Account Based Sales Development Social Selling Uncategorized

Account Selection: Start Prioritizing Social Proximity

When entering the world of sales, account selection becomes the most important thing – and yet, it is something that is often overlooked. Both newbies and experienced salespeople tend to go after the big fish. They start planning and visualizing their account map as filled with brands and companies that they know because of their name, global impact, and popularity.

And while there is nothing wrong with this—in fact, we at Sales for Life do it too—it can cause some hindrances to your pipeline’s growth, especially if it’s all you’re going to focus on.

Here’s an excerpt from our CEO, Jamie Shanks’ book, SPEAR Selling:

When I was 16, I started a landscaping company in my small town of Manotick, Ontario, Canada. I made pink and yellow flyers that I photocopied at Mac’s Milk convenience store, and handed them out door-to-door.

Just as I was about to start my first spring lawn cutting season, my mother said to me “Jamie, if you do a great job, two people in the neighborhood will hear about you; if you do a terrible job, eight people in the neighborhood with hear about you”.

She paused, looked at me intently, and I could see what she was really saying: “The neighbors will tell me, and I’ll feel embarrassed… so don’t screw up!”

Even as a teenager, I was learning about the power of business development through social proximity and successful storytelling.

Take Advantage of Your Asymmetrical Competitive Advantages

4.2x more likely to get a sales appointment if you have a relationship than if you don’t.

Sales Benchmark Index (SBI)

So what is social proximity, and what does it have to do with account selection?

Simply put – and precisely as it sounds – it’s about utilizing your relationships, personal experiences, and customer successes (collectively known as your Asymmetrical Competitive Advantages) and placing them at the center of your pipeline efforts. You use these when creating targeted account lists, whether vertically or geographically. 

This strategy is built with a solid foundation that focuses on the customers and then grows and works outwards. Instead of focusing on which accounts will get you the biggest commissions, this strategy gives you the goal of finding asymmetric competitive advantages that other people – especially your competitors – cannot possibly compete against. 

Leveraging these advantages that exist around your company’s happy customers and the people working with them can open up a significant number of opportunities for you, which in effect can keep opening up new opportunities for you as you increase the number of happy customers in your care. Using social platforms, such as LinkedIn, can give you insights that paint a clearer picture of these relationships and the interrelationships between them.

Account Selection with Social Proximity in Mind

The next time you’re planning or reevaluating your goals for account selection (and acquisition), think of the people you’ve already got connections and influence with.

These people will include the following:

  • Employees of your current customers
  • Former employees of your existing customers
  • Your customers’ competitors
  • Partners and vendors that are associated with or are suppliers of your customers

And on a more personal level, you can also look to:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Community and social network
  • Previous school alumni

Every one of the relationships you possess with these people can create various levels of asymmetrical competitive advantages for you and your pipeline. The relationships that you’ve built with them aren’t easily copied or stolen by competitors.

While still hunting for the big fish accounts, spend a considerable amount of time and energy mapping out account selection based on your social proximity. To do this and to do it well, it is crucial that you get rid of any predetermined accounts that have been handed off to you by your superiors, your company, or even by yourself. 

We know that majority of companies will assign accounts to their sellers. However, you shall still be entitled to a percentage of target accounts to choose for themselves. This should also be a wake-up call to these companies when addressing their account selection strategies with their salespeople. Including social proximity must be given priority as early as the planning stage.

This strategy is a big, big help for sellers, especially those who are just starting out with their accounts, as well as those who find themselves stuck with their pipeline’s growth. And once you’ve been able to acquire accounts, thanks to your social proximity strategy, there’s no stopping you from reaching higher and going after the big fish.

Account Based Sales Development Blog Sales Play

The 5 Sales Plays Every Account-Based Seller Should Know

Different customers consume content in different ways. Some prefer videos, some prefer infographics, while some prefer well-written copy. And that’s why there’s no singular magic bullet-type of messaging that will have the same effect on all your customers.

The best sales processes use several stories and touch points for each account. These are designed using storyboards, taking into consideration various messaging themes, data points, and engagement mediums.

At Sales for Life, we recommend developing multiple storyboards for your account engagements, or sales plays. By applying a variety of themes, styles, engagement strategies, you’ll have more chances of providing value to your customers during the activation cycle.

