3 Steps to Target Account Selling for Adaptive Sales Teams
By Jesse McCarl
The term “target account selling” was quite buzzy in the early 2000s for sales and marketing professionals. It was so trendy, in fact, that many in the industry assumed the concept would come and go. Instead, it has become a critical approach to lead conversion for B2B sales.
Target account selling is a focused sales strategy in which sales and marketing teams collaborate in a personalized buying experience for high-value accounts with multiple stakeholders.
In more accessible terms, target account selling, or account-based selling (ABS), is when you use hyper-customized sales tactics with each individual person involved in approving a B2B sale. This approach requires a lot of research and a lot of collaboration but is invaluable for the prospects with the biggest pay-offs.
Essentials to Know about Target Account Selling
In D2C sales, only one person needs to be convinced to invest in a product or service — the customer. Customer loyalty is always important, but often those kinds of sales happen only once, or for a short period. On the other hand, account-based marketing is designed for long-term B2B sales.
B2B sales pitches are never really directed to just one person. When you sell to a business, you’re selling to the person who will actually use your product, that person’s boss, and at least one executive. Furthermore, you’re not selling a trinket and moving on to the next customer. You’re establishing a relationship that will make the two companies collaborators for the foreseeable future.
With target account selling, the sales team will work closely with the marketing team. Although each will have clearly defined roles, both teams will have to stay nimble to prepare and adjust strategies not only for each account, but for each stakeholder on the account.
This means there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen. Everyone on the side of the company making the sale will have to define their roles clearly and be prepared for anything.
On the other side of the sale, don’t forget that each stakeholder in the decision is a real person. These are not just boxes to be checked on a to-do list. In order to win the business of each person in the process, you must personalize your communication.
When it comes to target account selling, the buzzword we can always turn back to is personalization.
Although target account selling is an extensive and thorough process, it can ultimately break down into three steps. They are not easy, but they will help you to find the right customers, personalize your approach, and close more leads.
Step 1: Choose a Target Account
Sales and marketing teams will collaborate to develop your company’s ideal customer profile (ICP) and customer personas, and use those items to start pursuing the best high-value prospects.
Make an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)
To start, what kinds of companies are you interested in doing business with? What kinds will benefit most from your product or service? There are a lot of considerations when establishing your ICP, but the best practice is to look at the customers with whom you’re already successfully doing business. The shared characteristics of your favorite clients will highlight what you’re looking for in the future. These characteristics include:
What industry are they in?
How many employees do they have?
What is their annual revenue?
Where are they located?
What technology do they use?
How many years in business are they?
How are they funded?
Start a Target Account List
Now that you have a framework for ideal customers, begin researching companies that fit that profile. The more accurately a company fits your ICP, the higher priority of a target they will be for your sales team.
Compile all the target accounts in a rolling file, called your target account list. More brand names will always be added to this list as your employees do more research, grow their networks, and receive personal referrals and recommendations.
Now that you have your list, it’s time to pick the first targeted account.
Build Buyer Personas
With your well-qualified account picked out, it’s time to think about the individuals you’ll be communicating with. The sales team will create detailed buyer personas for each of the anticipated stakeholders in the sales process.
Here are some of the stakeholders who may be involved in closing a single B2B deal:
The target(s) — the person or people ultimately using your product
The target’s manager
The department VP (or higher, depending on the cost of the product)
An accountant or financial rep
A lawyer or risk management rep
A review board, especially if you’re selling to one franchise of a larger brand
With account-based selling, a buyer persona is a detailed profile of who a person is and what motivates them, based on the information available in your brand’s research. Some of the factors included in a buyer persona are:
Time at the company
Details from one’s personal life such as age and family
Main frustrations at work
Primary motivations at work
When it’s time to make that cold call or host a pitch meeting, you won’t use every single detail from the buyer persona — but every detail will still help the sales team understand who they are talking to make a personalized connection.
So where does the sales team get this information? There are several ways:
LinkedIn, a common prospecting tool, will give your sales reps career background such as the person’s role, tenure, skills, and connections.
Other social media can provide valuable insights into the individual’s personal life. Remember not to give the impression that you’ve stalked the individual, but use family makeup, demographics, or geographic location to establish a bond with the target.
