ABM Sales Funnel: Turn Prospects into Leads, Convert Leads to Customers

The marketing industry has a new buzzword – flipped sales funnel or account-based marketing (ABM) sales funnel. The concept gained more traction during a marketing event in Atlanta.

What is this flipped ABM sales funnel and how different is it from the traditional sales funnel?

Good question!

As B2B marketers are already aware, the traditional sales funnel flows like this:

Traditional Sales Funnel


In the awareness stage, prospects notice a pain point and want to find out more about it.

Here’s a neat way to understand what happens in the Awareness stage:

  • Recognize a need
  • Research and seek information
  • Refine the problem (make it clearer and more specific)

It is important to take the necessary steps to ensure that your brand is visible and can be picked up on a potential customer’s radar. Putting out content that answers common questions asked by prospects in the awareness stage is one way of attracting them.


Prospects have narrowed the problem down and are learning about possible solutions. Prospects will also begin to check out the products/solutions of possible vendors(including your company), and they compare which one fits their needs best.

This summarizes what leads do in the Consideration stage:

  • Estimate potential impact
  • Explore valid solutions
  • Evaluate each option

Decision or Purchase

Prospects have chosen a solution and are comparing potential vendors. The final stage when your target becomes a buyer.

These key points best describe the Decision stage:

  • Compare solution providers
  • Consult all stakeholders
  • Choose a vendor

The flipped ABM sales funnel works similarly, but the focus is different. If in the traditional sales funnel you focus on prospects and try to qualify them, the flipped sales funnel encourages marketers to focus on the company’s decision-maker within an account and engage them, so they become your brand advocates.

Related: Stages of a B2B Sales Pipeline (and Ways to Increase Your Sales Success Rate)

A Closer Look at the Flipped ABM Sales Funnel

Just like the traditional sales funnel, the flipped ABM sales funnel also has four stages – identify, expand, engage, convert.

The Flipped ABM Sales Funnel

Let’s take a closer look at each of them:

Identify companies and contacts

As mentioned earlier in the article, this kind of funnel focuses on several decision-makers in your target accounts. In other words, you have to identify and profile multiple points of contact.

First, determine how many accounts match your ideal account profile (IAP). An IAP is a company that perfectly fits your solution. Then, identify who the decision-makers are and the role they play in the purchase process.

This visual guide goes over the process of selecting and profiling high-value accounts.

Expand contacts within target accounts

Once you created the dream company (account) you have for your solution, you need to expand by adding more contacts to it. The contacts are the people who will use the products and services you have.

It is indeed the exact opposite of the traditional sales funnel where you have to start outside (qualifying the leads) and inside (create the account). More so, the flipped sales funnel shortens the process because you start with the key person.

Engage prospects using a multi-channel lead generation approach

Engagement is the primary step in traditional marketing to make your prospect aware of your brand; however, it comes third in the flipped sales funnel. Like in traditional marketing, you have to utilize all the marketing channels at your disposal to engage your prospect.

At this point, you already know who your key target contacts are; thus, you can personalize your campaign and target their needs, pain points, and motivations more specifically. And that gives you a better chance of winning them to your side.

Convert into leads, customers and brand advocates

Nurture and follow up with each interested decision-maker in order to move them into later stages of the sales process. Make sure to leverage marketing automation to deliver personalized messages in context.

Giving your customer a tailor-made experience as they journey through the sales process makes the journey enjoyable. Moreover, the personalized service makes them feel important. Consequently, a happy customer will tell others about their experience with you, making them an advocate of your brand.

Related: The 5-Step Approach to Getting More Enterprise Leads and Customers

Meeting Halfway for Better Success

The principle presented in the flipped sales funnel is perfect; however, there’s not a lot of evidence that can prove that it works perfectly and brings more results than the traditional sales funnel. But that doesn’t mean we will scratch the idea. No one should be more open to new ideas and strategies than marketers.

Joseph Jaffe, one of the speakers in that event, has a better suggestion – integrate the traditional and flipped sales funnel together. Jaffe, as if by a stroke of fate, wrote a book a few years earlier with the same title – Flip the Funnel.

