Today’s post is by Barbara Weaver Smith, founder and CEO of The Whale Hunters, where she teaches B2B companies how to grow fast by doing business with much bigger customers. Barbara is co-author of Whale Hunting: How to Land Big Sales and Transform Your Company and author of Whale Hunting with Global Accounts.
Recently, Jon Miller of Engagio discussed account-based sales development (ABSD) as the new sales development model. He stated that ABSD “targets the entire buying team as a team, not as isolated individuals. It’s built on relevance and value for each individual on the team.”
I applaud Jon’s work and recommend it. But I challenge you to think: When does your “account” become a “market”? When sales and marketing collaborate to reach a buying team, that’s a wonderful start for a deal – especially an enterprise software deal. But even a big, big deal doesn’t begin to approach the complexity of an enterprise account.
Let’s look at a few “accounts” my SMB clients (B2B companies with $10 million to $200 million annual revenue) have landed. The pharma manufacturer Novartis, #175 on the Fortune Global 500, holds a corporate family of 457 companies. Three major business units have separate names – Novartis, Sandoz, and Alcon – although, recently, they’ve instituted centralized purchasing and construction and moved product lines between companies. A company selling to Novartis would be misinformed if their team is doing account-based sales on a deal with Alcon, unaware of product line reassignments.
How about Procter & Gamble, #34 on the 2016 Fortune 1000, whose corporate footprint includes 1,076 companies – that’s discrete companies, not retail outlets. P&G has five separate market segments for their branded consumer goods, and they manufacture at 129 facilities in 29 states and 40 countries. Whether you sell tools or training, cubicles or signs, digital marketing or security services, Procter & Gamble is more like a market than an account.
One more – Kroger, a big grocery chain, right? Wrong! Kroger, #17 on the Fortune 1000, includes 9,427 companies in its family – that includes 2,778 grocery retail stores, 784 convenience stores, and 323 fine jewelry stores. They carry more than 1,400 private labels under more than 25 different store names, including fuel centers, supermarkets, warehouse stores, marketplace stores, and multi-department stores. They operate 38 food production plants. Do you sell construction services, refrigeration, logistics, online collaboration tools, point-of-purchase displays, engineering validation, or consulting? If so, treat Kroger like a market, not a deal or even an account.
Even Briggs & Stratton, the smallest company on the Fortune 1000 list, includes 76 companies, many international.
Here’s my advice if you want to do big, healthy, lifetime business with enterprise customers:
- Take them out of your normal lead generation flow. They are whales that require special treatment.
- Determine which enterprise companies could be good customers for you. Then, invest in deep research to fully understand their footprint, their businesses, their problems and opportunities, their strategic initiatives, and their key people.
- Engage sales, marketing, and your leadership team to build a complete marketing strategy before you approach them.
- Approach only one or two such companies at a time, so you can invest in proper resources to grow the market assertively.
- Focus on their strategic business outcomes, not on your products.
Account-based selling may get you started, but – for lifetime customer value – treat an enterprise account like a new market.