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Account-Based Sales: A Complete Guide To Closing More High-Value Deals in 2024

Account-based sales is a highly effective sales model for companies that sell to high-value, complex accounts with long sales cycles. Unlike other sales techniques, account-based sales teams work closely with marketing, customer success, and other departments to align their efforts around target accounts.

By focusing on building relationships with key decision-makers and delivering personalized solutions, account-based sales can help drive growth and revenue for businesses in a wide range of industries. This comprehensive guide will teach you the account-based sales model, its benefits, account-based selling cycle, strategies, and tools to help you close more high-value deals in 2024.

Table of Contents

  • What are Account-Based Sales?
  • What is an Account-Based Sales Model?
  • Difference Between Account-based Selling and Account-based Marketing 
  • Benefits of Account-based Sales 
  • Who Should Use Account-based Selling?
  • How to Structure an Account-based Sales Team? 
  • What is an Account-based Sales Cycle?
  • Key Metrics For Account-Based Selling
  • Account-based Sales Strategy for Success
  • Account-based Sales Tools For Sales Teams

What are Account-Based Sales?

Account-based sales (ABS) is a B2B sales strategy targeting specific high-value accounts and building long-term relationships with them. ABS is a highly personalized approach that involves understanding the unique needs of each account and tailoring sales efforts accordingly. The account-based approach has recently gained popularity as B2B sales teams look for more effective ways to win and retain large, complex accounts.

Account-based sales (ABS) are account-based selling, key account management, strategic account management, target account selling, enterprise selling, named account selling, client-centric selling, and opportunity-based selling. These terms are often used interchangeably and refer to a sales approach that focuses on identifying and engaging high-value accounts with a personalized and targeted approach.

Account-based sales (ABS) is a powerful sales strategy that can help companies achieve several essential business objectives. For example, ABS can help increase conversion rates, build long-term relationships, improve customer retention and loyalty, make sales teams more productive and efficient, and significantly increase revenue and profitability for the business.

What is an Account-Based Sales Model?

Account-based selling (ABS) is a targeted sales approach that identifies, engages, and converts high-value accounts by treating them as individual markets or segments. In an account-based selling model, sales teams work closely with marketing, customer success, and other departments to align their efforts around target accounts.

Unlike traditional sales models, which typically focus on individual leads and transactions, ABS emphasizes building long-term relationships with key decision-makers at target accounts. This requires a deep understanding of the account’s needs, challenges, and goals and a personalized approach to engagement and communication.

ABS typically involves a range of tactics and strategies, including account-based marketing (ABM), which uses targeted advertising, content, and other marketing techniques to reach and engage decision-makers at target accounts. Account-based sales development approach collaborates closely with sales and marketing teams, sharing data and insights to optimize engagement and conversion.

In an account-based selling model, sales teams typically work with fewer high-value accounts rather than casting a wide net and focusing on individual leads. This allows for a more personalized and targeted approach, focusing on building long-term relationships and delivering value over time. By building relationships with key decision-makers and providing customized solutions, ABS can help drive growth and revenue for businesses in various industries.

Difference Between Account-based Selling and Account-based Marketing 

Account-based selling (ABS) and account-based marketing (ABM) are closely related B2B strategies that are often used together. While they share some similarities, there are also some critical differences between the two approaches. These have been explained below:

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a marketing strategy that builds relationships with high-value accounts. ABM involves a highly targeted approach to marketing that is tailored to the specific needs of each account.

Marketing teams using ABM typically have a deep understanding of the account’s business, pain points, and objectives, which allows them to develop a targeted marketing approach that speaks directly to the account’s needs. ABM is typically used for larger, more complex accounts, where a more personalized approach is necessary to win and retain the account.

Differences between ABS and ABM

1. Focus

The main difference between ABS and ABM is their focus. ABS is a sales strategy focusing on building long-term relationships with high-value accounts. On the other hand, ABM is a marketing strategy that focuses on building relationships with specific high-value accounts.

The account-based selling framework focuses on winning and retaining accounts, while ABM focuses on generating leads and creating brand awareness.

2. Personalization

Another difference between ABS and ABM is their level of personalization. ABS involves a highly personalized approach to sales that is tailored to the specific needs of each account.

Sales teams using ABS typically have a deep understanding of the account’s business, pain points, and objectives, which allows them to develop a value proposition that speaks directly to the account’s needs. ABM also involves a highly personalized approach, focusing on marketing rather than sales.

