both sales and marketing have diverse roles to play in multi-channel marketing. They also execute the strategy differently and on different channels. Marketing will probably have a more dominant role and will use channels such as social media and email to push out content and direct leads to the website. Sales on the other hand, will focus on personalized lead generation tactics such as phone calls, personalized emails and meetings.

The key here is to keep the entire process organized, aligned and automated, so that target accounts don’t receive the same content multiple times from different teams.  

Optimizing KPI selection and measurement

Defining metrics and KPIs that are fit for sales requires sales involvement. Metrics developed unilaterally by marketing may not necessarily fit what sales wants. When sales and marketing are aligned, they can both agree on similar engagement and pipeline metrics, and work cohesively to fulfil them. 

2. Accountability

Collaboration will ensure that teams are always on the same page, especially at the initial stages of a marketing campaign. However, accountability ensures that both teams are living up to what is expected of them.

To promote accountability and ensure that important tasks aren’t falling through the cracks, marketing and sales should know their responsibilities. Responsibilities should be assigned in a manner that will ensure the smooth hand-off of leads. 

Marketing responsibilities should include:

Content creation

This should consider the personas developed by both teams.

Keeping all marketing material in one location

Tools that have functionalities such as autosaving and real-time updates will ensure that everyone is on the same page at every step of the way.

Educating the sales team

Marketing must educate the sales team on how to leverage the content created for lead generation, and this training should be an ongoing process.

Lead scoring and qualification

As much as the sales team needs to understand the lead scoring system and how lead scoring is done, it falls to marketing to ensure that leads are qualified properly.

Timely lead handoff

Marketing can use online activities to determine a lead’s position in the sales funnel. Internal notifications can alert sales teams when a lead takes a desired action that may require sales follow-up.

The responsibilities of the sales team should include:

Closing leads

Following up with and closing leads handed over by marketing should be the primary focus of the sales team.  

Sharing issues that arise during conversations with leads.

Some issues can come up during one-on-one conversations with leads. Marketing can use this information to fill in content gaps.

Share lead closing performance

Some deals will be closed, and some will be lost. Sales should share such details, including reasons for each outcome. This information will help marketing to optimize their lead qualification process to ensure more success when dealing with future accounts.

Bottom line

Marketing and sales alignment ensures that both teams have a stake in every step of account-based marketing and this results in a strong, highly-converting, lead generation strategy.

Sales and marketing alignment won’t happen overnight. Even after planning meetings, both teams should have regular follow-up meetings to ensure they’re not falling back into old habits of working in silos. Relying on the steps discussed above, and reminding each other of individual responsibilities, will go a long way to ensure everyone stays on track and guarantee a successful strategy.

Further reading:


Sumeet Anand

Sumeet is a PR as well as Digital Marketing Strategist associated with UnboundB2B, who specializes in Email Marketing, Social Media Marketing, and Content Marketing.


Join the conversation...