SalesLoft: Account Based Sales Development

A few months ago, I had not heard the term “Account Based Sales Development,” but it seems to have been rapidly adopted by several companies focused on tools for teams of sales development reps.  The term is an extension of the Account Based Marketing (ABM) methodology into the middle of the funnel.  Logically, the targeted focus of ABM programs, combined with predictive lead scoring, should be supported after opportunities are marketing qualified.  Thus, was born ABSD.

Traditional marketing is  volume based.  How many opportunities can we warm up?  How many are marketing qualified and forwarded onto sales?  But a volume approach lacks personalization.  It uses blast emails in a “spray and pray” approach to hit numerical targets.  The problem with this approach is that non-personalized emails are generally ignored.  While the approach might uncover a few more leads, it does so at the risk of tarnishing B2B brands, hurting email sender scores, and pushing low-yield opportunities down to your sales team (for them to ignore).

One of the most prominent advocates of ABSD is SalesLoft which built its Cadence product in support of ABSD:

SalesLoft defines Account-Based Sales Development (ABSD) as “a sales development approach in which prospective customer accounts are treated as markets of one, reached through hyper-personalized, targeted campaigns.” “Markets of one?” Sounds like a lot of effort for one prospective account. But it makes sense, considering the great shift in buying habits that’s been happening since the advent of the Internet. In order to become successful with ABSD, you need to deliver sincerity and personalization at scale. It’s a significant change in the way marketing supports sales, how sales supports the business and management’s expectations of activity and results from the revenue team.

Sincerity at scale sounds like an oxymoron, but the Cadence platform is designed for custom campaigns managed by the sales reps.  Thus, marketing can setup and tune the messaging and campaign steps, but sales reps may adjust prospect messaging during the campaign.  Hence “sincerity at scale.”

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SalesLoft Cadence allows marketing to define campaigns which are managed by sales reps.

“While ABM’s best delivery tools are tools and technology platforms for content, ads and emails, the sales development rep (SDR) is the key in ABSD,” noted SalesLoft in an e-book.  “Sure, the SDR might have tools to help them do their job. But without personalized, sincere and professional communication, it doesn’t matter how good an SDR’s work ethic might be. They’ll fail in ABSD.”

To assist with personalization, SalesLoft launched its Sales Development Cloud earlier this month.  The partner hub provides company and contact content sets from DiscoverOrg, InsideView, Owler, RingLead, and Datanyze.  Other vendors provide advice on tone (Crystal personality profiles), customized email signatures (Sigstr), and conversational highlights (ExecVision).

One method for accomplishing such sincerity is switching the SDR focus from a single lead to an account.  This process reorientation allows the rep to leverage her research across many prospective buyers and influencers at an account instead of working a single opportunity thread.  Matt Amundson, the Senior Director of Sales Development at Everstring, described this shift on LinkedIn:

Account-Based Sales Development (ABSD) employs a similar strategy to hyper-personalization. The SDR still does high-level research on an organization, referencing an organization’s content released in blogs, social channels, and press releases.  The delta here is utilizing the same research across multiple prospects throughout an organization, instead of just one.  That means the same 20 minutes of research is infinitely more valuable and far more scalable.  A SDR focuses on the entire account by multi-threading, instead of just reaching out to a single lead.

For several years, ABM was an idea pushed by DemandBase at the very top of the funnel to identify anonymous individuals at targeted companies for programmatic campaigns.  The idea gained more traction as predictive analytics firms began to discuss ABM as part of their ideal profiles and scoring tools.  For them, ABM was a descriptor of the process of cherry picking the best opportunities within your funnel and finding net-new similar leads.  Thus, ABM became a method for strategic account targeting by the marketing department.  With ABSD, this focus on the best opportunities with targeted messaging has now worked its way to the middle of the funnel.

SalesLoft is not the only sales acceleration vendor discussing ABSD.  The term is also being propagated by QuotaFactory and KiteDesk.

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