Although it’s not exactly as the flipped sales funnel, the idea he presented in his book is similar. In his book, he mentioned creating new advocates but using a few resources. Instead, the majority of spending should focus more on retaining your current customers. In so doing, you are building your customers to become raging fans. And we all know how passionate fans are, especially if you can capture their hearts and minds. They become your advocates, your brand evangelists – look at how Apple fanboys and fangirls.

Related: Account-based Marketing: Why It Delivers the Highest ROI

Winning High-Value Accounts with Multi-Channel ABM

Video transcript:

Andrew heads sales at a B2B tech firm.

His team leverages multi-channel ABM (Account-based marketing).

With this approach, Andrew’s ABM program is on a winning streak…

  • Targeted 6.3x more tier 1 accounts
  • Booked 17x more meetings
  • Grew pipeline value by 8x


By connecting with the right stakeholders at the right time with the right touch

Step 1: Identify

Andrew’s team picked their most promising accounts and mapped org charts for each.

Step 2: Expand

They then researched each contact to build detailed profiles.

Step 3: Engage

The team then reached out to contacts via different marketing channels and personalized messaging.

Step 4: Convert

They turned contacts into opportunities using a cadence of touches.

In short, multi-channel ABM sets the stage and opens doors for Andrew.

4 Benefits of Account-based Marketing for IT and Software Companies

Email inboxes and Mondays – name a “better” duo.

Last week, I received an email which on most Mondays I would have probably ignored due to its rather bland subject line – “[No subject]”. However, despite the obvious rush in its composition, the trailing preview text of the message caught my attention.

For those unaware, we are currently heading into the end game of our preparations for our upcoming sales prospecting workshop for ICT companies to be held in Singapore and the aforementioned message which was sent by one of my readers (I presume) presents a very interesting question in relation to the said event:

Will you be covering ABM’s role in IT and software selling?

The short answer, of course, is “YES” so I thought that it would be valuable to dip our toes into this topic for today’s post.

To gain a better understanding of ABM’s positive impact in tech selling, let’s first take a quick look at the most common sales and marketing challenges facing IT and software companies today:

  1. With the tech space becoming increasingly crowded, IT and software companies are finding it very difficult to grab prospects attention.
  2. Longer sales cycles mean IT and software companies must get new business faster and at a more frequent pace
  3. Let’s face it, marketing and sales rarely align. For IT and software, the added product technicalities do not really help in closing this gap.
  4. Most IT and software companies are in a competitive disadvantage and to cut deeper into that wound, they also tend to sell to very specific and targeted accounts.

While these may not sound too appealing to IT and software companies, the good news is that ABM provides the means to overcome these challenges, let’s find out how:

1. Calculated and effective alignment.

Marketing and sales teams can now easily work together because of their ability to keep track of the same accounts. The use of AMB-specific tactics and tools enable them to massively communicate products and services to the right people within their target accounts’ org chart.

2. Personalized messaging delivered across multiple channels

Account-based marketing lets teams create personalized marketing content and offer that is tailored to each contact’s position within a single target company/account.

Instead of just sending out generic promotional materials, personalized content has been proven to generate better responses from targets over the years. Phone touchpoints, display ads, and direct emails are common platforms that are being personalized.

Additionally, by engaging multiple contacts across different marketing channels, IT and software companies can improve their brand’s chances of getting picked up on a potential customer’s radar.

As a positive effect, this shortens the already long sales cycle of technology selling.

3. Accurate and reliable analytics.

Marketers now have the ability to keep track of their promotional initiatives in terms of how these translate to actual revenue. This is made possible through closed-loop reporting allowing marketers to see ahead of time how specific efforts can impact financial outcomes.

Track and measure your campaign’s performance with the Callbox Pipeline Account-based Marketing CRM

4. Much improved prospecting techniques.

ABM-driven sales prospecting relies on 3 things to be efficient and successful: data, messaging, and context.