3. Metrics

ABS and ABM also differ in the metrics they use to measure success. ABS is typically calculated based on revenue generated from specific high-value accounts. ABM, on the other hand, is generally measured based on the number of qualified leads generated and the level of engagement with detailed high-value accounts.

4. Collaboration

ABS and ABM also differ in collaboration between sales and marketing teams. ABS requires close cooperation between sales and marketing teams, with marketing providing the necessary support to help sales teams win and retain high-value accounts. On the other hand, ABM is typically led by the marketing team, with sales providing support as needed.

Benefits of Account-based Sales 

Account-based sales (ABS) is a B2B sales strategy that focuses on building long-term relationships with specific high-value accounts. ABS has become increasingly popular in recent years as B2B sales teams look for more effective ways to win and retain large, complex accounts. Here are the crucial benefits of account-based sales.

1. Higher close rates

One of the main benefits of ABS is that it typically leads to higher close rates. ABS involves a highly personalized sales approach tailored to each account’s needs.

By understanding each account’s unique pain points and objectives, sales teams can develop a value proposition that speaks directly to their needs. This results in a more effective sales pitch and a higher likelihood of closing the deal.

2. Increased revenue

ABS can also lead to increased revenue for B2B companies. By targeting high-value accounts, companies can focus their sales efforts on accounts with the highest revenue potential. This can result in larger deals and increased revenue per account.

In addition, ABS often leads to longer-term relationships with accounts, which can result in recurring revenue over time.

3. Improved customer retention

ABS also leads to improved customer retention. Companies can better understand their needs by building long-term relationships with accounts and providing lasting value. This increases the likelihood of retaining the account over the long term.

In addition, ABS often leads to stronger relationships with accounts, which can increase loyalty and advocacy.

4. More efficient use of resources

ABS also leads to more efficient use of resources. By targeting specific high-value accounts, companies can focus their sales efforts on the accounts with the highest revenue potential.

This can result in more efficient use of sales resources and a higher ROI on sales efforts. In addition, ABS often involves a more targeted approach to marketing and advertising, which can result in more efficient use of marketing resources.

5. Reduced customer acquisition cost

Account-based sales (ABS) can reduce customer acquisition costs (CAC) by allowing sales and marketing teams to focus on high-value accounts most likely to result in successful sales.

6. Better alignment between sales and marketing

ABS often leads to better alignment between sales and marketing. By focusing on specific high-value accounts, sales, and marketing teams can work together to develop a targeted approach to sales and marketing. This results in a more effective sales and marketing strategy aligned with the account’s needs.

Who Should Use Account-based Selling?

Account-based selling (ABS) focuses on building long-term relationships with specific high-value accounts. While ABS can be effective for any B2B company, it benefits companies that sell high-value, complex products or services. Not sure whether you should use an account-based strategy? Below are the four types of companies that use account-based selling:

1. Companies with Long Sales Cycles

Companies with long sales cycles can benefit from account-based selling. ABS is designed to build long-term relationships with specific high-value accounts, which can be especially useful for companies with longer sales cycles.

By taking a personalized approach to sales, ABS can help companies build trust and credibility with their target accounts, leading to more successful sales.

2. Companies with High-Value Products or Services

Companies that sell high-value products or services can also benefit from account-based selling. ABS is designed to target specific high-value accounts, which can be particularly useful for companies that sell expensive or complex products or services.

By building long-term relationships with high-value accounts, ABS can help companies win and retain these accounts, leading to significant revenue growth.

3. Companies with Limited Sales Resources

Companies with limited sales resources can benefit from account-based selling as well. By focusing on specific high-value accounts, ABS allows companies to use their resources more efficiently. Rather than trying to sell to many accounts, ABS allows sales teams to focus on a smaller number of high-value accounts that are more likely to convert.

4. Companies with Highly Targeted Customer Segments

Companies with highly targeted customer segments can benefit from account-based selling too. ABS is designed to target specific high-value accounts, which can be particularly useful for companies with highly targeted customer segments.

By tailoring its sales approach to the specific needs of each account, ABS can help companies win and retain accounts in these highly targeted segments.

How to Structure an Account-based Sales Team? 

Account-based sales (ABS) is a highly effective approach focusing on high-value accounts and customizing the sales process to meet their needs. ABS is a highly targeted approach that requires a specialized team structure to maximize results. Here’s how to structure an account-based sales team for maximum efficiency and effectiveness.

1. Define Your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

The first step in structuring your account-based sales team is to define your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). This includes understanding your target customer’s characteristics, needs, and pain points.

