3 Step Account-Based Sales Development for Small Business

Jul 1, 2016 | Business Owners, Sales, Sales Management, Strategic Planning, Training Salespeople

I was talking with Johnathan Allen, from Salesloft, the other day and asking him how he thought small businesses could use Account Based Selling. We had a great conversation so I asked him to write a blog post for us.

Account-Based Sales Development is a growing buzzword, but it’s actually not a new concept. Account Based Selling has re-emerged, because of the innovative technological advancements in predicative software. Here’s a quick definition:

Account-Based Sales Development (ABSD):

“Is a strategic prospecting process that involves selling to targeted and highly valued accounts rather than focusing your prospecting efforts at the contact level.”

So, you’re probably thinking, “Ok, but what does that mean for my small business? And how is it going to make me more money?”

Navigating enterprise sales can be difficult for small businesses. The sales cycle is painstakingly long and on average five people have to formally sign off on each B2B purchase. The cost to acquire a large customer is high. It’s getting tougher to gain buyer consensus and build the needed relationships to close the deal. That’s where Account-Based Sales Development comes in. B2B companies can use the account-based selling model to prospect a specific number of pre-qualified accounts, while simultaneously using multiple channels to reach all of the decision makers.

Here are the main benefits of using Account-Based Sales Development in your small business:

  1. More targeted, therefore you get a higher close rate
  2. More strategic, and doesn’t rely on high volume
  3. Builds your brand, because you sell in a more customer-centric way


3 Benefits of Account-Based Sales Development in Your Small Business

B2B selling can be complex at the enterprise level. As small business you may not have the resources. You may have a small sales team and you most likely do a lot of the selling yourself. If you’re looking to improve your performance with enterprise accounts, account-based sales development will help you identify and acquire the right customers to grow your business. Here is a three step process to increasing your sales through enterprise customers.

Step One: Create a Specialized Role for Sales Development

Let’s use the example of a small sales team that currently has one manager and three sales reps. Currently, there’s one manager that helps big deals close, and the three reps are responsible for everything from generating the lead to closing the deal. The first thing to do is break up the team members into specific roles matched with their strengths:

  • Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) – these reps are the engine that feeds your sales team with leads and works at the front end of the sales cycle. These are the prospectors and your future Account Executives. For more information on sales development, here’s a Salesforce.com blog post that covers the topic. The most junior sales reps should start as Sales Development Representatives, and work their way up to Account Executives as they become successful.
  • Account Executive (AE) – these are your closers and relationship managers once the deal is closed. The most successful sales and experienced sales rep will become the team’s AE.
  • Sales Leader (SL) – responsible for performance, motivation, attaining team goals, coaching, sales rep career development, pipeline forecasting and everything else.

Specialization is a core underlying principle of successful sales development. It keeps teams focused on their role and fosters improvement and development of skills. SDRs, for instance, should never close deals. They should prospect all the time. The reverse would be true for AEs, whose goal is to accept the right leads, generate opportunities and close business. Sales leaders now can focus on what they should: strategy, team development, and exceeding quota.

Step Two: Review Your Data Process

It might not seem obvious at first, but startups and small businesses are often sitting on mountains of data. Leads may have been acquired from various trade shows, events or databases. If you’ve ever purchased a list of emails, for instance, chances are you have a whole mess of bad lead data.

The first step to understanding what drives business growth is sorting and straightening out your data. It may seem like a difficult task at first, but it’s worth it. Clean data will boost your team’s productivity and shorten your sales cycle. Sorting through and cleaning bad data will also make the next step much, much easier.

Step Three: Identifying Ideal Client Profile and Target Accounts

Now that your data is truly clean, you can build your ideal client profile. Analyze and identify the characteristics of the accounts that you’ve won and lost. Through analyzing this data you should be able to pinpoint the specific characteristics of your ideal client. Armed with an accurate ideal client profile, based on data rather than assumptions, you can apply that profile to the top target companies you want to do business with.

For our sales team of three, we’ll take the top 100 companies we want to target, and provide 50 to each SDR. These SDRs will each own that account, they should research and find the right people to prospect aggressively, until they can pass qualified leads to the AEs. Instilling this sense of ownership in sales development helps that rep focus on researching and understanding that target account’s pain better in order to come up with a truly compelling value proposition.

Moving to account-based sales development is all about increasing the quality of interactions and leads that are passed to the sales team. It’s true, you might see a dip in raw leads generated, but you’ll have higher quality leads. Your team is more able to identify the best opportunities.

Taking the road to account-based sales development is a worthwhile journey for any small business looking to maximize their team’s performance with limited resources.

Jonathan Allen

Jonathan Allen


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