Account-based marketing commands a collective team effort, with several different stakeholders working closely together throughout the entire customer life cycle. In order to successfully build an All-Star ABM roster, 8 core players must be recruited.
1. Director/VP of Sales: The Conductor
Directors/VPs of Sales are the “conductors” of the sales team. They ensure revenue targets are met, defines ideal customer personas (ICPs), finalizes the tiered lists of accounts, and is tasked with selecting CRM and predictive sales tools to optimize sales efforts. Top performing Directors/VPs of Sales exhibit two skill sets:
- Leadership: According to Forbes only about 1 in 6 candidates deemed a strong fit for sales are strong fits for sales management. A top-performing salesperson does not necessarily make for a strong Director/VP of Sales. As they have advanced in their careers, Directors/VPs of Sales must have acquired and honed the key leadership skills necessary to guide, motivate, and inspire an entire team.
- Metrics-Focus: Director/VPs of Sales must understand the metrics that underpin and inform sales targets. They must be laser-focused on success metrics and the attainment thereof. Top sales managers score 20% higher in personality tests when it comes to the success-driven facet. That is, they fixate on achieving revenue goals.
2. Account Executives (AEs): The Quarterbacks
AEs act as the primary liaison with prospects. They are the “quarterbacks”. They are tasked with defining account strategies and ensuring prospects fit ICPs. By way of demos, customer meetings, and other touch-points, AEs are responsible for closing deals. Highly effective AEs excel when they exhibit two fundamental skills:
- Relationship-Building: Top-performing AEs must be relationship builders with high levels of emotional intelligence. Whether introverted or extroverted, AEs must have that knack for connecting with prospects, establishing rapport, and building trust.
- Verbal Acuity: Verbal acuity is a prerequisite for establishing credibility with prospects. According to research conducted by Steve W. Martin, founder of Heavy Hitter Sales, high-performing salespeople communicate at the 11th to 13th-grade levels, while their underperforming counterparts hover around the 8th or 9th-grade levels.
3. BDRs/SDRs: The Linemen
Business Development Reps (BDRs) and Sales Development Reps (SDRs) are responsible for conducting research on accounts, prospecting, and qualifying leads before passing them off to AEs. They are the “linemen”, offering support to the AE on an as-needed basis by taking on critical activities such as CRM record-keeping and crafting account-specific messaging. Highly effective BDRs and SDR set the bar high in terms of two skills:
- Time Management: Many tasks carried out by BDRs and SDRs are repetitive in nature. Optimizing the efficiency of repetitive tasks through the use of, for example, effective calendar management and proper email hygiene practices, curtails time wrapped up in repetitive tasks, so adequate focus can be placed on selling. High performers stand out from their lower-performing counterparts by challenging the reality that only about 1/3 of a salesperson’s time is actually spent selling.
- Listening: Top-performing BDRs and SDRs don’t erroneously confuse “selling” with “talking”. They know the importance of listening to customers in order to more effectively craft personalized value propositions and messaging. According to a study by Pipedrive, the highest yielding B2B sales conversations hovered around a 43:57 talk-to-listen ratio.
4. Customer Success Managers: The Nurturers
Customer Success Managers (CSMs) are responsible for nurturing relationships with existing customers. They are focused on customer engagement. The CSM’s objective is one of transforming existing customers into product advocates and champions. Top-performing CSMs tend to exhibit two critical skills:
- Proactiveness: CSMs can’t afford to be reactive; they’re expected to be anticipatory, change-oriented, and self-initiating. They must pinpoint problems before they arise and rapidly course correct. This enables them to effectively ensure that customers succeed, in turn priming them to capitalize on upsell and cross-sell opportunities.
- Customer Education Bias: Celebrated CSMs dedicate significant time to understanding customers’ unique needs and pain points, and outfitting them with education content related to new product offerings, features, improvements, etc. Best-in-class CSMs communicate their value propositions clearly so customer advocates are best equipped to strengthen consensus within their organization.
