Does your marketing match your sales process?

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Selling to enterprise clients is a goal for a lot of businesses. Getting new logos, competing with giants, larger deal sizes— there’s a lot that can be exciting for a sales team about going after big companies.

But very few companies start out from day one selling to large companies. At some point they begin the process of moving steadily upmarket. It may start out with a dedicated enterprise sales rep or two, but eventually, you end up with separate teams that are focused on larger firms and understand the complexity of these organizations. 

If your previous market has been more in the SMB or mid-market sectors, your marketing efforts might be tough to adapt. B2B firms are often primarily focused on lead generation, so your marketing team has probably gotten pretty efficient at generating marketing-qualified leads, and handing them off quickly to sales to qualify and close. Depending on your market, that could be the majority of your sales and marketing playbook.

As you move upmarket, you’ll find that your marketing has to have different objectives to really help impact revenue. If your enterprise reps have named accounts they’re responsible for, they’ll probably look at you a little funny if you try to hand them a lead. They already know who’s at the account, and hopefully have the key players already mapped out. This creates a disconnect with marketing, who may wonder why these reps don’t need them to generate new leads.

This illustration oversimplifies things, but it’s one of the various challenges marketing might face when trying to adapt their processes to move upmarket with sales. What exactly does sales want marketing to be focused on if not generating leads?

This is where adjusting to account-based marketing (ABM) comes into play. In the enterprise, sales doesn’t need help identifying the people at their accounts; they’ve already done that with LinkedIn and added them to their CRM. Instead, they need help generating interest at the account. This is where marketing needs to shift their focus— nurturing the account until you see clear interest or buying signals. 

This is my favorite visual for explaining how ABM varies from traditional lead generation.

What does this look like? There are a lot of tactics that don’t make sense in a lead gen-driven B2B sales motion, but that can be effective when you’re going after a set list of accounts. To start, you need to have a way to measure activities at the company level. Knowing the prospect has opened one email or registered for one webinar may be interesting, but it’s difficult for salespeople to act on. 

Seeing that email clicks are high at a key account, and that 3 different people are attending a webinar next month is more useful. Sales can see the latter, know that interest is picking up, and begin to work those contacts and others to see if they’re interested in having a conversation. 

The next step for marketing departments is to regroup with sales to see what they’re learning through their conversations with people at target accounts. With this information, they can start to develop more content and resources to assist. If the target account is having issues with an existing technology and is considering putting together an RFP, marketing can help by generating a comparison document for the sales rep, who can get that information over to their target account. 

Over time, sales can identify the different types of roles at target companies who might need different types of resources. A CTO or technical buyer may be interested in knowledge base articles or tech specs. The CFO may want to see how similar companies have saved money by working with your company over a competitor. Over time, marketing and sales can use this information to create very targeted resources that may help move the conversation forward, one person at a time. 

If you come from a marketing background where you’re generating hundreds of leads a month, ABM can feel like a game of inches. In reality, it just reflects the buying process at large firms. Multiple people are involved, all with different interests, all looking at multiple options, making the entire process slower and more methodical. And for good reason: decisions at big companies impact more people, have more risk, and take longer to implement. While the overall pace can seem glacial, it’s good to understand and remember what’s driving that. 

Moving upmarket can be a great opportunity, but your sales and marketing team have to make the necessary changes to succeed. 

Interested in learning more about how ABM can help your business? Email me at parker [at] and I’ll share our Moving to Account-Based Marketing presentation.