Yesterday’s B2BMarketing Conference put ABM center stage for the second year running.  Held in London, the event welcomed hundreds of B2B marketing professionals from a broad range of agencies, clients, and tech platforms.

For me – comparing this year to last year’s event – the agenda got much deeper into what ABM looks like in reality.  And the wins and wobbles along the way.

 

Conference highlights

We heard an in-depth – and often hilarious – perspective from Accenture’s Rhiannon Blackwell on how client marketing teams are finding ways to understand and motivate their sales colleagues. This included a fantastic showcase of how teams are working in step with the sales motion and the importance of writing your own ‘ABM brag book’ to celebrate success.

We also heard from Adrian Hardy at BT Global Services on his efforts to move the marketing influence from the ‘bottom to the top of the funnel.’ This represents a shift from marketing’s role of helpful facilitator (the ‘colouring-in bit’) to one charged with shaping the account agenda.

 

Rethinking sales and marketing

The key word ‘alignment’ stood out in many of the sessions I was part of. Alignment of goals, alignment with strategy, alignment with sales.

This struck a particular chord when one presenter asked sales people to raise their hand – I think less than 5 hands went up.

If we see ABM as a true partnership I would love to enrich the marketing dialogue with voices from our sales counterparts. Why do we slice the buying cycle into siloes and pit sales and marketing against each other? Why don’t we collaborate as one team accountable for guiding the customer through the sales cycle?

 

ABM is a way to sell

Selling is a facilitation process that starts with awareness and ends with a transaction. But the days of this being a singular, linear process are over. It is no longer relevant to see the marketing function as owner of the early buying stage (mostly across digital channels) before progressing to sales and in-person conversations.

Today’s CMOs are increasingly charged with revenue goals and we heard examples yesterday of how the sales organisation is putting skin in the game by contributing to account-led marketing activities.

Selling in a large enterprise context requires a specific type of sales and marketing discipline.  A customer-centric mindset ready to navigate the complexities of stakeholder networks, long pursuit cycles and buying centres. With a more team-orientated ethos – that respects the skill sets of professionals from different functions – we can better follow advice from Oracle’s Michael Avis and work out together “what customers want to buy”.

 

Towards an account-team approach

David Packard of Hewlett-Packard fame once observed that “marketing is too important to be left to the marketing people.” Likewise, growing enterprise accounts is too important to be left to the sales function. We should be orchestrating all of our best skills, talent and resources.

I loved seeing examples of how this is starting to happen in practice.  When we think less like ‘sales and marketing’ and more like ‘account teams’ we’ll uncover bigger opportunity and deliver a  more enjoyable experience for customer. After all, “over half of customer loyalty is a result not of what you sell, but how you sell.” (Challenger Sale)

To end with a quote from Jay Abraham, courtesy of Adrian Hardy: “The fact is everyone is in sales, whatever area you work in, you do have clients and you do need to sell.”