Challenge: With Sales Increasingly Adopting Account Based Sales, How Do Marketing Systems Support the Effort?
I recently asked a simple question on LinkedIn:
Anyone know of an organization that has eliminated Lead management in Salesforce.com and moved to prospecting solely using Contacts/Accounts? Love to chat with them about their experience.
I was quite surprised to see a resulting 23 comments and over 10K views. Clearly this struck a nerve. Full disclosure: I am currently working with a client to migrate the management of prospects as Contacts rather than Leads.
In most B2B environments, sales reps have long thought about their efforts on an account basis. In fact, this recognition has driven the rise of Account Based Marketing to better support their efforts. Even when selling solutions with smaller ASPs (lets say ~$5-10K annually), reps map out their target account with key target personas. Further they use an array of modern account prospecting tools brought in by Sales Operations to support their outbound activities – tools like Tout, Yesware, Outreach.io, LeadSpace and LinkedIn Sales Navigator, to name just a few. This complexity combined with the marketing team’s involvement in attempting to manage the customer journey at the Account level caused me to rethink CRM structure.
Certainly there is a data sync between CRM and these sales outreach tools, but it is far from perfect in creating a complete view of a given account. As new Leads enter CRM from a variety of sources, how does a rep maintain that complete view of their target prospect or customer? As more tools are added, reps find it increasingly challenging to view Account details – such as people, relationship, and activity – in both CRM and prospecting tools. Just a few short years ago, CRM was the central database as well as the destination for prospecting. That is no longer the case.
Back in the day, marketers used the CRM Lead object for qualification and nurturing until they were ‘sales ready.’ Best practices were for marketers to nurture Leads with content relevant to their sales stage (still a great guiding principle). However, because there is a visibility and reporting gulf between the Lead and Contact objects, this makes rep outbound efforts much more challenging. There are some newer solutions to help both Marketing and Sales ‘see’ an Account view of all Leads and Contacts like Engagio, LeanData and ZenIQ. Mapping or matching Leads to Accounts is nice – IF the reps lived in SFDC – but as noted above, this is becoming less common with new prospecting tools.
With a more complex martech infrastructure and with reps ‘living’ in systems other than the primary CRM, how can Marketing best support these efforts with CRM structure?
I now believe that most sales organizations with heavy outbound prospecting in third party tools would benefit by managing Leads as Contacts. Both marketing and sales teams will enjoy improved Account visibility. Making an effort to map key personas within the account, to convert matched Leads to these Accounts and to update the Account information will prepare marketing to best support sales in their outreach efforts. However, making this move requires a close look at several things, including: lead to account matching, Lead/Contact enrichment, management of Leads that don’t match to Accounts, Account statuses and progression, funnel stages for both Leads and Contacts, MQL processes, Lead/Contact scoring and Lead Development Rep process to submit opportunities — to name a few. As we progress through the customer journey, there will likely be other benefits like improved Contact and Account scoring, better Opportunity management, improved customer lifecycle marketing, etc.
I believe the modern marketing and sales tech stack has matured to a point where managing prospecting efforts in a more structured, account-based way will make sense for many more organizations today, even with lower ASPs. There are certainly many details to consider because this represents a fundamental shift and will require a new set of best practices that will be different for each organization. Additionally, for companies migrating a mature CRM instance, it will take careful thought and deployment.
Lesson: Marketing can better support sales and the account buying journey with an Accounted-based process for managing Leads as Contacts – and this may fit many B2B sales organizations.