Until about a year ago, the established doctrine in sales was pretty clear. It was all about “hustle”. More emails, more voicemails, more cold outreach. At first, when buyers didn’t know that it was all automated, it worked. However as buyers quickly realized that the “did you get my email”, “just wanted to check in” and “are you being chased by zombies” emails were just more automation, the effectiveness dropped dramatically.
To keep overall meeting counts where they needed to be, only one option was left: even more volume. That meant even longer sequences, and even more people being mass-targeted.
If you assume that your market is essentially infinite, this approach might work. There will always be thousands more buyers to add to the hopper, so there are no ramifications to burning more and more buyers with the process. ABM, however, does not and cannot make that assumption.
The Flight to Quality
ABM is the opposite of this “hustle” approach. Rather than mass-sending undifferentiated outreach and crappy cold emails, the best practitioners of ABM send highly customized, precise communications. Instead of driving success by increasing volume, ABM leaders drive success through quality and relevance. Rather than measure raw outreach activity, best-in-class ABM strategies measure the number and strength of relationships created.
The Wrong Tool For The Job
Are the tools of the “hustle” paradigm – automated sequences of scripted emails, auto-dialers, and management dashboards of raw activity – ineffective or actually harmful? Here’s a common argument: “there’s no harm in trying”.
Nothing could be further from the truth when executing an ABM strategy.
Automation tools work by finding one buyer ready for a conversation and turning a blind eye to the damage done to the thousands of other buyers pushed through the same process. Increasingly, this blindness to collateral damage is being challenged. Spam filters and unsubscribes increasingly decimate an organization’s ability to communicate with any prospective buyers. The more a sales team is given free reign to unleash waves of automation on thousands of buyers, the larger the impact.
In parallel, the brand impact to buyers who receive this treatment also leads to a significant negative impression of the company. In an ABM approach, a broad and deep set of relationships will be needed to get a deal done, and even one executive soured by being relentlessly pursued by an automated sales effort can scuttle a deal.
Building a Foundation of Relationships
Sales teams in support of an ABM strategy have a crucial role to play. The challenge winning large deals at select accounts is that the required relationships must be built meticulously, over time. Often the buying organization will be an ideal fit but might not be ready to prioritize the initiative just yet, so the relationships must be maintained for a lengthy period of time.
Relationships are well known for being hard to create but easy to destroy. Thoughtful, conversational, and value-creating interactions are needed to stay top-of-mind during a long process. Slowly building broader and deeper relationships in a target organization when the opportunity arises is a better strategy than an aggressive upfront strategy that either generates a meeting or leaves the buyer unsubscribed or with a tainted perception of your brand.
To enable a account-based team to build relationships, the first thing to consider is what you measure as management. As the adage says, “what gets measured gets managed.”
If you’re measuring activity you will get activity, if you’re measuring relationships, you will get relationships.
Levelling Up ABM Relationship Intelligence
Relationship intelligence provides the foundation of this shift by changing the core measurement of account-based teams to a measurement of relationships. Metrics of relationships created, strengthened, and maintained replace measurements of emails sent and voicemails left. Measurements of relationship depth and breadth with the right buyers in the buying committee give an indication of pipeline quality. Alerting on deals that are “single-threaded”, with only one strong relationship, highlight risk for committed deals in the forecast.
Account-based teams target bigger deals with more precision than mass-market sales and marketing teams. To do so, they need to be much more cognisant of the damage that can be done by undifferentiated “hustle” tactics. A core foundation of the best teams is how they measure performance. You must shift to measuring relationships over activity is a shift that drives the right behavior across the entire organization.