Target Account Selling: How To Outsell Your Competitors (Part 2)

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Let’s Continue Where We Left Off!

Last time, we deep-dived into the principles of what makes Target Account Selling (TAS) methodology so effective.  If this is news to you, check out “Target Account Selling: The Method to High Ticket Sales (Part 1)” where we went over the following:

  • Lead-based selling VS Target account selling
  • Organizing the right account-based sales team
  • How to operationalize your TAS program
  • How to identify the total addressable market

In this article, we’ll be covering the more actionable strategies of TAS.

If you don’t already know, TAS tends to be research and resource-heavy even with a cross-functional team.  Nobody likes to spell out the actual price for big company customer acquisition costs (CAC) but it’s usually up to 5 to 6 digits depending on the deal size.  Anything lower than that and the efficacy of TAS strategies won’t be up to par.

Now, considering how expensive it is to acquire huge accounts, many account-based teams are careful to be prepared before they pursue their targets.  Even after that, more resources are allocated during the nurturing process and post-sales expansions.  But do you know who else dislikes the costs as much as you do?  The enterprises you’re selling to.

So here’s what we’re going to learn today…  How to save time, how to save a fortune, and how to increase revenue growth for you and your customers.

Creating Your Target Account List

Before you can create your target account list (TAL), you should have already identified your total addressable market (TAM). Your TAM is like the fence that keeps you from pursuing every account and keeps the best-fit prospects within your reach. After narrowing down the companies sharing your market, narrow it down even further until you have a definitive list of pre-qualified target accounts. There are three steps to creating your TAL!

Step 1: How Many Accounts Can You Handle?

We’re not heading into Ideal Customer Profile territory just yet!  You’ll want to do some math to determine how many accounts can be assigned to your account development reps (ADR).  You don’t want too many for each rep to handle or what you’ll get is aimless and reactionary selling.  

If you’re good at numbers, you’ll be able to do the calculations by hand.  However, don’t you just love it when AI and automation can quantify everything for you?  Account-based platforms like these make have huge benefits in time-saving, efficiency, and accuracy.

Demandbase’s Target Account List Calculator is one such useful tool and I’ll be comparing the results to the actual formulas below it.

Target Account List Calculator

“How many accounts will one rep need to reach their target?”

The formula:

Rep quota ÷ ASP = Closed-won deals 
Closed-Won Deals ÷ Close Rate = SQLs needed
SQLs ÷ Qualification Rate = Total accounts needed

The numbers:

Rep quota = $90,000/month
Average Selling Price = $45,000
Close Rate = 50%
Qualification Rate = 5%

Calculations:

$90,000 ÷ $45,000 = 2 Closed-Won Deals
2 Closed-Win Deals ÷ 50% Close Rate = 4 SQLs needed
4 SQLs ÷ 5% = 80 Accounts needed

“How many accounts should a rep handle?”

The formula:

Hours per month ÷ Number of hours per account = Total accounts at a time

The numbers:

Hours per month = 160 hrs
Hours per account = 2 hrs

Calculation:

160 hours per month ÷  2 hours per account = 80 accounts at a time

What you see above is the ideal scenario where the rep reaches their quota at 100%. Now imagine only meeting 75% of it. The number is adjusted like so…

Rep quota adjusted: $90,000/month x 75% = $67,500
$67,500 ÷ $45,000 = 1.5 Closed-Won Deals
1.5 Closed-Win Deals ÷ 50% Close Rate = 3 SQLs needed
3 SQLs ÷ 5% = 60 Accounts needed
Target Account List Calculator 2

As you can see, the results from this automation are similar to when you’d wanna do it manually.  However, why do it by hand with a chance for human error when you can use these kinds of features in a multi-functional CRM?

