An account team approach is the only way

Gartner claims that buyers are nearly 60% through their buying decision before engaging with sales. A frequent interpretation of this statistic is that marketing now controls the lion’s share of the sales cycle, before a late-stage handoff to sales.

However, large accounts require a completely different way of thinking. 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?

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. Gartner has recently advocated that the buying cycle should simply be seen as jobs to be done’ – a series of non-sequential steps from problem identification to selection, consensus and purchase.

It is no longer relevant to see the marketing function as the owner of the early buying stage (mostly across digital channels) before progressing to sales and in-person conversations.

“Over the years, we’ve seen B2B sales struggle mightily to progress customers through the purchase process. And for the seller, it’s increasingly difficult to guide customers as some of the complexity comes from within the buyer’s organization.” Brent Adamson, Distinguished Vice President, Advisory, Gartner

Transform how you sell

With a more team-orientated ethos – that respects the skill-sets of professionals from different functions – we have much better opportunities to make the purchase process simpler.

This will be a lot more enjoyable for customers, echoing sentiment found in the popular Challenger Sale, which argues, “Over half of customer loyalty is a result not of what you sell, but how you sell.”

A cross-functional team approach also breaks down the assumption that our sales leads are the sole custodians for account growth. If we hold fixed to the notion of sole ownership, we run the risk of limiting the breadth and depth of expertise we can offer enterprise accounts. A more collaborative approach avoids the risk of our sales leaders getting isolated on an ‘iceberg of ignorance,’ with an overly narrow view of an account.

David Packard of Hewlett-Packard fame once observed that “marketing is too important to be left to the marketing people.” In the same vein, 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.

Try this ABM hack:

Hold a six-monthly account workshop with both your account and marketing leads. Ask everyone to prepare a one-pager on the strategic challenges facing the client. Then brainstorm these as a team to come up with proposals to take back to your client; opening up the opportunity to introduce new faces and capabilities.