Here are five sales plays you can try:

1. The Sphere of Influence connection

The Sphere of Influence is a process we use to determine social proximity.

It starts by identifying existing customers and advocates, thinking outwards from inside of your customer base to map the companies and people that have the highest social proximity to your best success stories. These people or companies could be past employees of your customers, former colleagues, vendors, partners, fellow alumni, or other key social connections to your best advocates.

A high social proximity implies a stronger relationship, increasing a seller’s chances of winning the account.

Deploying the Sphere of Influence Connection sales play accomplishes two things:

  1. It humanizes the seller and
  2. It demonstrates the high social proximity that you and the customer share.

It gives the illusion of familiarity, decreasing the prospect’s apprehension of an unsolicited engagement.

2. Stack-Ranking the Account Against its Peers

This sales play pits the account against its competitors to objectively highlight the target account’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, or threats.

One example of this is Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, which rates several vendors based on their completeness of vision and their ability to execute. A vendor’s score will determine its placement in one of four quadrants: Leaders, Visionaries, Niche Players, and Challengers.

Leaders have the highest total score for both completeness of vision and ability to execute, and they often dominate the market. Challengers have strong products and sizable market share, but they still lack the influence that Leaders possess.

Visionaries deliver innovative products, but haven’t quite captured the market yet or exhibited sustainable profitability. Niche Players are usually focused on specific verticals or markets, or are in the process of developing new or existing products for a new market. 

By ranking an account against its competition, it will have a better idea of its current performance, as well as a clearer view of areas they should improve on.

3. Applying Market Intelligence and Trends

In this sales play, the seller assumes an advisory role to strengthen their relationship with the customer.

By providing industry secrets and relevant business advice, the seller becomes a trusted source of reliable, useful information.

4. Envision Success

One way to sway a customer’s decision is to help them visualize how successful they could be if they were to become your client.

Show them the results they can get in a quarter, in half a year, and one year later. You can accomplish this via case studies, white papers, and trial programs. 

Think about how Dorothy was persuaded to go to Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz. She saw herself in Emerald City, and she got a glimpse of the flying monkeys and talking trees she would eventually see. By doing the same thing for your customer, you can reduce their apprehension over purchasing.

5. Focus on the People Instead of on the Account

Sometimes, even the best sellers forget that they’re not selling to companies, but to people—human beings with feelings and needs.

Always remember that you’re trying to win over accounts by winning the people within it.

Instead of focusing on account-centric messaging, think about how your product can benefit your prospect in their role. How can you help them, and what value can you offer?

Keep in mind that sincerity goes a long way. By exhibiting a genuine desire to help your prospects, you can create customers for life.

Read The Essentials of Account-Based Sales to learn more about what an account-based sales strategy can do for your business. 

Account Based Sales Development Blog

Why You Should Implement an Account-Based Sales Strategy

When you hear the word “prospecting,” the traditional method of reaching out, one by one, to a long list of people in various roles and organizations comes to mind. And while the contact-based sales approach has been proven to produce results, there is a way to reach your best potential customers in a more efficient manner.

By adopting an account-based sales approach, you can precisely target the customers who can most likely contribute to your business’ growth.

Instead of messaging dozens of people from different industries, you’ll be focusing on just your best accounts, growing them in a strategic manner.

Here’s how an account-based sales approach can benefit your revenue team.  

1. More efficient qualification

In account-based sales, it’s crucial to qualify leads as early as possible.

Proper lead qualification saves your sales team’s time, effort, and ultimately, bottom line. It’s a process that’s honed over time, allowing you and your sellers to efficiently determine if an opportunity is ripe for your taking.

And the faster you can disqualify leads that are no good, the faster you can move on to the next account that could use your product. 

2. Better targeting

Creating an ideal customer profile is a crucial step in account-based sales.

This step ensures that all your resources are focused on acquiring the right type of customers for your business.

“Inbound lead flow, many times, has a natural diminishing rate of return. So you can only pour so much money into that cost of customer acquisition and inbound until it becomes no longer efficient because the type of leads that start coming in are not targeted enough to be able to achieve the very specific growth patterns that you need”

“By being very strategic about your growth, you don’t have to rely on the assumption that your inbound lead flow will be enough to achieve the growth you want.”