Moving forward, the total number of your highest-value target accounts should be dependent on how many available sales reps you have in your company.  Generally, reps have 1,500 selling hours annually.  That means the deal size or your annual contract value (ACV) should be proportionate to the number of accounts per rep:

  • Global Accounts ($1M+): 2-6 accounts/rep
  • Large Accounts ($500k-$1M): 6-20 accounts/rep
  • Field Sales ($50K-$500K): 20-50 accounts/rep
  • Two-Stage ($10K-$50K): 50-150 accounts/rep

If you already have a specific number of reps in your TAS team but are unsure of how to distribute them by tier, there’s a formula for it!  Segmenting accounts by tier will help you scale your GTM strategies, and be effective in allocating your resources.

Tier 1Tier 2Tier 3
Target accounts orchestrated by your account reps. Tier 1 accounts will be those most aligned with your ICP.Next, choose 20% of your total target accounts that are closely aligned to your ICP to become Tier 2 accounts.Finally, the remainder of your ICP accounts will become Tier 3.
CALCULATE
Number of accounts per rep X total sales reps
CALCULATE
Total accounts that meet your ICP X 20%
CALCULATE
Total ICP accounts (Tier 1 + Tier 2 Accounts)
Source: Winning By Design

As an example, you can use the formula above to determine how many accounts you and your team can handle depending on your GTM (Go-To-Market) strategy.

GTM ModelExampleRecommended Calculation
Named Accounts– 10 Tier 1 Accounts per Rep
– 6 Sales Reps
– 500 total accounts meet your ICP criteria
– Total Target Accounts: 500
– Tier 1: 60 Accounts
– Tier 2: 100 Accounts
– Tier 3: 240 Accounts
Field Sales– 30 Tier 1 Accounts per Rep
– 10 Sales Reps
– 2,500 total accounts meet your ICP criteria
– Total Target Accounts: 1,500
– Tier 1: 240 Accounts
– Tier 2: 300 Accounts
– Tier 3: 960 Accounts
2-Stage– 100 Tier 1 Accounts per Rep
– 8 Sales Reps
– 1,500 total accounts meet your ICP criteria
– Total Target Accounts: 3,500
– Tier 1: 1,000 Accounts
– Tier 2: 700 Accounts
– Tier 3: 184 Accounts
Source: Winning By Design

Be sure to revisit your target account list and tiering model quarterly to adapt to changes in your staffing, incorporate learnings, and revise your target account list. Don’t refresh more than 20% of your target account list each quarter; this allows time for accounts to engage and respond to your targeting.

Step 2: Account Selection Guidelines

The Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) is a recurring subject for a good reason.  Without a basis to compare which customer should go in the target account list, you may end up passing over a huge opportunity for a small one.  Most importantly, you want to make sure you are selecting clients that are the best fit for your product/service.  Creating your ICP is a must.  

If you’re a startup, you will need to create your ICP from scratch.  Or you can work with a B2B lead generation company that has a foot in every metaphorical door and have the expertise to guide you through the process.

Define and prioritize

For established companies, the best practice to follow is to first take a look at your existing customers and determine their ideal characteristics from there. You’ll need to consult with the following departments for insights:

  1. Finance: They can point out which customers have increased your return on investment (ROI).  You don’t want to just select the accounts that have the highest revenue but find the ones that are the most profitable.
  2. Customer Success: A well-matched customer requires the least amount of support. CS can tell you which customers are ideal to work with and which ones to avoid.
  3. Marketing: These guys are veterans at creating ICPs considering this strategy is typically ABM territory. For an account-based ICP, they’re invaluable in understanding which customers are the easiest to reach. This is an ongoing collaboration.  That is why Sales + Marketing goals and strategies must be aligned.