Your ICP should be based on data and insights from your sales, customer success, and marketing teams. Once you have defined your ICP, you can use it to identify the high-value accounts you want to target.

2. Align Sales and Marketing

Account-based sales is a highly collaborative approach that requires close alignment between sales and marketing. Marketing is critical in identifying and nurturing high-value accounts, creating targeted messaging and content, and generating leads.

On the other hand, sales are responsible for building relationships with prospects, understanding their needs, and closing deals. To ensure alignment between sales and marketing, it is essential to have regular meetings, shared goals, and a clear understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities.

3. Create a Dedicated Account-based selling Team

Account-based sales require a dedicated team that can focus exclusively on high-value accounts. Your ABS team should comprise sales professionals with experience in complex, high-touch sales. In addition, they should have strong relationship-building skills, a deep understanding of your products and services, and the ability to navigate complex buying processes.

Depending on the size of your organization, your ABS team may include an ABS manager, ABS sales reps, and ABS sales development reps.

4. Assign Accounts to Sales Reps

Once you have identified your high-value accounts, it’s time to assign them to your ABS team. Each account should be assigned to a dedicated sales rep responsible for building relationships with key stakeholders, understanding their needs, and developing customized solutions.

It’s important to ensure that each sales rep has a manageable workload and can devote enough time and attention to each account.

5. Customize Your Sales Process

Account-based sales require a customized process tailored to each account’s needs. Therefore, your ABS team should work closely with each account to understand their pain points, goals, and buying process.

They should then develop a customized sales strategy that includes targeted messaging, personalized outreach, and a clear understanding of the decision-making process. Customizing your sales process can build stronger relationships with your accounts and increase the likelihood of closing deals.

6. Measure and Optimize Your Results

Finally, it’s essential to measure and optimize your results. An account-based sale is a data-driven approach that requires regular monitoring and optimization. Your ABS team should track key metrics such as account engagement, pipeline progression, and win rates.

By analyzing this data, you can identify areas for improvement and adjust your strategy. It’s essential to regularly review and adjust your ABS strategy to ensure that you are maximizing results.

What is an Account-based Sales Cycle?

An account-based sales cycle is a structured process that guides the sales team through the different stages of selling to a high-value account. Below are the different stages of the ABS cycle and provide tips for maximizing results.

Step 1: Identify and Select High-Value Accounts

The first stage of the ABS cycle is identifying and selecting the high-value accounts you want to target. This requires a deep understanding of your ideal customer profile (ICP) and the characteristics of your target accounts.

Your sales team should work closely with marketing and customer success to identify these accounts and develop a list of target accounts.

Step 2: Research and Understand the Account

Once you have identified your target accounts, the next step is to research and understand the account. This includes understanding their business objectives, pain points, decision-making process, and key stakeholders.

Your sales team should thoroughly research the account, leveraging internal and external resources, to deeply understand their needs and goals.

Step 3: Build Relationships with Key Stakeholders

The third stage of the ABS cycle is building relationships with key stakeholders at the account. This includes identifying the decision-makers and influencers, understanding their needs and goals, and building a rapport with them.

Your sales team should work closely with the account to build strong relationships and become a trusted advisor.

Step 4: Develop a Customized Sales Strategy

The fourth stage of the ABS cycle is developing a customized sales strategy for the account. This includes setting targeted messaging and content, creating a personalized outreach plan, and understanding the decision-making process.

Your sales team should work closely with the account to develop a customized sales strategy tailored to their needs and goals.

Step 5: Execute Your Sales Plan

The fifth stage of the ABS cycle is executing your sales plan. This includes contacting key stakeholders, conducting meetings and presentations, and addressing objections or concerns. Your sales team should be proactive in their outreach and follow up regularly to keep the account engaged.

Step 6: Close the Deal

The final stage of the ABS cycle is closing the deal. This includes negotiating terms and pricing, addressing any final objections, and getting buy-in from all key stakeholders. Again, your sales team should work closely with the account to close the deal smoothly and satisfy all parties involved.

Key Metrics for Account-Based Selling

Tracking and analyzing key metrics is essential to measure the success of ABS efforts. Here are the key metrics for account-based selling and provide tips for maximizing results.

1. Account Engagement

account based sales development
Sherlock

Account engagement is a crucial metric for ABS because it measures how much the account interacts with your company. This includes website visits, email opens and clicks, social media interactions, and other forms of engagement. By tracking account engagement, you can gauge the level of interest and identify which accounts are most active and engaged.