Jamie Shanks, CEO of Sales for Life

3. Higher and more predictable revenue

Account-based selling is the better option for large deals since you’ll only be focusing on the verticals with the greatest need for your product, and are therefore more likely to purchase. You’ll get better results with less wasted resources.

Another benefit of account-based sales is better revenue forecasting.

Since you’re only focusing on one enterprise, you’ll have a good idea of the average value of a potential deal. Predicting your revenue is easier when you can determine beforehand the pipeline value of a deal before even initiating contact with an account.

4. Better Engagement

Since you already have a good picture of the kind of customers you’re talking to, aligning with the marketing team should become a smoother process.

When everyone in your team agrees upon your messaging strategy, it’s easier to create content that will resonate with your customers, allowing them to see your product’s value faster.

The result: better engagement rates and, with proper execution, shorter sales cycles.

Read The Essentials of Account-Based Sales to learn more about what an account-based sales strategy can do for your business. 

Account Based Sales Development Blog

The 3 Ingredients of a Best-In-Class Account-Based Sales Team

So your company has decided to adopt an account-based sales approach.

This is great news for your bottom line, as this strategy will unlock improved win rates, higher revenue, and more efficient allocation of resources.

Now, how should you go setting up your ABS team for selling success?

1. Mindset

Departments must work together.

The first thing you have to ensure is that everyone on the team should be on the same page.

If your marketing team is playing the volume game while your sales team wants to focus on select verticals, it’ll be hard to agree on a strategy that will work for your company’s bottom line.

“The mindset’s got to be, ‘we’re all one team. we’re all going to make this collective decision together,’” says Jamie Shanks, Sales for Life’s Managing Partner. 

You need a collaborative team revenue approach in which the sales, marketing, operations, and enablement departments come together to collectively build a go-to-market strategy.

There can’t be a singular department group of sellers deciding this within the organization because then marketing can’t provide the right air cover, sales operations can’t measure the right KPIs, and sales leaders can’t enforce or govern and create accountability to outcomes.”

Jamie Shanks, CEO of Sales for Life

Be intentional, not haphazard.

Another mindset shift you need to make is that an account-based strategy cannot be implemented by just one sales unit. All your sellers need to be on the same page, regardless of their existing prospecting efforts.

“You can’t decide that a business unit team will be account-based, and just do it haphazardly,” says Shanks. “There has to be this mindset that there are very specific accounts, whether geographic, verticalized, or named accounts, and we are going to target them. Whether we win them or not, we can’t control them. We can only influence them. But we’re going to be strategic in targeting them.”

2. Skillset

The moment you decide to adopt an account-based sales approach, you need to adjust your whole strategy from top to bottom.

Your team will need to learn new go-to-market strategies, sales motions, and sales plays.

You might also need to determine new metrics to properly gauge the effectiveness of your strategy, and you will have to learn how to measure and use the new data you’ll have.

“There has to be a transfer of knowledge about what’s your modern market strategy, what are the sales motions, what are the sales plays you need to master, how you are going to do it, how you are going to measure it,” says Shanks.

“Your team needs to be enabled with the right skillset across the board, from the BDRs and SDRs linking up with the AEs. So the channel can’t be focused haphazardly all over the market, when in fact, there’s a very specific group of accounts you want to win.”

3. Toolkit

To properly implement an account-based strategy, you will need the right methodology and tools. And by “tools,” we’re not just talking about the tech stack.

Probably the most important weapon in your account-based sales arsenal is complete, accurate, and relevant data.

You need to have intent data to find out when your key accounts are engaging. You need product usage data, which you can use to improve your product and refine your marketing strategies. Above all, you need sales intelligence not only to acquire more leads, but also to maintain your existing accounts.

“There needs to be signal intelligence delivered directly to the sales community from those specific named accounts,” says Shanks.

Competitive threats, relationship roadmaps, time-based signals, job changes or maturity changes inside companies—these need to be delivered to the sales team so they know which accounts to segment and prioritize based on empirical evidence, rather than just calling through the phone book, A to Z.”

Read The Essentials of Account-based Sales to learn if what the ABS strategy can do for your business and if it’s right for your organization.

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