“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.” – Tyrion, House of Lannister, A Game of Thrones
Sadly, this will be the final season for this amazing show so, to pay homage and have some fun with this blog post, this is for you my fellow GOT fans! (Begin humming the GOT opening theme here)
Today, with the evolution of the traditional sales funnel to the “Bow-Tie,” an infinity loop for marketing efforts where a customer is always treated like a lead, many more players are involved, and the lines of functional responsibilities can become blurred. Yet, while it’s extremely important to look at customer lifetime value holistically, it’s almost more important to clearly define the roles and responsibilities throughout the ABM process. And, as you swim upstream and begin pursuing enterprises with larger deal-sizes, you can definitely expect to engage with numerous members that make up an entire buying committee.
But, with an upwards of 17 people (!) involved in the enterprise decision-making process, you might begin to feel like you need a map similar to the one from Game of Thrones – and you can’t keep track of lineage of each House. So, in order to best understand the key players involved and where they sit in the ABM hierarchy, we’ve outlined for you a Game of Thrones-type “Family Tree” of Account-based Marketing.
“House Stark” – BUYER 1: The Decision Maker With multiple stakeholders involved in today’s B2B purchasing experience, it’s important to realize that these players can usually be split into decision makers and internal influencers – or “everyone else.” The decision maker typically holds the keys to the budget, hence the descriptor.
“House Targaryen” – BUYER 2: Everyone Else (Internally) While most sales organizations spend the majority of their time targeting the decision maker, what they don’t realize is that there’s an entire “buying committee” orbiting around the decision maker that is influencing the purchasing decision. One of the best things about ABM however is that you can use account and contact-level targeting for both the decision maker and the influencers and accelerate the time to close. Using a tool like Folloze, for example, you can deliver different marketing messages to each persona that appeal to their individual needs.
“House Baratheon” – SELLER 1: The Sales Development Rep Often times when selling into enterprises, you need enlist the help of others and essentially create your own ‘selling committee.’ To start, you absolutely need a team of professional Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) – or consider renaming them to ADRs (Account Development Reps), this will help promote the process internally and switch the mindset within your organization to focus on selling to accounts. With the rise of the ADR role, sales teams have gone from buying leads to bringing the task in-house, which can provide your organization the much-needed ability to scale. The goals of every ADR team is to generate as many qualified leads as possible, therefore it’s key that your reps be as dedicated and efficient as possible with their time.
“House Tyrell” – SELLER 2: The Account Executive With the initial sale as simply the beginning of the customer lifetime journey in the Bow-Tie funnel, the role of the Account Executive has now also expanded. While traditionally, the goal of an AE is to further develop the conversations begun by ADRs to move towards closing a deal, today, sellers need to continue nurturing customers post-sale in an effort to retain and expand their accounts. In order to do so, your AEs need to pay attention to signals for opportunities to upsell and cross sell, maintain educational and consultative relationships to build trust, and deploy ongoing and highly targeted campaigns.
“House Frey” – SELLER 3: The Sales Engineer Often times, if your product is deeply technical, it’s important to pull in a Sales Engineer to make sure your demos turn into closed/won deals. A Sales Engineer is a moderately to extremely technical customer facing sales position tasked with delivering a single vision of the engineering, strategic, and market value of a software product. SEs spend most of their time as wing men/women to AEs and are key employees as presales becomes increasingly more valuable to the bottom line.
“House Martell” – THE MARKETER While adopting the Bow-Tie funnel approach and working in tandem with sales and customer success is key in providing value at each stage of the relationship, marketing should always be hyper-focused on specific activities to ensure overall success. As a marketer, you should be consistently reviewing targets and data, educating prospects through solution storytelling, mapping campaigns to your accounts, and collaborating and measuring all results across the Trifecta.
“House Tully” – THE EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP TEAM MEMBER Occasionally and only when necessary, it can also be wise for you to reach out to the appropriate executive on your management team to help move deals along with his or her C-level influence. After all, people buy from people, and if your ELT member is BFFs with the CMO at Salesforce, you might want to see about getting an intro or setting up a coffee meeting.
"House Greyjoy” – THE CUSTOMER SUCCESS MANAGER When selling to larger enterprises, more than 70% of organizational revenue will primarily come from post-initial sale, so it’s no wonder why involving the customer success organization in your ABM strategy is imperative. First, it’s extremely important for CS teams to translate insights into action, by conducting quarterly business reviews (QBRs) to ensure that they are on track with customers. Also, by creating well thought out implementation, onboarding and training programs, teams can help ensure customer health and also identify expansion opportunities. Plus, by investing time and energy into user champions, companies can turn those successes into relevant case studies, or even benefit from a hot prospect referral.
“House Lannister” – 3RD PARTY INFLUENCERS More often than not, enterprise purchasing groups are anxious about high costs and need to justify their purchase by doing their due diligence with research. This is where developing a strong 3rd party influencer relations strategy is critical to success. Through a regular cadence of inquiries, briefings, email and social interactions, companies can stay top of mind and be verbally shortlisted by influencers to prospects looking for a solution like yours. Additionally, performing well in analyst reports, for example, lays the groundwork for closing big deals by building trust and asserting mindshare. With the 3rd party research already done, it can be as simple as providing a link to a report, blog, or social post to help relieve fears of being reprimanded for making a poor buying decision.
Winter is Coming
The varying relationships between the above ABM players is essential to successful selling, as there are many conversations that take place across stakeholders within accounts throughout the buying cycle. Enterprises are constantly striving to connect the dots from not only data coming in from various automated sources, but also from behavior gleaned from these day-to-day conversations. Therefore, at the end of the day knowing why, how, and where each player sits in the ABM Family Tree is key to successfully navigating through the often cold and dark winters of marketing.
Or as Littlefinger would say, "Chaos isn't a pit. Chaos is a ladder."