Data is not limited to your mapped prospects and expanded contacts. The right data should also include competitive analysis information. Where and how your brand stands among the competition plays an important role in how you craft and deliver your prospecting messaging.

much improved prospecting techniques

While optimized data paired with tailored messaging can take your prospecting activities to the next level, the lack of proper context in your outreach means that ABM is being underutilized.

Technology solutions solve specific problems and when it comes to account-based marketing for IT and software companies, it pays to take extra steps to ensure that your sales prospecting touchpoints are always in context.


Although we’re just scratching the surface, these 4 benefits clearly show that using an account-based marketing approach can significantly impact lead generation and sales prospecting for IT and software companies.

ABM + Outbound: How Targeted Outreach Moves the Needle on ABM

Outbound touchpoints delivered via emails, phone calls, events, direct mail, and other paid channels play a key role in ABM. When combined with other tactics, direct outreach activities add a proactive component to the tasks of identifying, engaging, and converting new accounts.

But in order for targeted outreach to work its magic in an ABM setting, you need to know how outbound channels exactly fit in a modern account-based marketing process.

That’s what we’ll talk about in this blog post. We’ll take an in-depth look at specific roles that direct channels can fill in an ABM program. Then, we’ll discuss concrete steps for you to integrate outbound channels into these functions.

How can outbound channels move your ABM process forward?

So, how can outbound channels move your ABM process forward? In a nutshell, there are five particular ways targeted outreach accelerates finding and winning new accounts:

  1. Gathering insights that help tailor your approach and your offer to a potential account’s specific needs and interests
  2. Building and growing meaningful relationships with each stakeholder through personal, one-on-one interactions
  3. Delivering relevant content and messaging to the right decision maker at the right time
  4. Providing a consistent and coherent brand experience across the different stages of the sales funnel
  5. Achieving true marketing and sales alignment throughout the entire ABM process, from start to finish

We’ll go over each item in detail below. But first, let’s talk about why ABM needs outbound to work properly.

Why Outbound Drives ABM Success

If we step back and revisit what ABM means, it’s easy to see why outbound naturally supports account-based marketing efforts.

We use ABM to find and target accounts with the highest potential value, then build a thorough understanding of each potential customer, so that we can match our overall strategy and product to what the target company needs.

This means treating each account as a single target market, with all stakeholders involved in the buying process as the target prospects. This, in turn, requires having the right data and insights, mapping relevant content, and establishing interconnected relationships with each individual in the decision-making unit (DMU).

That’s where outbound channels make a difference in ABM. Targeted outreach amplifies your ABM efforts by helping you focus on specific opportunities through scalable, one-on-one touches. While inbound channels work well for broader ABM activities, it’s going to be outbound tactics that let you pinpoint and engage each opportunity.

Related: Effective Lead Generation Channels to Watch For (In Case You Missed Them)

How Targeted Outreach Powers ABM

Now that we know the why, it’s time to uncover the how. We’ve already seen five crucial roles that outbound marketing plays in ABM programs. Here’s a more detailed look:

1. Account profiling and research

As Marketo points out, data is the foundation of a successful ABM strategy. That’s because data enables authentic personalization, allows more granular segmentation, and makes marketing and sales more closely aligned with each other.

This makes ABM programs very data-intensive and data-driven, requiring dozens of data fields and hundreds of data points to carry out tasks like developing and keeping track of ideal account profiles and target buyer personas.


Targeted outreach is an ideal source of data to fuel your ABM strategy. They allow you to acquire and verify information straight from target decision-makers in real-time. For example:

  • Email activity and responses can provide insight on each stakeholder’s product fit and interest.
  • Live phone conversations help you gain a deeper understanding of your overall target account and the stakeholders themselves.
  • Event marketing initiatives are excellent sources of information to measure how far along the buying cycle your target prospects are.

Related: ABM Best Practices: Selecting and Profiling High-Value Accounts [INFOGRAPHIC]

2. Building relationships

Successful ABM initiatives are also based on building genuine relationships with stakeholders and being able to leverage these relationships not only to convert prospects into customers but also to turn them into brand advocates.