To maximize account engagement, focus on creating targeted and personalized content that speaks to the specific needs and goals of the account. Use data and insights to inform your content strategy and create compelling messaging that resonates with your target accounts.

2. Sales Cycle Length

account based sales and marketing
Propeller CRM

The sales cycle length is another critical metric for ABS because it measures how long it takes to close a deal with a target account. This metric can vary widely depending on the account and the complexity of the deal, but tracking it can provide insights into the effectiveness of your sales process.

To minimize the sales cycle length, focus on building strong relationships with key stakeholders at the account and creating a customized sales strategy that speaks to their specific needs and goals. Be proactive in your outreach and follow up regularly to keep the account engaged and moving toward a close.

3. Deal Size

account based sales strategy
Mosaic

Deal size is a metric that measures the size of the opportunity or deals with a target account. This metric can provide insights into the potential value of the account and the effectiveness of your sales process.

To increase deal size, focus on understanding the account’s needs and goals and developing a customized sales strategy that speaks to their pain points. Use data and insights to inform your pricing strategy and be flexible in your negotiations to maximize value for both parties.

4. Win Rate

account based sales development b2b
Zendesk

Win rate is a key metric that measures the percentage of opportunities that result in a closed deal. This metric can provide insights into the effectiveness of your sales process and the quality of your target accounts.

To increase the win rate, focus on building strong relationships with key stakeholders at the account and developing a customized sales strategy that speaks to their specific needs and goals. Be proactive in your outreach and follow up regularly to keep the account engaged and moving toward a close.

5. Customer Lifetime Value

account based sales tools
Flowium

Customer lifetime value is a metric that measures the total value of a customer over the lifetime of their relationship with your company. This metric can provide insights into the potential value of a target account and the effectiveness of your sales process in building lasting relationships.

To maximize customer lifetime value, focus on building strong relationships with key stakeholders at the account and delivering high-quality products and services that meet their needs and goals. Use data and insights to inform your customer retention strategy and proactively address concerns or issues.

Account-based Sales Strategy for Success

The account-based sales approach requires a customized sales strategy tailored to each account’s needs and goals. Below are the crucial elements of a successful ABS strategy.

1. Identify high-value accounts

The first step in ABS is identifying the accounts that are worth targeting. These are typically accounts that have high revenue potential or strategic importance. To identify these accounts, you can use a range of criteria, such as:

  • Revenue potential: How much revenue could you potentially generate from the account?
  • Strategic importance: Is the account strategically crucial for your business, such as a key player in your industry or a potential partner?
  • Fit: Does the account fit your ideal customer profile regarding the industry, company size, or other characteristics?
  • Pain points: Does the account have a pressing need or problem that your product or service can solve?

Once you’ve identified your high-value accounts, you can prioritize them based on their revenue potential, strategic importance, or other factors.

2. Research your accounts

The next step in ABS is to research your target accounts. This involves gathering information about the company, its industry, and the key decision-makers you’ll be dealing with. You can use a range of sources to collect this information, such as:

  • Company website
  • Social media profiles
  • Industry reports
  • News articles
  • Public filings

This research aims to understand the account’s business objectives, pain points, and decision-making process. This information will help you tailor your sales approach to the account and develop a personalized value proposition.

3. Build relationships

ABS is all about building long-term relationships with your target accounts. This involves engaging with multiple stakeholders in the account, such as decision-makers, influencers, and end-users. To build these relationships, you can use a range of tactics, such as:

  • Personalized outreach: Contact decision-makers with personalized messaging demonstrating your understanding of their business and pain points.
  • Thought leadership: Share valuable content and insights with the account to position yourself as a thought leader in their industry.
  • Networking: Attend industry events and personally engage with the account’s representatives.
  • Referrals: Use your existing network to get introductions to decision-makers in the account.

These tactics aim to establish trust and credibility with the account and position yourself as a valuable partner.

4. Develop a personalized value proposition

ABS requires a highly personalized approach to sales. This means developing a value proposition that speaks directly to the account’s unique needs and pain points. To do this, you’ll need to:

  • Understand the account’s business objectives and pain points: Use the research you conducted in step 2 to identify the account’s key pain points and business objectives.
  • Align your solution with their objectives: Tailor your value proposition to demonstrate how your product or service can help the account achieve its business objectives.
  • Provide specific examples: Use case studies and customer testimonials to demonstrate how your product or service has helped similar accounts in the past.
  • Be clear about ROI: Demonstrate the ROI of your solution and provide a clear business case for why the account should invest in your product or service.

