Account Based Selling: 7 Ways Into Any Account - - Relationship Intelligence for Sales

Account Based Selling: 7 Ways Into Any Account

By Steve Woods in Sales

Post Snapshot: Learn 7 non-traditional account based selling tactics to access any of your target accounts.


Nobody likes cold calling; callers and callees alike. Not only does nobody like it, its overall effectiveness is plummeting as buyers are less and less likely to pick up the phone if they don’t recognize the incoming number.

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However for many products and services, the only way a deal can get done is if a conversation happens. The conversation helps map out the landscape of what working together might look like, and how the value and challenges would manifest for that specific account. Without these conversations, the general information available online is not enough to bring an entire account to the point of deciding to change providers or engage with a new approach to their business.


So how do the best sales teams start account based selling?

With the plummeting effectiveness of cold calling, it’s misguided to have a sales team start with a list of 1000 names and hammer out call after call until one unlucky soul answers the phone. Not only are the results poor, but the effect on the morale of the sales team will grow over time until the best salespeople begin to look for greener pastures.

To “get in”, a better path is needed. This path exists, but it requires a team to think carefully, in advance, about the tools and techniques for not only finding the paths, but also creating more of them over time.

This effort extends not just beyond individual sales people, but also beyond the sales team to the entire organization. The groundwork is laid well before the sales effort starts, and encompasses much more than just sales tactics. It involves a shift in thinking of what each role does, and who each team member is.

To truly succeed at account based selling, WHAT each role does must shift:

  • The product/service team must also creates opportunities for simpler engagement and interesting insights into user behavior
  • The marketing team must also create assets that allow not just broad messaging, but the spark for individual conversations
  • The sales team must think of themselves as coordinator of a broad team of people each of whom contributes to the network of potential account access

And across a team, WHO each member is must be understood and built upon. Specifically, successful teams need to:

  • Understand the network of each person
  • Build the network of each person
  • Leverage the networks of every person

If those foundational steps are in place, the following 7 paths into an organization become possible:

Account Based Selling: Find Your Best Path

1. Introduction from Team

The simplest way in, although likely the rarest, is if someone on your team has a sufficiently strong relationship to make an introduction to someone at the account in question. Often this is mainly a challenge of cutting through the noise, as today’s connected social graph will often surface tens or hundreds of potential connections. Knowing which of those connections are real relationships is crucial to cutting through the noise. This aspect of relationship strength, rather than just a ‘connection’ is becoming an increasingly critical aspect of the network graph that is understood by the best-networked organizations.


2. Introduction from Advisor, Advocate, or Investor

If your existing team does not have the right connection to use, there is a good chance that a highly connected person close to your company might. These people are often investors, advisors, or advocates, and as such are willing to help with the right introductions at the right time. The challenge, however, is in understanding that the connection exists, as these people are not employed by your company. Tracking the strength of relationships outside of the artificial silo of a single company is imperative to understanding the best options in to an account. Successful account based selling requires both your internal and external team.


3. Social Connections

The easiest relationship to miss, but paradoxically, the most powerful, are often the social relationships. Neighbors, parents of kids on the same baseball team, college roommates from long ago, or spouses of friends are often highly connected and influential people in their business careers. Unfortunately, these connections are rarely noticed due to an arbitrary line that is drawn between ‘business’ connections and ‘social’ connections. Many times, they would be more than willing to help out, but the inability to understand that the connection exists prevents the question from being asked. Tools like Nudge enable account based selling by¬†allowing you and your team to leverage your wider network of relationships in order to access accounts.


4. Connecting from the Front Lines

Rather than target the CMO or SVP of Sales directly, it can be best to work your way in from the front lines. Employees with less name recognition are not as besieged by calls, and may be more receptive to a conversation than their senior officers who receive hundreds of calls daily. The challenge, however, is to find a way to work up from that initial individual to the power centers in the organization. Here, a strategy needs to involve more than just sales efforts. Product or service packages can be tuned to this problem and allow an easier entry point, proof of the value proposition, and justification for a broader conversation. The best organizations see account based selling as a challenge for the entire organization and are able to guide overall strategy to maximize go-to-market success.


5. External Event as a Trigger

Very little is less effective than an initial call that is just an ask for a sales meeting. Much more effective is a reach-out that ties current events either at the account in question, or the world at large, to the reason for communicating. Even better is when this is done in a way that clearly shows that you are not pushing for a sales conversation. Seeing a change in executive staff, a merger, a new product announcement, etc, can be a great opportunity to reach out with helpful guides, frameworks, or data. By making it clear that you’re not asking for a sales conversation, just offering help, you set up a solid foundation for a relationship that will be tremendously valuable later.


6. Derived Event as a Trigger

Obviously major external events that lead to clearly valuable offers are wonderful when they do occur, but they are generally not that common. Tightly coordinated sales and marketing teams, however, can create a powerful alternative through creating events that are so targeted and specific that a direct reach-out feels natural and correct. Whether these are small roundtables, exclusive dinners, or data sets that are uniquely tuned to the individual’s company and situation, these can give a reason to reach out directly. Marketing often has a tendency to build assets that are as generally applicable as possible, but in the best-networked organizations, marketing also has the ability to build assets that are so unique and specific that they can form an ideal conversation-starter.


7. Onboarding Event as Trigger

Many of today’s best organizations have built ways to ‘land and expand’; to engage with an account in a small way that grows to a large way. Done elegantly, this can provide its own trigger for a conversation, as the data from an initial set of users can be leveraged to create a conversation with a more senior executive. Understanding a new technology through the lens of how an internal group is actually using it inside the organization can be a compelling reason for an executive to spend 30 minutes of their time. Obviously this 30 minutes needs to provide valuable insight, and the coordination of product, marketing, and sales, is again critical.


For the successful organizations of the future, the ability to coordinate product, marketing, and sales in order to access accounts will be a key determinant of success. A go-to-market strategy must be the responsibility of all teams working in concert. Each team may have to contribute by doing things that are counter-intuitive to their historical mindsets.

Likewise, viewing a team as the sum of its members’ individual networks is a shift in thinking that requires both a deeper understanding of relationship strength, and also and understanding of relationships across multiple jobs and multiple contexts. Success is achievable, but it requires building a strong foundation that allows the right relationships to be understood, built, and leveraged.

Steve Woods
CTO and Co-Founder
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