Sigster argues that authentic relationship is everything in ABM. Unlike traditional marketing where the priority is to push as many leads as possible into the funnel, ABM emphasizes finding the people you really want to engage with. That’s where building meaningful relationships come in.


To be genuine, relationships require focused engagement, not broad touches. Outbound channels facilitate the needed one-on-one interaction to start and grow authentic relationships.

That said, it’s not surprising why emails continue to be a top ABM channel. Targeted emails remain the workhorse not only of traditional marketing but ABM as well.

3. Delivering relevant content

One of ABM’s primary goals is to deliver the right content to the right stakeholders so that they’ll move from one stage in the sales funnel to the next. The idea is that relevant content drives buying decisions more effectively than any other messaging approach.

According to a recent study from Ascend2, around 62% of marketers mention personalized content as a top-performing ABM tactic. Results from a CEB survey of B2B marketers also reveal that individual stakeholders are 40% more likely to buy from a vendor that provides content tailored to their interests and needs.

But content can only take you so far. Marketers who put out content on their company website or social media communities have little control over the actual audience each piece of content reaches.

In ABM, this isn’t good enough. Content still needs to cross the last mile to the appropriate audience. Because targeted outreach enables direct, precise interaction at scale, it’s an ideal way to deliver relevant content.

  • Nurture emails can be used to distribute resources to stakeholders at different stages in the sales funnel.
  • Targeted phone calls are an effective channel for content syndication.
  • Remarketing through targeted ads can increase your content’s engagement and conversions.

Related: Now Break Free from the Content Marketing Trap

4. Streamlining the sales funnel

A Demand Gen Report survey finds that almost 60% of companies think their buying cycles have increased, while a Brightfunnel study published last year indicates that it now takes 52% more marketing touches to close a deal.

This means that engagement is now more crucial than ever at moving potential customers down the conversion funnel. Stakeholders need to stay engaged throughout the sales process in order for them to approve your offer. Otherwise, they’ll simply leak out of your pipeline.

As DemandBase points out, somewhere around 83% of companies say that ABM’s main benefit is that it helps them improve their engagement with target accounts.

Because outbound channels work well at connecting with stakeholders at almost any point along the buying cycle, they’re ideal touches for keeping decision-makers  consistently engaged:

  • Top-of-funnel (TOFU) – helping build awareness; initiating contact; carrying out research and profiling; providing prompt responses; distributing early-stage resources
  • Middle-of-funnel (MOFU) – nurturing stakeholders; delivering targeted content; keeping in close contact
  • Bottom-of-funnel (BOFU) – retargeting based on buying signals; providing walk-throughs; facilitating live demos; delivering strategic offers; booking meetings and following up

5. Aligning marketing and sales

Marketo also highlights the importance of marketing and sales alignment in driving ABM success. In fact, stats compiled by RollWorks show that 66% of companies cite increased ABM pipeline as a result of better marketing and sales alignment.

Sales provides the needed insights for knowing which accounts to prioritize and which stakeholders have a real impact on buying decisions. With this info, marketing then draws up content maps and works out when and how to deliver relevant content to each stakeholder. Both marketing and sales then follow this plan for communicating and interacting with stakeholders in the target account.


Targeted outreach helps marketing and sales better align with each other through:

  • Bringing the two teams closer together by flexibly adapting to a potential customer’s buying process
  • Improving sales reps’ trust and confidence in marketing-supplied prospects, since each prospect remains closely engaged throughout the sales funnel
  • Allowing richer conversations and follow-ups for sales as a result of deeper research and insights from marketing

Related: What is Smarketing? (And Why It’s Important)

Conclusion:  An effective ABM program needs the scale, precision, and human touch of outbound channels. Especially when combined with inbound tactics, targeted outreach drives the ABM process forward.

Looking to step up your ABM game? Callbox’s multi-touch ABM solution can help you find and win your most profitable customers. We combine outbound and digital channels to identify, expand, engage and convert high-value accounts. Contact us today.

ABM Best Practices: Selecting and Profiling High-Value Accounts [INFOGRAPHIC]

If we peel back the many layers of an account-based marketing (ABM) strategy, we find that ABM simply means identifying a handful of potential companies that will likely have a huge impact on revenues, and then applying marketing programs uniquely suited to each individual account.

