From ABM to ABB: How to Get Marketing and Sales Right with an Account-Based Approach

A common and costly challenge is when marketing and sales do not work together. According to IDC, it costs B2B companies upwards of 10% or more of revenue per year. For a billion-dollar company, that equates to $100 million. A solution that promises to align marketing and sales is account-based marketing (ABM). But companies have misgivings about it. Specifically, ABM suffers from the black box problem, wherein there is little transparency about the data used to pursue these efforts.

What is the way forward then? Marketing and sales alignment calls for an integrated approach. One that is transparent, simple, and comprehensive across technology, process, and people. Find out how below.

The new reality

There have always been silos between sales and marketing. However, today’s market and consumers make it imperative to align the two entities. Competition is rising, and customer experience is becoming the competitive battlefield.

SiriusDecisions revealed the top three priorities of CMOs in the next two years. These are enhancing customer experience, addressing changing buying behavior, and adapting to changing economic conditions. The need for sales and marketing alignment has only become more evident and vital.

“It’s a simple marketplace reality that many products have similar capabilities and deliver similar value,” Cylance senior VP of marketing, Shaun Walsh, said. “Since we are all selling to human beings, synchronized sales and marketing efforts must understand at a deep visceral level how and why customers use and buy products, thereby enabling stronger customer referrals, shorter time to revenue, and improved customer experiences.”

The consequences

But not all companies have their marketing and sales in sync. According to Bain, only 35% of B2B companies said their marketing and sales organizations have strong alignment.

Marketing generates leads and sales turns those leads into customers. The delegation and separation of responsibilities seem simple. But, on a holistic level, the gap between the two has consequences.

For marketing, proving ROI of marketing campaigns is a persistent problem. Sales presentations have different messaging and value proposition. Sales act on marketing leads inconsistently. Plus, there is also a general lack of feedback from sales wins to use for improvement.

For sales, there are never enough leads. Lead information is lacking or completely unavailable to help contextualize approach. Marketing can also do something that derails sales’ negotiations with hot leads.

The underlying causes

In my experience working with marketing and sales organizations, there is one encompassing, prominent reason that fuels the gap. It is the lack of trust between marketing and sales departments. What are the causes?

  1. Poor communication. A Corporate Executive Board survey, cited by Harvard Business Review, found that 87% of sales and marketing have negative opinions about each other. Being separate departments, it’s understandable to have differences—from jargon to vision.Unfortunately, these differences create misunderstandings and inefficiencies. Hubspot found that only 26% of respondents have a formal SLA between marketing and sales.
  1. Misaligned data and goals. As the practice, marketing and sales often plan their strategies and goals separately from each other. In a survey by Digital Doughnut, only 37% of companies describe marketing and sales functions as “very joined-up, with shared leadership and shared KPIs.” Green Hat revealed that only 50% of companies have shared goals and KPIs. Collaboration sessions to review shared KPIs only occur to 41% of companies. And, only 39% of companies have a mutually agreed definition between sales and marketing of what a “marketing lead” is.
  1. Different nature of work. Are these scenarios familiar? Marketing creates messaging to pique the interests of leads. While sales, being in contact with potential customers, uses another. Marketing tends to approach leads on a more national level. While sales is more regional.

 According to HubSpot, more than half (52%) of marketers say they provide sales with their best quality leads, while salespeople rank marketing-sourced leads last. The results are broken links between marketing and sales.

The fix and recipe for success

To build trust between marketing and sales, there should be an integrated approach that involves the two departments. An approach that cuts across technology, process, and people.

Data is the glue. The most important ingredient to achieve that is data. In many ways, marketing already has the data and intelligence. From the biggest accounts and potential profits to sales cycles and lead insights. Marketing and sales just need to establish common definitions and usage policies. Data is transparent and rational. Making it the base of any joint marketing and sales initiative is a great start.