5. Measure and iterate

Like any sales strategy, ABS requires ongoing measurement and iteration. This involves tracking key metrics, such as:

  • Number of target accounts engaged
  • Pipeline generated
  • Revenue generated
  • Customer lifetime value

By tracking these metrics, you can measure your client’s performance in the pipeline and help you quickly determine the tactics needed to close the deal and enhance customer relationships.

Account-based Sales Tools For Sales Teams

Account-based selling (ABS) is a highly targeted approach to sales that requires specialized tools and technology to identify, engage, and convert high-value accounts effectively. Here are ten account-based sales tools that can help you streamline your ABS efforts and drive growth for your business.

1. Terminus

what is account based sales

Terminus is an all-in-one account-based marketing platform that provides tools and features for identifying and engaging target accounts. It includes account-based advertising, email marketing, web personalization, and analytics capabilities, making it a comprehensive solution for ABS teams.

2. Outreach

account based sales training

Outreach is a sales engagement platform that helps sales teams manage their communication and outreach efforts with target accounts. It provides a range of features for personalized email and calls campaigns and tracking and analytics tools to measure the engagement and optimize outreach efforts.

3. Engagio

What is an Account-Based Sales Model

Engagio is an account-based marketing and sales platform that provides tools for identifying and engaging target accounts across multiple channels. It includes features for personalized content, account-based advertising, analytics, and a range of integrations with other marketing and sales tools.

4. Bombora

Differences between ABS and ABM

Bombora is a B2B intent data provider that helps sales teams identify and prioritize target accounts based on their demonstrated interest in relevant topics and products. In addition, it provides various tools for tracking and analyzing intent data and integrations with other marketing and sales tools.

5. ZoomInfo

Benefits of Account-based Sales

ZoomInfo is a B2B contact database and sales intelligence platform that provides various tools for identifying and engaging target accounts. It includes features for account-based marketing, sales prospecting, lead enrichment, and a range of integrations with other sales and marketing tools.

6. 6sense

Who Should Use Account-based Selling

6sense is an account-based marketing and sales platform that provides tools for identifying and engaging target accounts based on their intent signals and buying behaviors. It includes features for personalized content, account-based advertising, predictive analytics, and integrations with other sales and marketing tools.

7. LinkedIn Sales Navigator

How to Structure an Account-based Sales Team

LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a social selling tool that provides sales teams access to LinkedIn’s network of professionals and insights into their interests and behaviors. It includes account and leads targeting features, personalized messaging, and tracking and analytics tools.

8. DiscoverOrg

account based sales software

DiscoverOrg is a sales and marketing intelligence platform that provides data and insights on target accounts and decision-makers. It includes features for sales prospecting, lead enrichment, account-based marketing, and integrations with other sales and marketing tools.

9. LeanData

account based sales tools to use

LeanData is a lead management platform that helps sales teams manage and prioritize their leads based on account and contact data. It includes features for lead routing, lead-to-account matching, account-based reporting, and integrations with other sales and marketing tools.

Wrapping Up

Overall, account-based sales is an effective strategy for companies that sell to high-value, complex accounts with long sales cycles. The ABS cycle is a highly structured process that guides the sales team through the different stages of selling to a high-value account.

It requires a deep understanding of your ideal customer profile, a customized sales strategy, and a dedicated sales team committed to building strong relationships with key stakeholders. By focusing on these critical elements, you can optimize your ABS strategy for maximum impact, develop lasting relationships with your target accounts, and drive growth for your business.

Account-based Sales FAQs

1. What are account-based sales?

Account-based sales (ABS) is a strategy that focuses on identifying high-value target accounts and tailoring sales and marketing efforts to meet those accounts’ specific needs and interests.

2. How do you identify target accounts for account-based sales?

To identify target accounts for account-based sales, companies can use a variety of criteria, including:

  • Company size and industry
  • Revenue and growth potential
  • Geographic location
  • Buying power and decision-making authority
  • Past purchase history or demonstrated interest in your company’s products or services

3. What technologies are commonly used in account-based sales?

Some common technologies used in account-based sales include:

  • Customer relationship management (CRM) systems to track and manage customer interactions and account information
  • Marketing automation platforms to help deliver personalized content and messaging to target accounts
  • Sales engagement tools to automate and streamline sales activities like prospecting and outreach
  • Predictive analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) tools help identify high-value target accounts and optimize sales and marketing activities for maximum impact.