Step 3: Account Segmentation By Tiers

The last step to creating your Target Account List is to separate them into tiers.  What that means is to create an account hierarchy based on these three criteria:

Tier 1: Strategic Accounts (1-99 # of accounts)

  • Accounts that perfectly fit your ICP and are most similar to your best existing customer.
  • Sales-led and supported by marketing
  • Best to engage one-on-one with hyper-personalized messaging through multi-touch, multi-channel methods
  • Target key decision-makers and influencers
  • Both online and offline strategies

Tier 2: Scaled Target Accounts (100-999 # of accounts)

  • Accounts that fit most of the characteristics found in your ICP and are somewhat similar to your current customers with a few differences
  • Both Sales and Marketing-driven and enabled by data + tech stacks
  • One rep per specific number of accounts
  • Personalization by segmentation (buyer’s persona and targeting identified accounts)
  • Mostly online and a few offline strategies

Tier 3: Traditional Lead Generation (1000+ # of accounts)

  • Some accounts are within TAM but are a better fit for traditional lead generation solutions
  • Inbound Marketing that is driven by marketing tech stack before handing off marketing-qualified leads (MQL) to Sales
  • Not named accounts
  • Personalization by segmentation, product, or profile-based
  • Primarily online with minimal offline strategies

Creating An Account-Based Opportunity Plan

Account opportunity plans are customized to your targets but the planning process should still be consistent and repeatable across your target account lists. The ideal account planning framework should be:

PreparationPrioritizationPlanningExecutionMeasurement
Participants– Direct sales
– Sales operations
– Channel sales
– Channel marketing
– Marketing
– Direct sales
– Sales operations
– Partner management
– Marketing
– Direct/indirect sales
– Sales operations
– Channel marketing
– Marketing
– Direct sales
– Partner sales
– Channel marketing
– Partner marketing
– Sales operations
– Sales management
– Channel sales
– Channel marketing
Purpose– Data collection
– Supplier-led vs. partner-led
– Organizational alignment
– Account selection
– Partner criteria and scoring
– Reconcile accounts
– Joint account planning
– Target opportunities
– Solution messaging
– Marketing planning
– Buyer engagement
– Offerings mix
– Pipeline build
– Data management
– Analysis
– Performance management
Outcomes– Account profile
– Partner profile
– Resource Commitment
– Planning Process
– Target accounts
– Rules of engagement
– Persona targeting/account insights
– Account plans
– Buyer Alignment
– Opportunity qualification
– Revenue
– Reporting (dashboards)
– Productivity initiatives
Sourced from a presentation by Revegy / SiriusDecisions

With that said, let’s look at how to create an opportunity plan!

What To Research

Ah yes, the activity that frustrates most sales leaders.  When a rep takes too much time researching ineffectively, you’re losing out on the time to be selling.  Unless you decide to outsource sales intelligence services, it is critical to identify which data is important for better account planning and faster pipeline velocity.

The research checklist:

The Market

  • Industry dynamics
  • Key trends
  • Competitors
  • Growth drivers and inhibitors

The Company

  • Financial health
  • Growth areas vs. cash cows
  • Renewal risk
  • SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats)
  • Initiatives and organizational priorities
  • Triggers (funding, acquisitions, personnel movement, etc.)

The Buying Centers

  • Organizational structure
  • Key buying centers
  • Whitespace within buying centers

Relationships & Connections

  • Key contact profiles
  • Relationships with each other
  • Relationships with your company
  • Attitudes,  preferences, and biases

Account-Based Opportunity Assessment

Evaluating opportunities can happen during the early stages of building your Target Account List.  It helps when you’re creating your sales opportunity plans too.  You will need to consider if there is an opportunity to compete in the market, if you can win it, and if it is worth winning.  Successful sales reps have considered these important criteria as the progress of their campaign.

  • Opportunity profile: What are your customer’s business objective and their budget for your product/service? How will your solution affect their business?
  • Compelling event: What is the biggest influence on your customer’s decision? What event would change their current situation?  What would the consequences be for them if they act or do not act on the change?
  • Critical success criteria: What must you and your competitor do to win the opportunity?
  • Strengths: What business, political, philosophical, and organizational issues would give your team an advantage in closing the deal?
  • Goal: What will be your long-term position with your customer? What is the long-term gain for your business?
  • Solution: What solution do you offer to your customer? How will it work in their environment?  What effect will it have on their compelling event?  If there are any, what business partner solutions are needed to make it operational for your customer?
  • Weaknesses: What business, political, philosophical, and organizational issues might put your team at risk in closing the deal?
  • Unique business value: What is your value proposition? What makes it specific to your customer? How does it differentiate you from your competitors?

