If you want your company to be successful with account-based marketing (ABM), it's important to align the sales and marketing departments. This can be done by developing a shared vision and establishing KPIs that both departments can track. By working together, sales and marketing can ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards a common goal.

True alignment is key to success. When marketing and sales are on the same page, they can work together to identify and target high-value accounts that are most likely to convert into customers.

In this article, we'll discuss the steps you need to take to align your sales and marketing teams for ABM success!

  • What is ABM?
  • How do sales and marketing work together in ABM
  • How to achieve sales and marketing alignment

What is ABM?

Accounts-based marketing is a popular B2B marketing strategy with the overall aim of increasing revenue. According to the ABM Leadership Alliance, 87% of marketers who have implemented ABM in their company report a higher ROI than any other type of marketing.

It works by segmenting your accounts to focus on the ones that would other the best ROI. So rather than the marketing and sales team wasting time on unqualified leads, they hyper-focus their efforts on the highest-value accounts. It creates more efficiency, promotes long-term growth, and boosts revenue.

The strategy involves firstly identifying those high-value accounts, then devoting time and resources towards them while weeding out the least valuable leads early on so you can focus your efforts. Marketing may develop content specifically for the high-value prospects, personalizing their buyer journey and tailoring all communication to maintain a high level of customer experience.

But to really implement an effective ABM strategy, marketing needs to be closely aligned with sales. Under ABM, sales and marketing have the same priorities. Only by sharing data and working collaboratively can these two teams be on the same page at every stage of the funnel.

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How do sales and marketing work together in ABM?

So if alignment is the key to success in ABM, how can we achieve this?

Identify accounts

The first step is to create a shared vision for your ABM strategy. This means that both sales and marketing need to be clear on the goals and objectives of the program. Once you have a shared vision, you can start working on developing targeted account lists.

To do this, sales and marketing should collaborate to identify the key characteristics of your ideal customer. Collaboration between the teams is essential when choosing accounts to target. Sales will have very valuable information for identifying target accounts and should work with marketing to produce a lead scoring process that both teams can get behind. The teams can then tailor their approach according to the lead scores.

Once you have a list of target accounts, you can start developing personalized buyer journeys, including messages and content that will resonate with each one. Not only will this result in a more streamlined process, but your buyers will have a smoother journey thanks to the delivery of content that’s relevant to them at each stage of the buyer journey.

Shared KPIs

The second step is to establish KPIs that both departments can track. Often the goals of both teams differ, with marketing working towards generating as many MQLs are possible, while sales look for leads most likely to convert. This disparity can cause conflict between the departments, so an ABM strategy looks to unite both teams under the one goal of engaging and converting specific accounts. Both teams will work with fewer, but higher value leads.

Marketing and sales should sit down and map out these joint KPIs so everyone knows what they’re working towards. KPIs could include web traffic from target accounts, the number of interactions with key contacts, and conversion rates. Once the metrics have been established, you can create a collaborative precedent for both teams from the outset.

Personalized content

While content marketing remains one of the most popular forms of marketing today, there’s been a huge shift towards personalization. Personalizing content towards prospects can have maximum impact, with 79% of organizations claiming to exceed their revenue goals when they have a documented personalization strategy.

In ABM, the highly personalized approach means marketing and sales must devise a content strategy together and be totally clear about for whom the assets are for, and when they need to be delivered. Marketing can create the most incredible content in the world, but if it doesn’t get seen by the right people at the right time, then the efforts go to waste. While a lot of these processes can be automated, having a sales rep be able to communicate a highly relevant asset to a high-value customer at the right time can make or break a sale.

Measure and optimize

When it comes time to measure the results, alignment is still crucial. B2B buying cycles can drag out over months, with ABM being a strategy you may not see tangible results with for some time. But if marketing and sales have their KPIs aligned, they’ll have realistic expectations for their outcomes.

Both teams should be present for the discussion of metrics as it holds everyone accountable and provides a transparent view of performance. Marketing can provide the data required for measurement, while sales are likely to have some qualitative insights that can feed back into future campaigns to optimize going forward. All metrics should be discussed by both teams so they can pinpoint the weaknesses and work on solutions.

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How to achieve sales and marketing alignment

So if alignment is the key to ABM, how can you make sure your teams are able to achieve this? Before any new strategies can be undertaken by the teams, you should iron out any issues with collaboration and cohesive working to prevent roadblocks down the line.

Here’s how you can align your sales and marketing departments:

Cohesive strategizing

Your teams need to stop working independently. Sales and marketing need to come together and understand where their market stands, what their buyers are looking for, and how they can address their needs. This can be achieved by hosting more collaborative meetings where everyone gathers for honest, productive discussions. By building a plan of attack together, you ensure cross-team buy-in, eliminate any confusion, and ensure your teams are working towards common goals.

Set processes

When you execute your goals, the managers of both teams will likely interact, and this cross-functional collaboration is great but can get complicated.

Managers need to be easily able to engage one another and eliminate confusion within roles, responsibilities, and expectations. Agree on how you expect the sales and marketing teams to communicate, how often, and what good communication looks like. By establishing these elements up front you’ll streamline collaborative processes down the line.

Encourage constructive criticism

Friction between the teams is inevitable, but it’s necessary for everyone to grow. Getting too complacent with current strategies, processes, or systems is how you lose your competitive edge. But many organizations are bad for pushing back due to fear of confrontation.

By encouraging open communication in the form of constructive feedback, you can bring sales and marketing closer together, and give them a better understanding of how each other works. Ensure these interactions stay respectful, and these tricky conversations will benefit your teams in the long run.

Centralize communication

Poor communication leads to misalignment. So your teams can stay on top of everything, you need a way to centralize communication. It helps prevent key stakeholders from missing important conversations and increases overall transparency.

Use a dedicated communication platform like Slack and project management tools like shared dashboards to keep everything in one centralized place where any team member can find what they need. That way, no matter how large your organization, both salespeople and marketers will be aware of what’s going on.

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Final thoughts

ABM can be highly beneficial for companies, but only if sales and marketing are on the same page. Establishing a shared vision and some key performance indicators is a great way to start, but it's also important to have a plan for execution.

By taking these steps, you can set your company up for success. Are you ready to get started with ABM? Share your thoughts with our community!

What steps are you taking to align sales and marketing for ABM? Let us know and join the conversation with leading CMOs from around the world on the CMO Alliance Community Slack channel.