Services like Crystal will help assess public information to determine personality type, communication style, and key motivators.
For some items on the buyer persona, reps will fill out assumptions based on past experience. For example, key pain points may be similar for the same role across all companies or industries. Those assumptions can be included on a buyer persona so the sales rep knows how to present your product as a solution.
Your sales team should have a buyer persona for each employee at the target company with whom they may interact. New buyer personas will likely be created as you move a targeted account through the sales pipeline.
The research step is a big one and requires much collaboration across sales and marketing. Your teams should now have a running account list, based on your ideal customer profiles. The sales team will research a target account to curate the likely stakeholders and create individualized buyer personas.
All of this is in pursuit of one element, which is key to target account selling: Personalization! This leads us to step 2…
Step 2: Implement a Personalized Strategy
Now that the research is done, it’s time to make initial contact.
For the sales team, this is going to look like the top-of-funnel sales methods your reps are very familiar with: cold calls, outreach emails, or, where a relationship has been established, office visits (preferably with goodies).
For the marketing team, the goal is to reinforce the brand name so that after an individual hears from your sales team, they see your brand’s name everywhere. Ensure marketing pixels and tracking are properly set up for retargeting. You can use the demographics from buyer personas to target ads as specifically as possible.
Your sales reps will continue to work leads and interact with each stakeholder, and the marketing team’s job is to support their efforts. For example, if you expect that particular VP will be concerned about customer privacy, create landing pages and blog posts that address that concern. Arm your sales reps with every kind of marketing they may need.
It’s essential to understand the business structure of the target account upon initial contact so that you can anticipate the lead time and assist with obstacles that arise.
Each person in the process has his or her own concerns, motivations, and desires attached. Operating in that space is what target account selling is all about, and where a sales rep can really shine with customized communication.
Your hard work utilizing target account selling will eventually yield results, likely seen in an uptick in discovery calls. Before sales reps join their discovery calls, they can use the Crystal Chrome extension to predict a prospect’s personality. The tool will also create a playbook to help guide reps through their calls with ease.
Each person in the target account sales process is an individual. Crystal scales adaptive sales practices to help reps customize individual communications. Using the DISC profile and Crystal’s analytics, reps can communicate with each person in a way that resonates, which is the whole point of target account selling.
When reps write their initial outreach to an individual, Crystal has a writing assistant feature that acts as a virtual editor for customizing the communication. If something a rep messages clashes with the prospect’s personality type, the opportunities for improvement will be highlighted and alternatives will be suggested, all powered by AI technology.
Eventually, the sales rep will repeat this process with each stakeholder. Now it’s time to close the deal.
Often, to get all the signatures required, there will be a group meeting with multiple stakeholders on the call; the target account selling approach will naturally bring multiple stakeholders to the table. Understanding how multiple personalities communicate will help reps work the meeting room to close the deal. Crystal can create a custom playbook to see exactly how personality types will interact with one another with resources like our Relationship Matrix and Personality Comparison Chart.
Step 3: Test, Tweak, and Repeat
You closed the deal! Congratulations! So what could step 3 possibly entail?
Sales and marketing teams will work together again to assess what worked well and what didn’t. Where were the curveballs? What resources were missing?
Create new materials that solve the needs of this client, trusting that they’ll help with future targeted accounts. Set up a recurring meeting with sales and marketing teams to constantly reevaluate and refine processes.
Even after the deal is closed, it’s important to keep files updated. Amend some assumptions made on the buyer persona. Adjust the DISC personality profile in Crystal if your interactions played out differently than expected. Each improvement to the customer data will increase the opportunities for hyper-personalization in the future.
The target account selling process is always long and can often be quite arduous, but it is worth it for a high-value client that improves your company portfolio, will stick with you for a long time, and has built-in trust from all your efforts.
Use Target Account Selling to Play Off Your Strengths
Ultimately, target account selling uses what sales teams are already good at and takes it to another level. Your sales reps love connecting with people, identifying a need, and providing help. Account-based selling does those things on a company level.
Crystal makes that easier by helping you scale your reliable sales tactics to a full account with various stakeholders.
Personalization comes in all shapes and sizes, both in target account selling and beyond. To help you personalize your pitch to win more sales, no matter what personalized approach you’re using,request a demo with us today!