Account-Based Routing

Assigning your prospects to your best rep is a given.  But it becomes a question of whether you are the best fit.  Account-based routing is borrowed from the idea of lead routing.  By this point, it becomes a process of assigning the Account Executive (AE) with the highest compatibility to the account.  The speed at which the account is accurately routed to the most compatible rep will have a positive impact on sales conversions.

Compatibility can depend on 6 things:

  1. By territory: Wherein the AE resides from the same country, area, or territory as the account’s advocate and/or majority buying committee.
  2. By company hierarchy: Wherein the target account belongs to a parent company that is already assigned to another rep.  That account is routed to that rep.
  3. By use case: Wherein accounts are routed to the AEs who are experts in their field.
  4. By deal value: Wherein the higher-value (or Tier 1) accounts are routed to AEs with the highest experience and/or conversion rate.
  5. By lead/account scoring: Wherein accounts with the highest lead/account scores are assigned to your more experienced member.
  6. By availability: Wherein the account is routed to the next available rep.

There are risks to not leveraging account-based routing. For one, you may miss the opportunity to connect and nurture your prospect. Worst case scenario, the account is passed around because it is misrouted– and this will give your customers a slow and disconnected user experience.

Account-Based Sales Orchestration

When sales, sales development, marketing, customer success, and account management develop account-specific sales plays– account-based sales orchestration is leveraged to get it right.  Orchestration is defined as aligning the team, the process, the data, and the technology to create customer activities that lead them on a journey to your business solution.  This journey can be enabled by using the right sales plays.

Account-Based Sales Orchestration

Depending on which stage you are with your potential customer, a different sales play could be carried out.  These stages are the engagement process, discovery, solution selling, or the close stage.  Below you will find the different account targeting strategies to help you get closer to your prospects, turn them into opportunities, and eventually as buyers.

The Right Sales Plays

Sales Plays (1-on-1 Marketing-Supported Sales Engagement)

There are four ways to penetrate a target account.  

  1. High-value first meetings: Develop an approach that would empower the buyer to participate and engage with you– build rapport.  The two main objectives are to capture interest and to make the prospect want to learn more.
  1. Case studies: This will only be successful if you provide case studies that are relevant to your target account. Demonstrate that you have helped organizations similar to your prospect in a credible and strategic storyline.
  1. Custom content: Create personalized content specifically for your target.  Providing exclusive value while prospecting will entice your prospects to want to learn more.
  1. Vertical content: Make your offer more compelling by creating relevant and valuable content for a specific segment of your total addressable market.

Post-Discovery Plays (1-to-Many Marketing-Supported Sales Engagement)

Insights are gathered during discovery and are used to personalize content.  These plays are effective in engaging stakeholders early in the sales process

  1. Outreach campaigns:  Campaigns that can be done after you have identified key account insights in the discovery.  After designing your outreach campaign based on that data, your prospects will be more receptive to you through multi-touch multi-channel methods.
  1. Semi-custom, high-value content: Once you have insight into the target account’s pain point, you can produce a semi-customized template for their specific needs.  A good example is this Marketing Kit. Templates help create conversations with stakeholders who are otherwise reluctant to listen to your pitch or attend a demo.
  1. Workshops: Invite multiple stakeholders to interactive meetings on topics relevant to them.  Workshops can be on-site or online (webinars).  Not only is this a way to fill gaps in their discovery, but this is also an opportunity to build firmer ties with them.

Customized Sales Plays (Solution Selling)

The biggest plays in TAS are the personalized ones. When every interaction is valuable, messaging that is tailored to your target account can have the biggest impact on building their trust.  Customized sales plays usually target the decision-makers or champions in the account.

