How To Build A Tech Stack For Account-Based Sales

July 25, 2016 Brandon Redlinger

Tools and technology resources are always a hot discussion amongst sales, marketing, and account management leaders. In terms of sheer volume, the options available are plentiful, which is good news, right? Well, yes and no. As members of the enterprise technology community, we’ve seen our fair share of major success stories and catastrophic failures that arise from adding new technology into your tech stack.

When it comes to adopting technology, it’s imperative that businesses approach new software with the right frame of mind and perform the due diligence needed to make a sound purchasing decision.

 

The Dangers of the Tech Stack

Everyone is searching for the latest and greatest tool to take their growth to the next level. However, no tool will ever fix a broken sales process. A sale is not made based on the tools used. A sale is made possible through the process the rep used. The tools make the process scalable.

Rather than investing in the next technology or platform, take a step back, analyze your account-based sales process and consider the best approach for you and your team. For more on developing your account based process, check out Bridging the Gap: The Basics of Account Based Marketing and Selling.

There is great value in reading articles listing all the tools in the sales, marketing and account management stack to keep a pulse on the technology available. However, there is also danger in following suit. The instant you become too dependent on the tools, you’re at their mercy and risk becoming used by that tool.

 

Examining the Full Funnel

A good sales process is predictable and repeatable. A great sales process is scalable. However, the entire sales process is fraught with challenges that, if mishandled, can undermine not just the productivity of a sales rep, but an entire organization.

In order to build a great process, you need to consider your buyer’s journey and identify the most important stages of the journey.

At a high level, the stages of your sales process could look something like ours:

  1. Lead Generation

  2. Lead Management

  3. Lead Nurture

  4. Demonstrating the Product

  5. Closing the Deal

  6. Managing the Account

For each stage, figure out what you need to accomplish to effectively move the most prospects through to the next stage. Then turn to a list that breaks down and compares sales stacks, like the one in Bridging the Gap, to find the solutions that will provide you what you need.

 

Building A Sales Stack

Let’s walk through how to think about creating your stack, starting with the top of the account based sales process and moving your way down the funnel.

 

Stage 1: Lead Generation

There are three main ways to approach lead generation: manual prospecting, 3rd party lead sourcing, and outsourcing.

When it comes to manual prospecting, speed matters. How long does it take to find one qualified lead? You need to know your business economics to learn whether this is sustainable.

Next, consider sales intelligence. Sales intelligence software provides sales reps with vital information - like background and contact information - for leads, accounts, or across market verticals. This would fall under the 3rd party lead sourcing category. 

Rather than paying with time, you’re paying with money. So, the important question becomes how much does each lead cost?

There’s one more viable option for lead generation: outsourcing.

By hiring freelancers through Elance and Upwork, we’ve driven our cost-per lead down well below $0.50 without sacrificing accuracy or velocity. But managing a team of freelancers comes with its own challenges, and warrants an entirely separate blog post all its own.

Important question to ask when choosing your tools/platforms in the Lead Generation stage include:

  • How accurate is the information (data integrity)?

  • How much information is given to me on each lead?

  • What is my price per lead and does that work with my business economics?

  • How much time will it take me to get X number of leads?

  • How many leads are actual sales qualified leads, and how many close?

Our favorite service for lead generation is Datanyze.

 

Stage 2: Lead Management

In theory, this is what the purpose of your CRM. In practice, CRMs can slow down a high-velocity sales process, especially at the top of the funnel where volume is the greatest. This has led to platforms focused solely on the outbound process.

That doesn’t mean the CRM is useless. It should still remain the backbone of the sales process, the central database for all communication and can coordinate the activities of sales and marketing teams. Thus, your outbound sales platform needs to integrate with your CRM.

It’s also important to note the vital difference between marketing automation and sales automation. You shouldn’t try to use one for the other’s job.

With that said, for proper lead management in an account-based sales approach, you’ll need to accomplish two separate jobs, which means you’ll need two separate solutions. You’re going to need a CRM as your objective source of all truth, and you’ll need an outbound sales platform to create workflows to reach out cold and generate new leads.

Important question to ask when choosing your tools/platforms in the Lead Management stage include:

  • Am I using the right platform for my outbound sales, or am I trying to hack a sales solution using marketing automation?

  • Can my outbound sales platform integrate with my CRM?

  • Can I easily import, export and manage leads in each system?

  • Can I set up the right segments in each platform?

  • How much visibility do I have into my accounts on each platform?

  • How easily is it to collaborate with my team on each platform?

Our CRM of choice is Salesforce, and our favorite outbound sales platform is PersistIQ.

 

Stage 3: Lead Nurture

This is where your marketing automation platform comes into play. Since account-based sales has a much longer sales cycle, it’s crucial that you keep prospects engaged by creating and delivering relevant content. Your marketing team probably already has marketing automation set up, and it’s highly unlikely that you’ll change vendors, so there’s no need to go much further there.

However, with an account-based approach, marketing automation is no longer enough. This is where sales enablement comes into play. Sales Enablement is an evolution of sales ops and marketing but elevated to a more strategic, proactive and hands-on level. With more tools, more resources, and a more complex sales process, you need a person or department who owns this and can deliver it to sales reps.

When it comes to discovery/utility of content, among the many studies conducted, they all seem to agree on one thing: less than 60% of the content created for sales is not used. This is in large part due to either the content is not easily accessible and discoverable, or reps simply don’t know the most appropriate time to use which content.