But how exactly do you decide which accounts to target?

The success of ABM programs greatly depends on proper account selection and customer profiling. In fact, most ABM experts consider account selection as the single most important step in the ABM process.

Without an effective account selection procedure, the other ABM components (like engagement strategy, content plan, etc.) simply won’t work.

We recently put together a quick visual guide that maps out the key ideas behind account selection, so that you can develop and refine your own approach:

ABM Best Practices: Selecting and Profiling High-Value Accounts [INFOGRAPHIC]

Account selection is the set of activities for identifying and prioritizing potential companies to include in your ABM program, while account profiling is the procedure for finding out which decision-makers are involved in the buying process and determining how each decision-maker influences the purchase.

Account selection and profiling cover a lot of details (and these vary from one ABM plan to another), but the main things to take into account include:

Size of Market Opportunity

ABM is all about narrowing down your marketing and sales focus down to a few high-impact potential customers. But, before you can identify your ideal accounts, you first need to get a good grasp of the total opportunities available in your target market.

In an article for B2B, Mike Boogaard recommends paying attention to two critical numbers:

  • Total Addressable Market (TAM) – the total number of companies in your target market
  • Minimum Viable Accounts (MVA) – the minimum number of ideal target accounts needed to reach your ROI objective

Find the difference between enterprise sales vs. SMB sales in this quick infographic and learn how to tailor your selling strategy accordingly.

Ideal Account Profile (IAP)

An ideal account profile (IAP) outlines the characteristics of a company that perfectly fits your solution. It describes what your ideal account looks like so that you’ll unmistakably know which organizations to target and which ones to avoid.

While IAPs can be as simple or complex as you need, the best approach for defining IAPs for account selection is to focus on firmographics (company-level information that determines fit) and technographics (details about an account’s tech choices).

Additional categories like predictive and behavioral attributes can usually be included in later ABM stages.


Segmenting potential accounts into tiers allows you to prioritize candidates and customize your engagement strategy accordingly.

In a full-fledged ABM program, you need to give each account in-depth research, personalized content, tailored campaigns, and one-on-one touches.

But not all candidate accounts require this level of attention. In fact, it makes sense to provide the full ABM treatment only to your “best” target accounts.

That’s why you also need to segment accounts into tiers (e.g., Tier 1 for high priority, Tier 2 for medium priority, and Tier 3 for low priority).

One way to determine which tier a target account belongs to is to gauge how well the company meets the Ready, Willing, Able, and Success Potential criteria outlined by Sixteen Ventures:

  • Ready – The target account is currently facing an urgent problem or opportunity that your solution can address.
  • Willing – The company is open to exploring possible solutions to the problem or opportunity.
  • Able – The target account can make the needed commitment to implement the change.
  • Success Potential – There’s a high level of fit in terms of technical, functional, resource, competence, experience, and culture.

Section 2 of our Targeted Marketing Handbook includes checklists and worksheets for building more sophisticated lead scoring/segmentation models.

Buyer Roles

A Typical B2B purchase decision now involves an average of 6.8 stakeholders. These decision-makers often fall into one or more of the following buyer roles:

  • Champion (or Coach) – This role is your biggest advocate in the target company and can provide you with insights on the process and the people involved.
  • Influencer – Because of his/her authority or experience in the solution in question, this decision maker has a huge impact on how the rest of the buyers will decide.
  • Economic Buyer – This role gives the final decision in a purchase and typically holds the exclusive authority to commit funds for the purchase.
  • Technical Buyer (or Ratifier) – These are decision makers with special concerns (security, compliance, legal, etc.) in a purchase.

Knowing which decision maker fills what buyer role forms only one step in account profiling. You also need to understand and map out the relationships between these decision-makers.

Check out our guide on how to identify and qualify B2B decision-makers and start building solid vendor-client relationships.

The Takeaway:  Account selection isn’t only the first step in the ABM process. It’s also the foundation of ABM success. So, be sure to build a solid account selection and profiling plan before anything else.