Master Account-Based Sales Development - Strategy, Tech, and Data

by Andrew Park

(This article is an abridged recap of Tray’s How to Master Account-Based Sales Development webinar, featuring the insights of senior sales leaders Karan Singh, COO of SalesSource LLC, J. Ryan Williams, founder of SalesCollider, and Lars Nilsson, Advisor at TrueVentures and originator of ABSD.

For those who missed it, our full webinar on account-based sales development with originator Lars Nilsson is available on demand here.)

What is account-based sales development? What are the origins of ABSD?

Account-based sales development, or ABSD, is the coordinated process of developing qualified new logo and expansion pipeline in your target addressable market (TAM) by proactively running sales development-led, multi-touch email sequences into targeted accounts.

  • Origin: Lars’ experience leading a team of sales development representatives (SDR) who:
    - Needed to grow pipeline
    - Had a streamlined pipeline of prospects after winnowing away inbound leads that didn’t fit in the company’s TAM
    - Began experimenting with sales intelligence automation solutions such as Outreach

  • By using hyper-personalized email cadences targeted at relevant personas, by account and by vertical, his team’s open and reply rates skyrocketed, generating new pipeline and also driving expansion within existing customer accounts.

Key takeaways & learnings from this process:

  • The right accounts to target: Beyond assigned accounts, Lars has found success using behavior-tracking technologies that isolate online conversations as interest signals for his company’s solution - those became great account-based sales development targets.
  • Personas per account: It’s also important to account for the number of leads per each account, and amass a library of personas to speak to them. The power of account-based sales development is putting marketing automation-style, one-to-many outbound technology into the hands of an SDR.

Important points to note about account-based sales development:

  • Account-based sales development can supplement ABM: ABM is important, but not necessarily comprehensive. Having SDRs involved helps you develop a closed loop - a comprehensive view on how to go after your customers.
  • Account-based sales development lets you focus on target accounts: Account-based sales development means SDRs can stop randomly blasting large numbers of prospects and instead be surgical about targeting. Especially advantageous when you consider cost of acquisition (CAC) for new customers.

Pitfalls of setting up account-based sales development systems:

  • An important challenge in the initial implementation of account-based sales development was getting all solutions and applications to talk to each other properly.
  • Example: With a lack of clear integration between marketing platform and SDR team, a company’s SDRs email several contacts at a target account and receives numerous unsubscribe requests. Without the integration, the marketing platform can’t account for these requests and will double-deluge these prospects with marketing emails and SDR emails, potentially alienating the account. Your toolset is instrumental in avoiding these pitfalls.

Strategy: When to consider account-based sales development

  • Younger companies with complex solutions on offer: When companies are selling a complex solution, they likely need orchestration for the buying decision - which means multiple decision makers (DMs), and more than a single SDR or AE can handle.
  • Complicated solutions require this type of orchestration, which is why it’s important to consider which DMs to speak to. If there are more than, say, two DMs in a deal, it may make sense to consider taking an account-based approach, and be thoughtful about any new leads you add.
  • The younger the company, the most important new logos become. Account-based sales development became relevant to Lars’ team after defining its TAM, which provided the team with a focused, manageable stable of accounts to target.
  • After winnowing its target list, the team then cataloged all its personas that it had succeeded in selling to across its sales cycles. Over time, it became easier to target those personas in different organizations, particularly with smart tools to monitor behavior and buying signals.
  • ABSD may not be relevant for younger companies doing the new-logo landgrab. This is because account-based sales development requires content relevant to specific personas and verticals. By specifically targeting leads and speaking to them “in their language,” you tend to see better results.
  • In some ways, good automation with strong personalization enables sales leaders to train better SDRs as they intelligently harness technology.

The anatomy of an account-based sales development campaign

  • The most important part of any account-based sales development campaign is the subject line, which must be an attention-grabber. Imagine how much more powerful an email will be when its subject:
    - Is relevant to your prospect’s job title
    - Is relevant to your prospectd’s industry vertical
    - Contains content that hits close to home, such as a PR article quote from an executive at that lead’s company
  • Personalization = skyrocketing replay rates: The power of personalization to  the person whose job it is to implement your company’s solution.

How to recruit SDRs

  • What’s the ideal profile for an account-based sales development SDR? In a previous example, one company sold directly to B2C e-commerce leads, at which time the hiring profile didn’t necessarily line up with what’s needed for account-based sales development. At the time, there was lightweight storytelling and very little personalization.

For account-based sales development, you need SDRs who really understand the “why” of an email. Consider training or interviewing prospective SDRs by sharing an email and seeing what they might consider tweaking or improving. You might be interviewing people with that capacity, but you’re setting expectations that the SDR’s job will be to enhance storytelling to engage prospects.

For the typical SDR, it isn’t necessarily difficult to get ramped around the metrics of modern sales automation tools, since most tend to be user-friendly. The important part is to ensure your sales organization around how to use your tools. It’s often a good idea to present the teaching and training as “A Day in the Life of an SDR,” helping your sales team understand how to use everything in the context of your specific account-based sales development goals and your company’s larger goals.

There are a lot of moving parts for a strategy like this. Anecdotally, Lars ended up moving one of his veteran SDRs into a purely sales/SDR enablement role - by having such a team member in place, ramping new SDRs was much faster and more effective. So, for an account-based sales development strategy, it’s highly recommended to dedicate someone, even a super-user, to become the coach/trainer.

It’s also important for account-based sales development to ensure your SDR team partners with the marketing team to properly arm your SDRs to reach out with quality content.


(For more account-based sales development insights, go here to watch the full, on-demand webinar on ABSD.)

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