Lead generation and lead management both play equally important roles in fueling the revenue engine for your business. Where lead generation creates interest among your target audiences, lead management tracks, manages, and engages these leads to qualify them for sales.
However, the rules of B2B marketing are changing. According to Demand Gen Report's 2020 ABM Benchmark Survey, 98% of respondents are currently using or plan to use account-based marketing (ABM) strategies. Brands are embracing ABM strategies, which revolve around engaging the right buyers, not just generating thousands of unqualified leads. It brings together the right people in your organization to develop coordinated strategies for engaging, converting, and expanding target accounts.
Prioritizing lead quality over quantity requires a sophisticated, data-driven approach to lead management. According to Forrester SiriusDecisions, there are three ways organizations can think about this.
Effective lead management improves alignment between marketing and sales to better identify and prioritize high-quality leads for sales outreach. This means focusing on key accounts with a high intent to buy.
However, few organizations have a solid process to successfully prioritize and identify those accounts, impacting the organization’s ability to reach and exceed revenue targets. Fewer still have a method for curating a highly targeted and personalized offer, even once the best accounts are identified.
Let's take a closer look at six core best practices that contribute to account-based marketing success.
This has been a popular narrative in the B2B marketing world as organizations work to create more seamless customer experiences across all channels. Every buyer journey is unique. Some may never interact with sales, while others expect a high-touch, consultative experience. It’s up to sales and marketing to have unified goals and follow a cohesive brand story and approach to buyer engagement. Therefore, any combination of sales and marketing can be ready to assist buyers wherever they are in the decision-making process.
Defining shared goals may seem like more of a marketing responsibility, but the evolution of sales operations also makes that group a key contributor to this process. According to Steve Silver, vice president and research director for sales operations at Forrester, sales operations has evolved from a largely tactical function to a more integrated one that now informs and enables sales strategy and aligns with other components of the revenue engine to support growth objectives.
Leverage the expertise of your sales operations team, and combine insights from both sales and marketing right from the start. Don’t plan in disconnected siloes; plan together so both organizations are working toward a common set of goals centered on the buyer.
Identifying and prioritizing the right accounts requires robust, connected data. Company data, including location, industry, and revenue, plus online signals such as new acquisitions, hires, and funding rounds, can help you select accounts that are most likely to buy—even when it may not seem obvious to your sales operations or demand generation team.
Such data should be unified across your marketing automation and CRM environments, so both sales and marketing have a comprehensive view of the accounts. Marketing can leverage these insights to fuel marketing campaigns, while sales can use data to guide account and territory planning. Your ABM approach (one-to-one, one-to-few, and one-to-many) will dictate how many accounts you need to select.
Typically, sales and marketing have an established lead scoring method, aligning certain behaviors and actions to a numerical value. When leads and accounts reach a specific threshold, they’re officially qualified and handed off to sales. Both marketing and sales should contribute to the lead scoring methodology, accounting for the number of contacts within an account that engage with your brand.
These metrics can help marketing and sales understand which accounts may have a higher propensity to buy. For marketing, this helps guide lead assignment. For sales, this helps reps prioritize the leads in their queue and determine where to focus their time and energy. When it’s time to engage, sales can pull from a wealth of account information and smart talking points to guide their conversations with these target accounts.
When talking to prospects, sales reps can have deeper conversations focused on the unique organizational situation they're facing. These conversations can include more emotional insights that often funnel up to larger, account-wide issues such as the organization's broader business strategy. Plus, marketing can relay important engagement metrics, like how an account has interacted with campaigns and messages, to help sales conduct conversations that will resonate.
All of these insights transform the selling process from transactional to consultative, helping forge stronger customer relationships. Using artificial intelligence (AI), the lead management system can proactively guide salespeople on how to engage a contact, or automatically alert salespeople about leads that are at risk of stalling so they can re-engage.
One common approach is for marketing to manage campaign planning and execution, creating logical segments and offers for the campaigns while sales negotiates and closes the contract once a customer has expressed interest.
But rather than view these as two distinct engagements, marketing and sales can work together to deliver the personalized offers most likely to resonate with key accounts, helping customers make decisions faster. Lead management systems can curate and deliver offers for recommended products and services, optimally priced (with help from AI) and ready for the prospect to sign. This creates a single, coordinated, hassle-free buying process.
ABM isn’t just a one-off tactic. It’s an ongoing strategy that should influence the way your entire organization engages with accounts and buyers. That's why access to real-time insights is critical to ongoing success.
Data related to campaign reach and impact, sales engagement, and results will help you gauge the impact of your ABM efforts and identify opportunities to cross-sell and up-sell within certain accounts.
In the Experience Economy, it's crucial that marketing and sales collaborate more closely to deliver on their brand’s promise and exceed buyer expectations at every touchpoint. Stop thinking simply in terms of lead handoff, and create new ways to collaborate to meet each and every buyer at their point of need.
Oracle is dedicated to helping sales and marketing professionals thrive in this era, and that’s why the company received the highest score across two categories in Gartner's Critical Capabilities for CRM Lead Management Report. Oracle offers strong lead workflow and nurturing capabilities and the ability to monitor real-time event streams that enable real-time marketing. And in the age of ABM, those insights are critical to driving client relationships and generating long-term value for the organization.
Download Gartner's Critical Capabilities for CRM Lead Management Report. You can also contact us to learn more about how the Oracle Advertising and CX suite of products can help you reach your sales and revenue goals with engaging, connected customer experiences.
Originally published 2019, updated April 2021.
Kayleigh Halko is a Principal Product Manager at Oracle.