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Account Based Sales Development: Selecting Your Accounts

6 min read
Updated Aug. 24, 2020
Published Dec. 30, 2015

We’re onto the next step in Account Based Sales Development: selecting your accounts. Now that you have cleaned your data, you are ready to select your accounts.

This is an opportunity for sales development and marketing to come together to collectively decide the fate of your sales development effort. In most organizations, marketing is frothing at the mouth for someone in sales development to ask for help identifying the accounts that matter the most. Not only would this make their year, but it would also give you a partner with all sorts of resources to help you.

In fact, I am so confident that they would be willing to help you, that you can copy/paste this email to your marketing team and ask for their help. If you don’t get a 100% positive response, please let me know!

Subject: Account alignment?

Email Body:

We were looking at an Account-Based Sales Development strategy for 2016, and Salesloft (who is producing awesome content to help inspire and guide us through this journey) is suggesting that we reach out to marketing to discuss our segmentation strategy, so that we can align on the top accounts.

Can we set up 15 minutes to discuss the Account Based Sales Development strategy, and see how we can work together to develop this list for our reps to target?

Alright, so some of the email is self-serving — but we LOVE this topic and believe it is going to rock your world and set you on a path of a higher-performing sales development team.

Now, let’s get down to business. Here are the 3 ways that you should go about developing your account segmentation strategy:

  1. Industry
  2. Role
  3. Use Cases

ABSD_TargetAccounts (2)

Step 1: Selecting Your Industry

TOPO does some amazing work on ideal client profiles and buyer personas — I encourage you to check them out. And when it comes to account segmentation, I am a big believer in starting with industry. Why? Well, the goal of any industry segmentation is to identify industries that have similar needs and wants.

Keep in mind that this topic of industry segmentation is HUGE. There are organizations that specialize in segmentation and many books written on the topic. I, however, am going to give you the poor man’s version of industry segmentation — I call it the Risk/Reward Model. It’s so simple, even I can do it! Here are some questions that you should consider answering when diving into the Risk/Reward Model:

  1. What industries represent the LARGEST opportunity for your organization (in terms of both dollars and number of companies)? For example, the medical device market is huge dollar market, however, it is also led by a few large organizations.
  2. What industries represent the HIGHEST opportunity for winning? This is a great opportunity to look into a few sub-questions:
    • Where is your revenue coming from?
    • Where is your current pipeline coming from?
    • What is your win-rate in each industry? (nice place to find “sleeper cells”)
    • What industries are visiting your website, engaging your brand, downloading content etc


After you answer these questions, you can map out those industries across 9 quadrants across Risk and Reward. Start with the industry that offers the highest reward and the least amount of risk.  To break it down, the green zone represents primary industries (yes), the yellow zone represents secondary industries (maybe), and the red zone represents tertiary industries (no).

Take the 1-2 of those industries and put them to side, then move on to identifying roles.

Step 2: Identify Roles

I’m a big fan of leveraging the ideal client profile to identify roles — but there is a catch. Depending on what you are selling, you might have a committee sell, so you don’t want to ignore your buyer persona. If you are not confident in who your ideal client profile is — no worries — just test by utilizing the following method.

Similar to the industry Risk/Reward model, start by compiling a list of your ideal client profiles and buyer personas, then get together as a group and discuss each one.


NOTE: This is a great exercise in gaining alignment on who you should be targeting with your sales emails and dialing efforts.

Now, when you create this list, put it together by DEPARTMENT and TITLE. Here is an example list of Operation:

  1. Operations – VP
  2. Operations – Director
  3. Operations Quality – Manager
  4. Operations Continuous Improvement – Manager
  5. Operations – business analyst

Now that you have narrowed down your industry and roles to target, let’s discuss the use case. Again, this topic is large and will vary widely on your target account and role and what your specific value is but I am going to go ahead and offer you up a simple way to normalize your use case in order to align on which use cases that your team will be pitching when they target an account.


Once you build an exhaustive list of use cases — overlay the use cases with the selected industry and roles that offer the greatest reward with the least amount of risk. As you think about the reward and risk of the use cases here are a few questions to discuss with your team:

  1. Which use cases can you absolutely crush your competitors on today! (Low risk/Should be high reward)
  2. Which use cases would be killer to solve but you either don’t have the subject matter expertise or capability set to win? (High risk/High reward)
  3. Which cases are understandable by your ideal industry in 30 seconds or less? HINT: If you are not sure, go test!

Sound easy? It should be! But the important takeaway from this exercise is that you use it as a way to collaborate with your marketing partners on arriving at your account target list. And, when in doubt — test it out!

Good luck on your journey of Account Based Sales Development. Please share us your stories and lessons learned so we can all learn together!