Account-based marketing (ABM) has always been considered to be a marketing tactic, but in recent years we are uncovering how it can be used as a sales solution too.

As marketers, we’ve understood the value in collaborating with sales to achieve the best ABM results, and now that sales have got a taste of the potential of ABM, it seems as if sales are starting to use ABM to achieve their own goals.

Where is the boundary between marketing and sales?

There have been some clear lines between sales and marketing in the past, after Hubspot introduced their infamous ‘smarketing’ the lines became a little blurred. One thing to get straight is that we are all working towards the same end goal, to get more customers. If we can combine our insight, that’s what business success looks like.

Let’s review some definitions to understand the difference between sales and marketing alignment, and sales enablement, because you’re not alone in thinking… what exactly are they and what’s the difference?

  • Sales & Marketing Alignment: The structural and philosophical positioning of sales and marketing to define and facilitate mutual success, driven from the top of the funnel down to the bottom.
  • Sales Enablement: The activity of providing the materials, insights, guidance, or any other material that is needed support the prospects experience. This might include content, training, customer insight, apps etc.

The reason why many people are struggling to grasp what they mean is because they’re concepts and mean different things to a lot of people. Essentially, sales and marketing alignment is when they come together for mutual success such as qualified leads, and sales enablement is all about improving the experience of the prospect through providing valuable information.

So why are sales teams turning to ABM?

Since COVID there’s been a huge uptake in ABM from sales teams as they are no longer on the road travelling and meeting potential customers. This is the direct sales solution for not being able to get out and meet prospects.

Another reason why sales are turning to ABM is due to how targeted it is, tools such as LinkedIn allow you to focus on specific job titles within target companies and serve those prospects with tailored content that engages. Sales are using ABM to warm up the leads with relevant content before picking up the phone, kind of sounds like sales enablement… right? Maybe the outcome of COVID is that sales are investing their time that would have been spent at trade shows/events connecting with potential customers on sales enablement activities.

What about late adopters…? How to convince sales on ABM as a sales solution

When you ask a sales rep what they want they will typically say they want

  • Customers to know they are credible
  • The optics of how the deal looks to the rest of the business and understanding of how to make their solution look like the right decision
  • Large reach of important stakeholders
  • Business perception from the prospect
  • Unity of bringing people together and promoting success stories

Sales and marketing are often saying the same things, just using different words. Credibility and perception instead of brand. Reach and optics instead of awareness. If marketers can switch their language, it can really help to successfully engage sales.

What makes ABM a good fit for sales?

What I love about ABM is that it’s constantly evolving, I also talk about how ABM likes to shift shape and take different forms in my blog ABM – Where are we now?. ABM is evolving into a strategy that sales teams are wanting to adopt, I’ve had many client calls where we deal directly with sales teams on how we can support them with ABM.

Commonly, sales teams want to get the contact details of target accounts/prospects they haven’t been able to secure in the past. Sales teams are more interested in getting the contact details of the people that matter in an organisation and being able to personally follow up with them, whereas marketing teams are more interested in getting leads in the database for nurturing.

I’ve noticed that when you get sales onboard and they see the opportunity with ABM, they really want to use it to its full potential. For sales, this means putting more focus on the big wins and maybe going for one to four companies at a time while tailoring ABM campaign messaging to each pain point you know they are experiencing. In marketing terms, we’d call this a hyper targeted approach.

Maybe this is the era of marketing and sales truly working closely together to produce effective ABM campaigns.