  1. Custom demonstrations: There is nothing more convincing than showing your buyer how well your solution works in solving their problem.  Custom demos have resulted in the highest conversions because the buyers would be able to see the data, business processes, and solutions in action in real-time.
  1. Personalized presentations: Slide decks can highlight your solution’s best features in the solution-selling stage. They can also be used during workshops in the discovery and serve to enforce your product/service.  Personalizing your presentations can demonstrate how well you know the account you’re selling to.
  1. Champion content: Once you’ve identified which decision makers will be your biggest advocates, you can create personalized content specifically for them.

Close Plays (Solution Defined | Proposal Created)

Not every close is a win but there is still an opportunity in closed/lost deals.  Or if the deal has stalled then it can be revived with the right close play.

  1. Close plans: It’s standard practice to provide your clients with documentation that includes a timeline of milestones and any milestones as you move forward to complete the deal.  These plans also include the signatures of the buyers, legal and contract reviews, and procurement procedures.  This is a way to prevent deals from stalling and/or slipping and ensure that they are closed within the agreed-upon timeframe.
  1. Deal brochures: An overview of the deal made in printed or virtual brochures.  They are designed to highlight important information about the product, the challenges the buyer is facing, how the solution will help them, and the ROI they can expect from using their solution.  Brochures are also a good way to help the internal champions net buy-ins from the rest of the buying committee.
  1. Late-stage marketing: When there is no visibility on buyer activity at this point, then late-stage marketing can ensure that you are still visible to them

Account-Based Selling Platform

It’s a given at this point that your company would leverage several tech stacks to make selling and marketing more efficient and effective.  Account-based selling platforms are meant for better alignment between teams in the process of identifying your target accounts as well as keeping track of account activity and progress.

Typically, you’re going to want to leverage the following features:

  • Contact management
  • Lead and opportunity management
  • Engagement tracking
  • Account plans and account mapping
  • Lead or account scoring
  • Territory management
  • Data visualization
  • Customizable dashboards and filters
  • CPQ (configure, price, quote)

Many digital tools can be integrated with most selling platforms.  If you haven’t already used any of the above, you should consider how they would improve your TAS efforts and make negotiations easier during the deal stages.  The right technologies would enable you to collaborate globally with your clients and become a highly strategic resource for internal coordination.

Target Account Selling Outreach Strategies

Prospecting and outreach are words that are used a lot, and sometimes interchangeably.  By simple definition, both words describe establishing contact with a potential buyer to make them sales-ready.  So, it’s easy to make the wrong assumption that they are synonymous. 

To be clear, sales prospecting is the first stage of the sales process to build up your Target Account List based on your ideal customer profile.  Without prospecting, you have target accounts that have no idea who you are.

Target Account Outreach comes right after by engaging the prospected decision-makers to convert them into customers.  Without outreach, you have a TAL of prospects who don’t know why they need you.  

High-Value Offers

This is a strategy that increases the chances for successful TAS outreach. The idea is that High-value Offers will give your prospect to realize the high value of your product/service which would drive them to engage with you. 

High-value Offers build up the effectiveness of your TAS outreach as it is designed for human-to-human sales engagement.

High-Value Offers

Message Development

Knowledge of the message development framework will help you create consistency while minimizing contradictions.  It’s especially important as you tailor your messages to each member across the account’s buying committee.

ComponentMessaging Framework
Subject LineEmphasize the challenge or the value prop
Create ContextLead with the reason for contacting them to add relevance to your offer
Convey ValueProvide persuasive value statements that address the buyer’s challenges.
Deliver OfferClose with CTA that has a high-value offer.

So if we understand what each component’s objectives are, it is easier to personalize your messages like in the example below.

Messaging

How To Leverage Competitive Intelligence

Anyone can look into what their competitors are up to because it’s bad business to hide methods of success because success is the biggest selling point.  Competitive intelligence can also be leveraged to figure out what your next plan of action would be to outsell your competitors by identifying areas where you could outperform them.