The last piece of lead nurture that we should discuss is ad targeting. When you’re going after a large target account, a powerful method for enabling your sales team is to launch an ad campaign directed at prospects in your target companies a month before your sales teams begins their cold outbound efforts. Some ad platforms let you take segments directly from your CRM or marketing automation platform and launch a campaign against those leads. This gives you another channel to penetrate the account. Implementing these tactics, you can warm leads up and enable your sales team to close deals faster.

Important questions to ask when choosing your marketing automation, sales enablement vendors and ad solutions are:

  • How well does my marketing automation integrate with my CRM?

  • Can I set up the right segments that match my target accounts?

  • How can I make sure my team is creating the right content?

  • How easy is it to find the right content for each account or persona?

  • How much visibility do I get into how content is performing?

  • How easily can I segment leads with ads?

  • How easy is it to adjust and refine targeting parameters?

  • Do I have to have a minimum weekly or monthly spend to get proper customer support?

Our marketing automation platform of choice is Hubspot, our favorite sales enablement solution is Docurated and our ad vendor is AdRoll.

 

Stage 4: Demonstrating the Product

When things are going well and your outbound efforts are converting,  managing your calendar for demos and in-person meetings can become a chore. It shouldn’t take multiple emails with a potential client to pin down a meeting time. Errors here can be devastating to a deal.

Demo and screen sharing software has come a long way. Each party used to have to download and install software and figure out how to use it minutes before the scheduled call. But with a cloud solution, this is avoided. The other critical aspect of conferencing software is the integrity of the video. A laggy screen share can kill a good presentation, and the chances of this only go up with more people on a call in complex deals. And while there have been advancements, there's still much room for improvement.

Important questions to ask when choosing your tools/platforms in this demo stage include:

  • Does my schedule technology integrate with my calendar?

  • How good is my scheduling tool at updating to avoid double booking?

  • How quickly and easily can the other party access the conference?

  • How reliable is the service?

  • If the first option fails, what’s the backup plan?

Our favorite scheduling service is Calendly. We’ve used both UberConference and Join.me for demoing.

 

Stage 5: Closing the Deal

After you’ve given the demo, it’s time to close the deal. Creating, editing and sending sensitive documents isn’t always easy and straightforward. You can get caught going back and forth with revisions for months with accounts that have battle-hardened legal team. Your document can be dozens or hundreds of pages long. Decision makers can forward it to many colleagues. Tools that reduce the friction of the buying process are crucial.

Too often, the sales stops moving forward after the demo. It’s because the AE stopped pushing it forward, or worse, has failed to accurately map the account and is pushing it down the wrong path. A solution that gives you insight into how the people in your prospective account are interacting with your content can give you valuable insights and change the game.

Important questions to ask when choosing your tools/platforms in the closing the deal stage include:

  • How easy and intuitive is it to build proposals?

  • How easy is it to send proposals to multiple people at a company?

  • How easy is it to edit templates and proposals?

  • How secure is the service?

  • What kind of content engagement insights are provided?

We like PandaDoc for our contracts.

 

Stage 6: Managing the Account

Now that you’ve closed your target account, the job is not over. In fact, it’s just begun for your account managers or customer success team. Creating an active and engaged user base is the cornerstone of a successful account management/customer success program. Giving your account managers the right technology has a huge impact on your bottom line, yet it’s often not prioritized.

Just as technology has accelerated the sales space giving teams the ability to automate tasks and become more analytical, it has had the same impact on account management and customer success. Getting full visibility into every account while they onboard and become power users will give you insight into what it takes to drive usage and adoption, increase conversions and lifetime value, and reducing churn.

Though this space is even more nascent than the sales tech and automation space, it’s just as important to get it right.

Important questions to ask when deciding on account management and customer success solution:

  • Can I get visibility into a user’s actions in real time?

  • How easy is it to communicate with users?

  • How easy is it for users to communicate with you?

  • What kind of trigger, permissions and rules can you set up for your team?

  • How easy is it for your internal team to communicate with each other?

  • What kind of insights will the platform deliver?

  • How easy is it to tag, sort and search for previous communication?

A powerful solution that we love is FrontApp.

 

Filling in the Gaps

Once you have your core sales stack in place, you can start filling in the gaps that help you move through the process quicker and with more accuracy. For example, lead prioritization solutions, like LeanData, are killer tools and essential for account-based sales, but don’t necessarily fall into the previously laid out stages.

Next, you can fill in the smaller gaps with individual preferences. For example, one team member may prefer Crystal Knows, while another may prefer CharlieApp.

A word of caution: don’t spend too much time here! This is where people are constantly getting caught chasing shiny objects. Make sure the technology that you’re using support your critical selling activities. Everything else is a distraction. Just because we can use a solution doesn’t mean we should.

Now you have a framework for thinking about how to build your sales stack for better organizational alignment and account-based success. Remember, building out your sales stack always starts with strategy. Before choosing tools, define and map out your selling process and internal strategy.

A great place to start is by reading our new ebook, Bridging the Gap: The Basics of Account Based Marketing and Selling. We breakdown and compare all of the tools and technologies across the tech stack. To download your free copy, visit AccountBasedEbook.com.

About the Author

Brandon Redlinger

Brandon Redlinger runs Growth at PersistIQ. He has been in sales and marketing his entire career, leading teams across the country from NYC to Denver to the San Francisco Bay Area. In his spare time, you will find him buried in a book, hitting the gym or on an adventure exploring the world. You can follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Lee_09.

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