5. CMO/VP of Marketing: The Director
CMOs/VPs of Marketing are the “director” of the marketing train, tasked with shaping the marketing messaging strategy. They coordinate all marketing activities, selects marketing automation systems to optimize efforts, and tracks the success of campaigns and strategies. Top CMOs/VPs of Marketing exhibit two essential affinities:
- Multi-Channel Focus: Today’s CMOs/VPs of Marketing must be “T-Shaped”. That is, they must be exposed to, and well-versed in, a multitude of marketing channels. This empowers them to effectively launch and exploit omni-channel marketing campaigns and maximize the effectiveness of every customer touch point. According to Gartner, 90% of marketers struggle to seamlessly connect more than three channels related to the buyer journey. Top-performing CMOs/VPs of Marketing avoid this reality.
- Change Embracement: Today’s marketers face a new reality: millennials rapidly fluctuate in their preferred social media channels. From LinkedIn to Facebook to Twitter to Snapchat, millennials’ preferred online platform is ephemeral and in constant flux. Best-in-class CMOs/VPs of Marketing embrace change, appreciating that the optimal marketing strategy for today may be obsolete tomorrow.
6. Marketing Team Members: The Content Ninjas
Marketing team members are responsible for collecting insight from the sales team and developing customized content, campaigns, and playbooks according to agreed upon ICPs. This ABM player must be a content “ninja” and ensure content is developed to address every stage of the customer life cycle. Top ABM marketers possess two invaluable skills:
- Revenue-Driven: According to the Fournaise Marketing Group, 78%of CEOs believe that marketing is not focused on generating top-line revenue growth. Top notch marketers stand out from the masses in terms of ensuring a close alignment between sales and marketing.
- Technically Proficient: Traditionally, marketers have been perceived as the creative ones in an organization. While creativity is an essential marketing trait, technical prowess is increasingly important and in demand. Back in 2016, Gartner astutely predicted that, by 2017, marketing would spend more on technology than the IT department.
7. Chief Revenue Officer (CRO): The Middleman
The CRO is a new, but welcome, addition to the ABM consortium of talent. CROs acts as the primary conduit and “middleman” between sales and marketing. They define a predictable revenue strategy, ensures sales and marketing are aligned, and recruits (on an as-needed basis) executive sponsors to assist with deals. Best-in-class CROs exhibit two highly coveted dispositions:
- Collaborative: CROs must serve as the de-facto bridge between sales and marketing. They must work with departmental heads and sales and marketing team members. Paragon CROs are seasoned mediators. They perform the difficult feat of navigating the traditional cultural divide between sales and marketing, while at the same time appealing to the two diverse teams. Not surprisingly, many CROs have a background in operations.
- Data-driven: More so than any other player, CROs must be data-driven. They must be in-tune with sales and marketing-related metrics and KPIs. Whereas metrics such as deal size, average sales cycle length, opportunity win rates, and MoM sales growth are more relevant to sales, metrics such as leads per channel, MQL: SQL conversion rates, email open and click-through rates, and cost of content resonate louder in the marketing arena. Proficient CROs will not only understand both castes of metrics, they will understand their interrelations and correlations.
8. Product Manager (PM): The Customer Voice
PMs ensure sales and marketing are constantly in-tune with upcoming product roadmaps. They work jointly with sales and marketing to understand whether there is demand for custom solutions and whether potential asks are feasible. PMs excel when they exhibit two traits:
- Innovativeness: In today’s cutthroat competitive environment, top-performing PMs must be innovative. Rather than focus on resource constraints, they focus first on opportunity. Ian McAllister, Director at Airbnb, explains, "The top 1% product manager‘s thinking won’t be constrained by the resources available to them today or today’s market environment. They’ll describe large disruptive opportunities, and develop concrete plans for how to take advantage of them.”
- Customer-centricity: Working within a black-box environment can be disastrous. Top-performing PMs are unique in that they obsess about the customer. They take time to speak with customers and observe them in their natural environments. This enables them to hone in on their pain points and react by producing prototypes and, ultimately, final features and products that delight. PMs should be the voice of the customer.
A successful account-based marketing strategy involves the formation of an All-Star team. When recruiting the stakeholders who will be integral to your ABM strategy, consider whether they exhibit the skills required to succeed in today’s age of selling and marketing.