Monthly Archives: December 2016

Winning More with ABMtest

Account Based Marketing (ABM) is a high-stakes b2b prospecting strategy. To win more accounts through ABM, we need to move to the prospect’s side of the table, to begin to really understand what they are looking for, how they are looking for it, and how they get things done. That, my friends, is profound competitive differentiation.

Thus, I’m going to start off with a customer story.

In my agency days I worked on a large domestic automobile account, the agency’s largest account and greatest source of revenue. Part of the arrangement was a yearly account review.

So here we were around the conference table, on their turf, listening to the results of the review. We got high marks for our work, which was not a surprise. We got low marks on responsiveness, which was.

Our EVP leaned across the table and cut to the core. “We need to get back to basics. The problem is that we’re on Madison Avenue and you’re in Detroit. I want to rent space in your building,” he told the client. “I want to open a satellite office so our people are here when you need them.” And every one on our team sat back in their chair.

In retrospect, what pushed everyone back was being on the verge of a deeper definition of and commitment to value.

Compelling Value is Personal

Value is more than your product or service – that it “works” is table stakes. Value is more than answering your email and delivering to schedule. Value is more than a tight positioning statement or clever creative.

Value is getting under the skin of organization, into the DNA of the people on the team. Understanding their personal and professional pressures, and how they get things done. Value is helping them to do business.

Opening an office inside of our client’s headquarters gave us the ability to walk down the hall, to have coffee with and really get to know the people. Walking down the hall turned us from agency guys to being part of the team. The responsiveness concern vanished.

Demonstrating this value is the basis of profound competitive differentiation. It’s how to win at ABM.

This deep dive used to be the wheelhouse of Sales.

Would You Like to Talk to a Salesperson?

Actually, no.

And for the most part, neither does any prospect. There is a vast swath of statistics that say about 70% of the consideration journey takes place prior to engagement, and is getting longer. We don’t have to be scientists to see that if we can engage earlier, we can walk down those same halls.

The priority is gaining indepth prospect intelligence through our willingness and investment in listening. Prospect persona research is designed to go beyond the obvious and generate the indepth understanding of the corporate and the individual, how they articulate their goals and pain. It provides illumination on learning behavior and generates insights into “how things get done”. Prospect personas also serve as rallying point for Sales and Marketing.

Going Where ABM Has Never Gone Before

This gives ABM two things it didn’t have before:

  1. Indepth prospect intelligence that comes earlier and provides greater insight
  2. The ability to channel that prospect intelligence into consensus

Driving Consensus by Identifying the Champion

We’ve noticed four trends in ABM:

  1. The consideration journey is getting longer
  2. The decision making process is becoming more complex
  3. There are more executives involved in the process than ever before
  4. The single biggest reason ABM fails is “no decision”.

The goal of doing all this is to win the business. In every buying center there is an “internal mobilizer” who pushes for team consensus. Not unlike herding cats, this unofficial team leader is persuasive in meetings and correspondence to which prospective vendors are not invited (but often decides their fate).

This champion may change depending on the issue, problem, responsibility or a host of other reasons. The point is to understand who is the champion and what makes them tick.

In recent win/loss ABM research we were interviewing internal consensus champions to glean more “after the fact” insight, to validate what our client learned in prospect persona research, and sharpen their approach. We asked an executives from a win, what was the most important benefit the company brought to bear, what aspect was most important to the sale. His response, my salesman. He helped me, and our company, to get a critical problem taken care of.




3 Ways to Improve B2B Prospecting by Finding “Me”test

Hey, I’ve got a great new business idea – let’s take our least experienced, lowest paid, least trained and barely empowered employees and make them our customer-facing personnel!


Since about 75% of the b2b consideration process takes place without our direct involvement, let’s call prospects to “just check in” and see if they’re ready to engage!”

I would like my competitors to employ both strategies, please.

What’s In It for Me?

Of course, both strategies are pretty mainstream and sound pretty lame-stream when you shine a light. It’s just that some businesses have lost their way. Somewhere along the line, they lost the core meaning of the terms value and benefit, because they were looking in the wrong place. The answer is not in their heads, on the hard-drive or a Google search. These terms can only be defined by our prospect.

Every prospect wants an answer to the question, what’s in it for me? We’re advocating a deep-dive into “me” so we can learn how to answer the question. We’re advocating an indepth conversation with complex individuals who have both personal and business goals, and specific responsibilities to the buying center. How does this person define value? What benefits would help them to address an issue? Prospects aren’t going to tweet this, we’re going to have to dig it out of them.

3 Ways to Find “Me”

Here are three strategies that can improve every aspect of your prospecting by finding out more about “me”:

  1. Prospect Persona Research

Really, there is no better way to find out what a person wants then by asking them directly, by engaging them in purposeful conversation.

Prospect persona research is a specialized and proven qualitative process that helps us to understand how an organization makes a decision and who is involved. It concentrates on gaining a human understanding of these individuals, the “me’s”, what they need and how they learn. It’s as an exploration into the life of a person who must solve a problem that your product is designed to address.

There are two things that we always look for in this research:

  • What is the prospect-to-product connection? We must learn how we can express and demonstrate our compelling competitive differentiation so that our prospect can hear us. We need to create preference.
  • Who is our potential champion? The decision making process is long and complex, and most often results in no decision. Among the players, is there someone who has the potential to champion our cause, helping others to embrace the prospect-to-product connection?
  1. Win / Loss Reporting

We live and die by the close ratio, so let’s infuse some indepth understanding of the outcome. The only way to do that is to talk to wins, losses, and no decisions through the same qualitative research process. We want to know, overall and by persona (as possible):

  • Why did we win?
  • Why did we lose?
  • Why was there no decision?

Throughout, we are looking to sharpen the articulation of the nuance, to polish the key insight, to refine our process, especially among high-value prospects, which will come back to us in the close ratio.

  1. Customer Satisfaction as Measured by Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Although significantly more money is spent of prospecting, customer retention is where the long-term money comes from. By better understanding where we are successfully satisfying customers and where we are falling short, we can influence both prospecting and customer sat. Customer sat, in turn, leverages customer lifetime value.

A usual Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey bluntly asks customers if they would refer us to a friend or colleague. Customers are asked to respond numerically, where 0 is awful and 10 is divine. Boom.

The NPS survey we would recommend would build on this to gain the overall score, and then within specific areas such as sales, products, and support. We would then employ qualitative research and dig deeply to understand, what do you mean by that?

But It’s Expensive

Many b2b companies we’ve spoken to feel that their prospecting is underperforming and lament the long sales cycle bereft of direct engagement. The tendency is to invest in end products, like content, without the rigor of the underlying research. Well – prospecting is underperforming, so marketing isn’t doing its job, and we’re not getting the results we need, and research is EXPENSIVE. Besides, we already know.

I think, unless things have changed, that convincing a prospect to become a customer is where the money trail starts. The better we understand the prospect…