What the Sell Is Account Based Selling?

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Cloud Insights and Innovation

1. What Is Account-Based Selling?

Account-based selling is a multi-touch, multi-channel strategy coordinated across the entire company to pursue a target number of high-value accounts.

There’s a number of different names for the account-based model: Account-Based Marketing (ABM), Account-Based Sales (ABS), and Account-Based Sales Development (ABSD). There are no ‘hand-offs’ in an Account Based Everything (ABE) model. Instead, Marketing and Sales work together from the very start, and throughout the revenue cycle. Executives are also involved in closing these accounts – giving strategic direction, meeting with customer stakeholders, helping the account team acquire any necessary resources, and so on.

ABS maintains this account-level focus after the sale. Customer success managers deliver a custom onboarding experience, then work to develop relationships with multiple stakeholders at multiple levels (rather than leaving an account’s success to a single advocate, power user, or internal champion). Meanwhile, account managers and marketers work hand-in-hand to identify upsell and cross-sell opportunities. The product team uses insights from customer stakeholders to plan new features and develop potential use cases.

2. Who Should Use Account-Based Selling?

Here are some criteria for Account-Based Sales. One should start by asking several questions in order to diagnose the fit level of ABS to the organization:

  1. Who are our customers?
  2. How well do we know our ideal customers?
  3. How many customer stakeholders are involved in our average deal?
  4. How long is our average sales cycle?
  5. What’s the nature of our product?

ABS or Nothing?

If you sell to a mixture of midmarket and enterprise companies, going all-in on ABS may not be the most productive approach. Your efforts will be well-suited to your larger customers but excessive for your small accounts. Some companies have found a workaround: Tiger teams. These independent teams are dedicated to working a select group of potential huge deals – in other words, it’s ABS on a small scale.

A mixed approach is also useful if you’re hoping to move upmarket. You can pursue more lucrative customers while refining your approach. Once you’ve gotten several logos, identified the key drivers for these accounts, crafted a successful marketing strategy, and most importantly, made your solution more robust, transition your entire sales team to an account-based model.

3. How to Define Your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

Here’s a suggested Framework for Identifying Your ICP:

1) Input from your team members

ABE relies on tight cross-organizational alignment: If you exclude certain departments, you’ll end up with siloed information and conflicting strategies. With that in mind, involve representatives from Sales, Customer Success, Marketing, Finance, and Sales Operations in the planning process.

2) Firmographic data

Single out the characteristics of companies that are likeliest to close, including:

  • Industry, market, and vertical(s)
  • Number of employees
  • Revenue
  • Financial performance
  • Type
  • Market share
  • Location and/or number of offices
  • Historical growth
  • Predicted growth

3) Internal data

Your CRM holds a wealth of information about your ideal customers. Review your closed-won accounts, most profitable accounts, least likely to churn, and so on.

4) Technographics

Customers don’t use your product in isolation: They add it to their existing tools or use it to replace a tool they’re no longer satisfied with. Identify your product’s competitive and complementary solutions to gain a more accurate picture of its optimal user.

5) Behavioral data and trigger events

One of the easiest ways to find these trends is asking your top accounts, “What initially prompted your interest in our product?” or “Why did you take action then, rather than earlier or later?”

6) Predictive analytics

4. How to Define Your Buyer Personas

Review the past 50 deals you’ve closed that most closely reflect your new ICP. With whom did you engage? Which stakeholders tended to have the most influence? Who was the budget authority?

Now review the past 50 deals you lost. Did you usually fail to engage with a certain member of the buying committee? Were there any relationships that ultimately didn’t impact the decision?

5. How to Use Content in Account-Based Selling

How to Build Your Target Account List / Prospecting


  • email
  • voicemail
  • mail
  • Blog posts, infographics, and short videos
  • Social media
  • Report


  • Custom report
  • Webinars
  • Workshop
  • Business case


  • Company workshop
  • Trials

After the Sale:

  • Executive check-ins
  • Training sessions
  • User events

6. How to Structure Your ABS Sales Team

True to form, the standard ABS team includes members from departments that are typically separate: Sales, Marketing, Customer Support, and Solutions/Implementation.

7. Key Metrics for Account-Based Selling

At the top of the funnel, track how effectively SDRS are engaging prospects. Are they reducing the ratio of outreach attempts to meaningful conversation and from meaningful conversation to meeting?

To gauge your overall ABS success, Wittlake advises tracking average contract value (ACV) or deal size and lifetime value (LTV). TOPO reports some organizations see a 75% increase in ACV and 150% in LTV.

Because you’re dedicating greater resources to individual amounts, your customer acquisition cost (CAC) will rise. Compare your previous LTV:CAC ratio to the current one. If your former ratio was 2:1 and now it’s 4:1, you’re on the right track. The rise in time, energy, and resources to acquire a new account is more than justified by the growth in profits.

8. How to Implement Account-Based Selling

Account-Based Selling Plan

  1. Review best customers
  2. Define ICP
  3. Define buyer personas
  4. Develop a content strategy
  5. Create target account list
  6. Segment these accounts into tiers
  7. Allocate one-third of current sales development team to pursuing target accounts
  8. Decide which metrics to track
  9. Shift the next 20% of team to ABS
  10. Analyze content strategy to decide where to double down and where to course-correct
  11. Shift the next 25% of team to ABS
  12. Review key metrics
  13. Shift last 15% of team to ABS

Yoni Dariel

Read more posts by Yoni Dariel