  1. One people. For many companies, marketing and sales are simply two separate departments. To address that, there must be a shared vision between the two. The best vision is one that puts customer needs above everything else.Once the vision is there, both departments need to work on shared goals and KPIs. The key here is focusing on organizational goals more than departmental or functional goals.
  2. One process. While data is the main ingredient, how marketing and sales process and leverage it has a key role as well. Having access to the same customer insights is crucial, particularly for companies targeting customers with complex purchase processes.Further, when sales and marketing take ownership of the different lead generation stages, it facilitates the process of sales and marketing alignment.
  3. One technology. With shared goals in place, the only thing to focus on is the space that connects marketing and sales. One that allows sales and marketing to collaborate. To work under mutually agreed strategies, goals, performance indicators, and definitions. A platform that facilitates the flow of lead and account information between the two departments.

Mintigo’s ABM program helps marketing address the lack of trust between marketing and sales. It predicts, identifies, and engages leads across channels—throughout the customer journey.

  • Transparent. A target account with many decision makers needs an omnichannel approach. As it focuses on the customer experience, marketing and sales must sing the same tune. Mintigo helps both marketing and sales discover which accounts are high-priority and the right prospects to engage. Mintigo provides full visibility into the indicators that marketing uses to qualify leads. With this information, sales can create the most appropriate conversations, pitches, and offers.
  • Simple. Nielsen found that while key technology compatibilities are important, what marketing looks for is simplicity. Disparate data causes marketing complexity and lost sales revenue. Mintigo simplifies things for both. With data and predictive analytics, Mintigo zeroes in on accounts to prioritize. This saves time and increases efforts toward the right prospects.If increasing technology stack is an issue, Mintigo enables multi-channel ABM execution. It has pre-built integrations with leading marketing cloud and CRM providers such as Oracle, Adobe, Salesforce, Microsoft, and Marketo. Mintigo also provides integration with demand generation partners such as Madison Logic and Integrate.
  • Comprehensive. Mintigo delivers results for both marketing and sales with a 360-degree view of the customer. There is no risk for silos because it supports both marketing and sales. One platform that makes both departments work together.With the same end goal in sight, marketing and sales benefit from each other. Marketing can get sales data to justify ROI and improve. Sales can leverage marketing intelligence to close more deals.

The line between sales and marketing is blurring. “Salespeople need to be more like marketers in this new digital world, and marketers need to be more like salespeople,” Danielle Uskovic, Marketing Director for LinkedIn Sales and Marketing Solutions, said.

“More and more of the sales cycle is becoming the marketing responsibility. But then, for a salesperson, it is becoming more and more a part of their responsibility to position themselves as thought leaders and market themselves as such.”

The near future

Some companies may already have top-notch ABM. Or some may find it limiting as the focus is on marketing activities only. If that is the case, it may be the time to explore account-based sales (ABS) and later, account-based business (ABB).

ABS shares the same account-level, multi-touch, and multi-approach principles of ABM. In fact, it even pushes for more marketing and sales alignment. For sales to be able to do ABS, the right accounts, materials, and approach should all be coordinated. For both ABM and ABS, the strength is on the quality of engagement, not quantity.

The ultimate goal is ABB. It is turning the whole company into an account-focused machine. Beyond marketing and sales, ABB is creating an organization that focuses on the most important thing—the customers. To achieve that, sales and marketing need to get everybody in the company on board.

From product development to customer support, all departments have a single repository of account-level data for each existing and potential customer. As more companies aim to be customer-centric, ABB is an all-inclusive approach for the near future.

Customer journeys are now more complex. So, it is common that roles and responsibilities overlap between marketing and sales. On the surface, things are the same. Marketing still generates leads and accounts. Sales still turns those leads and accounts into customers. But, there is a difference now.

On a deeper level, Mintigo becomes the first step to unite and empower marketing and sales with data and predictive analytics. Once marketing and sales are aligned, it then paves the way for more – a well-orchestrated B2B company that competes in a tough market and impresses customers. Or, in other words, a data-driven, streamlined, and customer-centric organization.

In short, we need to move from Account Based Marketing to Account Based Business, or from ABM to ABB.

Jacob Shama


Dr. Jacob Shama is Co-Founder and CEO of Mintigo, which provides customer intelligence to the world's leading B2B companies. Dr. Shama has more than 20 years of executive experience in the fields of Information Technology and Communications, specializing in big data.