Sales development leaders are always looking for fresh, new approaches to prospecting to help their teams reach breakthrough performance levels, as well as deliver higher quality opportunities. Account-Based Sales Development (ABSD) is a hot new topic in the sales development movement, which has changed the way large and small companies generate opportunities. You might be familiar with ABSD’s cousin, Account-Based Marketing.

All of these acronyms can get a little overwhelming, so let’s break down the “what,” “why” and “how” of ABSD. What exactly is ABSD? TOPO has done an awesome job covering this topic for years (before it was cool):

This strategy, founded on the principles of Account-Based Marketing and adapted for sales development, focuses on launching tailored, SDR-driven campaigns into specific target accounts.”

Turning tailored, SDR-driven campaigns into specific target accounts sounds great. But why are you doing this again? There’s a few things you or members of your team have probably experienced that are pushing you to take a closer look:

You’re seeking that elusive performance lift. Your team performance has plateaued and you’re seeking the next breakthrough. You know the breakthrough won’t happen by sending more sales emails or spending more time on the sales dialer.  You are ready for way that will allow you be more efficient with your playbook.

You’re experiencing ideal client fatigue. Your team keeps coming back to you saying they’re struggling to find the ideal client profile. They’ve started going rogue, trying to fuel prospecting lists to fill their daily commitments. You might be ready for ABSD if you’re looking for that metric that helps you understand how many leads created are actually turning into meetings.

Referrals are great, but your team is ignoring them. Another sign that you might be ready for ABSD is that your appointments from referrals are low. A typical SDR metric is measuring how many new leads were added, and since referrals take longer to target and require more personalization to the message, SDRs tend ignore them to continue to beef up their lists.

By now you’re recognizing (or at least sympathizing) with the pain of trying to continue to feed the lead machine. Pause here and get out a note pad. On the top of the page write down 20 by 2 and 160 by 6. What you just wrote down represents the number of accounts to focus on for the next number of weeks. The recommendation is to start by taking your 20 most desired companies to do business with.

Here is what’s going to happen in those first two weeks:

Performance will go up! Depending on your baseline, let’s assume to set up 15 appointments for every 1,000 leads created. Don’t be surprised when you go up to 25 appointments for every 1,000 leads created. Aim for a 60-70% improvement on the number of leads created to set one appointment.

Morale will go up! SDRs can feel like they are stuck in a hamster wheel at times, particularly if they get comfortable with a consistent performance level. When you give them a specific account to own, however, they are going to have a higher sense of ownership overall.

The number of new leads created will go down! Wait, how is this a good thing? If you are in a waterfall prospecting environment, you are probably swimming in leads. But the ABSD journey will reduce your lead requirements to 5-10% of what it is today. Think quality, not quantity.

Are you starting to think Account-Based Sales Development is cool? If so, here is your plan for the next 6 weeks:

  • Weeks 1-2 – Before you try ABSD, take two weeks to organize and cleanse your data. There are some really interesting tools out there to help you with this, but I would highly recommend going through this exercise before starting. It may not be the most fun part of the job, but it will help get your SDRs organized on what true leads exist for your target accounts and the status of your efforts to date.
  • Weeks 3-4 – Assign the top 20 accounts to your team, and give them some flexibility to research the accounts, realign existing leads to associated accounts and map out a cadence of dials and sales emails that will reach the ideal client profile.  Be sure to set up a cadence for handling the referrals so you can test and measure the number of appointments coming from referrals. You will be amazed!
  • Weeks 4-6 – Hopefully by now you are already doing daily standups and bi-weekly retrospectives to reveal what’s working, what’s not and what actions you could take to get even better. Look for the SDR rep that is doing an exceptional job on ABSD and reward her with getting the higher valued accounts.

The Account-Based Sales Development journey will be an exciting and rewarding one! Just make sure you’re prepared for the changes that come along with it, and that everyone’s expectations are managed with the big change in metrics you’re focusing on.

Download our Top Secret Sales Development Playbook for all of your sales development questions. And then check out upcoming webinar on ABSD with DemandBase, and become a part of the ABSD movement in your company.

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