It’s difficult to underestimate the transformational effect of cloud. For businesses of every kind it delivers greater agility and scalability, as well as more cost effective computing power.

To keep up with born-in-the-cloud companies, larger and more complex tech players have evolved their offerings toward cloud-based computing. Say goodbye to multi-year “all you can eat” license models. Say hello to pay-per-user or pay-per-usage consumption models (1).

So far so good. But for those working on the frontline of sales, marketing and services cloud presents two big challenges. First, there’s a whole suite of new payment structures to learn, communicate, service and sell. Second, reducing churn has become the new game in town. Why? Because cloud business models are directly tied to usage – often without any kind of term commitment – and that means the cost of switching is relatively low.

The successful sales, marketing and services teams will demonstrate a willingness to adapt to these changes and a commitment to embrace the new skills needed in a consumption-based account relationship. “In order to really grow business today,” says Jack Huffman, partner sales manager at Microsoft, “sales people need to think like marketers, marketers need to think more like sales, and they both need to work together more closely”.

Most businesses understand that 20% of customers tend to make up 80% of revenue. And yet, many B2B marketers still succumb to the temptation of casting the widest net possible in the hope of catching some good leads for the sales team. Account based marketing (ABM) ABM points to a better approach. It tells sales, marketing and services to narrow the focus around high-value customers, develop propositions specifically for these account and then continually develop relationships for future growth.

With this in mind, consider these three rules when applying ABM to the cloud-based offer:

1.      Acquire like you mean it. To put it another way – spurn the one-night stand in favor of a meaningful, long-term relationship. This means strategic account selection driven by the answer to two key questions: where are the biggest opportunities and which accounts represent the best fit? The latter question demands that there is an alignment of values, offer and need. Plotting existing and prospect customers on an opportunity/fit matrix will help narrow the field.

2.      Make the move from macro to micro. Most B2B marketing happens at scale. Consequently, it tends to speak the language of brand and selling the company rather than addressing customer need. Messaging is more, “Here’s what we have to sell” and less, “Here’s how I can solve your problem”. It’s time to make the switch from macro to micro. At the macro marketing level, it is near impossible to align your proposition with the needs of your specific customer let alone the individual decision makers. Typically, sales has to fill the gap. When marketing goes micro, there is far less gap for sales to fill. The result is more efficient sales leads, quicker pitch cycles, and higher close rates.

3.      Remember, the real work begins after the sale. In a subscription and consumption world, acquisition is still key but retention is king. This means minimizing churn while developing an account for continual growth through cross-sell and upsell. Ongoing nurturing of the relationship with the key buyer (usually a CXO) is an obvious must do, but remember that in highly complex cloud purchases there are on average more than 17 decision makers (2). Another ABM method worth considering in this context is the “sell with” model. In other words, help your account champion make the cloud case to other key influencers within the organization. Not everyone likes change. Work together to help get all parties on board and grow usage.

The cloud proposition provides a perfect opportunity for tighter alignment and collaboration across sales, marketing and services. Each has unique and yet complementary skills that, when applied, will help develop customer relationships with an eye towards sustainable growth.

(1) Consumption Economics: The New Rules of Tech, J.B. Wood, Tood Hewlin, and Thomas Lah
(2) IDG’s Enterprise Role & Influence survey, 2015. Technology decision makers.