Great companies are built with great people. If you look back in history at leaders of the most iconic brands, they will tell you the same thing:
“The competition to hire the best will increase in the years ahead. Companies that give extra flexibility to their employees will have the edge in this area.”
Bill Gates, Microsoft
“The secret of my success is that we have gone to exceptional lengths to hire the best people in the world.”
Steve Jobs, Apple
“If you always hire people who are smaller than you are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. If, on the other hand, you always hire people who are bigger than you are, we shall become a company of giants.”
David Ogilvy, Ogilvy & Mather
“I will only hire someone to work directly for me if I would work for that person.”
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook
The list goes on.
Hiring the right person to lead your Account Based Marketing (ABM) can be the difference between success and failure.
Now, before you jump straight to hiring someone to lead your ABM efforts, first you must answer some strategic questions, like is ABM really the right go-to market strategy for you, and do you have internal buying from the executive team?
Now it’s time to hire a Director of ABM to execute on your strategy. Here’s how to go about the process effectively so you can kick-start your ABM program with confidence.
Write Your Job Description
The first step is documenting your ideal candidate and what is needed for the role. In addition to the key characteristics noted in the section below, define precisely what this person will be charged with. Common responsibilities include:
- Selecting and prioritizing target accounts based on the Ideal Customer Profile
- Developing the marketing strategy for strategic accounts
- Orchestrating and contributing to the creative and storytelling aspects of ABM campaigns
- Collaborating with Sales to plan, execute, and optimize the ABM program
- Managing marketing operations, reporting, and expectations
- Building out and overseeing the ABM tech stack
- Managing your ABM budget.
While finding someone with fitting industry experience is a given, the following outlines relevant background for this position:
- Strong, proven leadership skills
- Excellent communication and presentation skills
- Experience working directly and successfully with sales teams and managers
- Marketing competency in relation to demand generation, sales enablement, revenue generation
What Characteristics Make a Strong ABM Leader?
The most successful ABM directors are collaborative, data-driven leaders who understand and can convey the high-level strategy while also diving into the nitty-gritty. They are truly interested in the “business of business” and work tirelessly to continually up level their ability to navigate the complex web of relationships in organizations. This applies to how they orchestrate the ABM plan and plays in their own organization, as well as how they convert account information into insights that can be applied to target buyer personas.
In general, ABM leaders are:
- Seasoned, senior B2B marketers
- Intellectually curious
- Well-rounded team players
- Able to hold their own with account executives
- Insightful about the nuances of the buyer process
- Well versed in monitoring and optimizing marketing across channels
- Experienced with solution marketing and/or field marketing
- Adept at leading teams and managing relationships and projects
Interview Questions to Ask to Effectively Assess Your Candidates
Whether you’ve identified potential candidates within your organization or from outside, you can gauge their ABM leadership abilities by seeing how they respond to the following questions.
You’re not always necessarily looking for a specific answer, rather you’re looking to determine a candidate’s thought process. According to Laszlo Bock, Google’s VP of People Operations, “The second-best predictors of performance are tests of general cognitive ability (26 percent).”
Ask these questions, but also ask for details. Dig into each answer. Find out the specifics.
- What’s your definition of ABM? This may sound like a basic question, but you’d be surprised how many people fail to ask it. What you’re looking for is alignment with your vision of ABM. The answer will give you a good baseline for what to expect from an ABM program run by the candidate.
- Why do you think ABM is a good strategy for our business? Let them ask you questions about your business or tell them to make their best guess based on the research they conducted before meeting with you. This is a critical question because ABM is a time- and resource-intensive undertaking. Anyone who doesn’t fully understand the business implications could lead your organization down a costly path that yields insignificant returns.
- Describe your process for launching an ABM program. Here’s your chance to find out whether or not this person could hit the ground running, thinking strategically while overseeing the smallest details. In an ideal world, the candidate will have gotten an ABM program off the ground at another company, and even spearheaded an ABM pilot program. If they had to bootstrap the initiative by working with existing marketing resources, find out how they went about it and pulled together an effective team.
- If you had unlimited budget and could buy any technology to help execute your ABM strategy, what would it be? Being technologically savvy is important to fully leverage ABM. Once the candidate offers a response, ask follow-up questions to drill down, like:
- Why would you choose those?
- What in particular about each of those is valuable for executing on ABM?
- Which have you used in the past and to what effect?
- What is required to get up to speed on those?
- Which other technologies did you integrate those with and how?Make sure this person can really get into the weeds with the technology and not just talk at a high level. They need to be able to get their hands dirty.
- How do you gauge engagement with and movement within target accounts? Your ABM Director needs to be comfortable aggregating data from multiple systems and digging into it. In this response, look for proof that the candidate understands the complexities of a sometimes lengthy account purchase process and how to pinpoint meaningful milestones.
- Describe your experience working with other departments executing your past ABM programs. As an ABM leader, this person will be interacting with other departments frequently. Make sure they understand, appreciate and respect the other departments, especially Sales.
- Describe an ABM team you’ve led or been a member of – including the key roles and responsibilities – and what did and didn’t work. While the makeup of the core ABM team varies by organization, it often includes people from Sales, Marketing, Professional Services/Support, and Solutions/Service Consulting. Understanding who does what and how everyone interacts is essential to leading a team to success. Asking the candidate to present the pros and cons from a previous ABM team experience should provide insight into their ability to think strategically and problem solve.
- Walk me through, from start to finish, the most successful ABM campaign you’ve executed. Spend the most time on this question. Don’t let the candidate gloss over any details. Ask them to explain what they did and why they did it. Look for multi-channel engagement, examples of experimentation, and meaningful measures of success. You want to see a deep understanding of the ABM process, but you’re also looking for grit, teamwork, curiosity, and critical thinking.
Hiring a dedicated Director of ABM should be the game changer that ignites your strategy. As you’re considering candidates, look for strong leaders with the right array of skills, experience, and characteristics. Whatever you do, never underestimate the soft skills that will fuel this person’s ability to rally the troops to drive more account-based revenues.
The road to ABM starts now. There are things you can do to get started and see immediate results. We’ve put together some of our best content to help you get up and running with ABM in our ABM Starter Kit.
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