With the right data, you can turn to copy the tactics that make them successful or turn their biggest weakness into your biggest strength.  

17 Competitive Intelligence Techniques

  1. Research their social media posts
  2. Research their email marketing
  3. Know their customer acquisition and retention strategies
  4. Perform sales funnel hacking
  5. Perform CEO competitive analysis
  6. Pay special attention to competitors’ backlinks
  7. Reveal the competitor’s technology
  8. Break down your competitor’s pricing
  9. Research competitor’s ads
  10. Keep an eye on your competitor’s product reviews
  11. Research LinkedIn
  12. Keep an eye on the team page on the competitor’s website
  13. Read employee reviews
  14. Monitor hiring pages, job ads, and key job boards
  15. Use competitive location intelligence
  16. Pay special attention to their blog
  17. Evaluate the content on the competitor’s website

White Space Analysis: Opportunities to Cross-Sell and Upsell

White Space Analysis is a visualization of your data and sales records to discover new opportunities to target.  It is a strategy used for Key Account Management (KAM).  This type of analysis is used to bridge the gap where the customer’s needs aren’t being satisfied.  The bridge is your opportunity to cross-sell and even upsell.

White-Space Analysis

White Space is also a way to drive revenue growth and/or reduce costs aside from cross-selling and upselling.  The results of which have a huge impact on you and your customer’s business:

  • Being able to identify the gaps in your existing customer’s needs.
  • Your organization can make better and more informed decisions during widespread market shifts and/or economic uncertainty.
  • Being able to identify opportunities in an oversaturated market, and giving you a headstart against your competitors.
  • Increase existing customer retention.
  • Becoming aware of the gaps in the market that competitors might try and close.

While White Space Analysis can be done manually, there are available Key Account Management applications such as DemandFarm that can do this automatically.

Using AI For Target Account Selling

I don’t know about you… But I, for one, welcome our AI overlords!  Not only can they automate and turbocharge a lot of the sales process, but they have also given us the time and ease to close sales.  

Don’t worry.  AIs won’t be replacing you.  Successful organizations that are using or planning to use AI are demanding more staff.  For one, data hygiene and data enrichment are still mostly done by humans.  Secondly, while an AI can analyze and automate, they aren’t capable of building relationships with your potential customers like a human can.  

However, they are invaluable for turning your talented but ordinary reps into the Iron Man of sales— the Jarvis to your Tony Stark.

Superhero of Sales

Here are the cases in which AIs can help power up your sales process:

  • Sales Forecasting: These are systems that predict sales results using historical data.  They predict things like deals/prospects most likely to close and which to target next.  These predictions are dependent on the quality of data fed into them.
  • Expert Recommendations: These are systems that suggest or recommend sales actions. They may advise you on how to price a deal, suggest the next target, or which existing customer is ready for cross-selling or upselling.  The recommendations are based on your goals and insights from data.
  • Lead Scoring & Prioritization: AIs can look at data scientifically and be able to calculate the numbers for lead scoring and prioritization.  Their algorithms can compile historical data about a lead based on their social media activity and interaction with the sales rep. They use this data to accurately grade opportunities in the pipeline and rank them according to your chances of closing successfully.
  • Sales Automation & Productivity: Systems that replace tedious and time-consuming manual processes with automation.  They will allow you to concentrate more on higher-value tasks by helping you with tasks such as scheduling, assessing your team’s pipeline, or using accurate historical data to help make decisions.

It’s Up To You Now!

B2B buying behaviors have shifted radically in recent years leading up to an uncertain economic period.  Technology is evolving at a rapid pace but not enough qualified people are using them.  Customer expectations are higher because investments have become riskier. 

You’ve felt it too as a buyer yourself.  

Armed with the right knowledge, solid sales & marketing-aligned strategies, leveraging the right tech stack, and outsourcing when needed– you and your team can clear any roadblocks in the pipeline and close deals.  

It’s not going to be easy.  But I know you got this!

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