Leveraging Channel Partners To Increase Account-based Everything’s Impact

Published: October 28, 2016

Scott Salkin headshot AllboundB2B sales and marketing trends (and the buzzwords that fuel them) seem to come and go as quickly as the latest internet meme these days. Many end-up riding endless waves, falling and rising in popularity as mediums change, attention spans get shorter, and marketing and sales teams shrink and expand.

One trend that has resurfaced, thanks in part to the accompanying technology that supports it, is Account Based Marketing (ABM). ABM’s rapid gain in momentum, particularly in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud space, has marketing executives funneling major dollars into the strategies, campaigns and toolsets to support it. Why?

Well, in short, it’s working for many companies — especially those focused on selling to the Fortune 5000. In fact, research firm ITSMA reports that ABM alone delivers the highest ROI of any B2B marketing strategy or tactic.

But as TOPO CEO Scott Albro points out, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. He noted, of the organizations implementing ABM strategies, most are only touching 13% of their targeted accounts on average. As a result, we’ve seen an even broader concept come into play: Account Based Everything (ABE), a term made popular by Albro and Engagio CEO Jon Miller, who co-founded Marketo.

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As Engagio describes it, ABE is “a strategic go-to-market approach that orchestrates personalized marketing, sales, and success efforts to land and expand at named accounts.” Makes sense, right? Why wouldn’t it work? After all, named accounts are nothing new. So aligning sales, marketing, and customer success teams in lock step to increase customer acquisition and retention should be a no-brainer for a business, no matter size or industry. But it isn’t easy or cheap. Which begs the question: How can you take the undeniable potential of ABE and truly scale it efficiently? The answer: Account Based Partnering.

Applying ABE To The Partner Channel

According to Kissmetrics, 96% of companies utilizing ABE are doing so only via their direct or inside sales teams. What would happen if organizations turned their ABE strategies on in indirect sales channels? Would ‘Account Based Partnering’ (ABP) blow Account Based Everything’s ROI through the roof just based on economies of scale? How could it not?

Imagine taking the fundamental tactics of ABE and templating them for a select group of strategically aligned channel partners who could not only multiply your reach, but also accelerate your sales cycle by utilizing your partner’s existing relationships with prospects and customers – for a fraction of the cost. What would an ABP strategy look like?

First, it requires a departure from the traditional or legacy channel program to a connected selling approach. It’s about true collaboration and empowering partners from pre-sales through customer success.

Building an ABP strategy that can help you supercharge sales while keeping customer acquisition costs down can be achieved with these steps:

Target high-value partners. Just as with ABE in which you determine your ideal customer profile (ICP), do the same for potential partners. Use this profile to identify partners that would provide long-term value. Tap any existing data to help pinpoint which partners are an ideal fit.

Plan and enable. Once you’ve built your internal or direct sales ABE strategy, the next step is to onboard partners. A successful onboard should include:

  • Initial training;
  • Access to on-demand playbooks;
  • Integrating partners into your preferred CRM, data and automation systems and tools; and
  • Ongoing training with webinars, calls or one-on-ones.

Research and build data loops. Quality data is key to an effective ABE strategy. Prior to rolling out your ABE strategy among partners, build data and feedback loops at the customer and partner level. This enables you to map content to the customer journey, gain insights into accounts on lead progress, and pinpoint the marketing content and sales tools your partners need to provide value.

Empower partners with high-value content. Build a content hub with high-value, account-relevant messaging, content, campaigns, and co-brandable marketing materials (webinars, emails, blog posts, social posts, etc.). The data you’re collecting will prove essential to the content you need to create and disseminate among partners.

Execute strategic plays. Playbooks are a critical component of ABE, providing partners with strategic “plays” that further align messaging and content to buyer personas and stages in the sales cycle. They can also be customizable campaigns for the marketing team to easily execute (or for you to execute on their behalf), as well as themes, stories and talking points for front-line sales teams to quickly access.

Collaborate on progress.  Just because your partners aren’t sitting in your office or taking part in your weekly meeting doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be collaborating with them regularly like they’re part of your team. Over the last few years, collaboration platforms like Slack and Asana have changed the paradigm for working together, especially for companies with remote teammates, which is exactly how you should think of your sales and marketing partners. 

Nurture the pipeline. How often a partner should be touching a prospect will be dependent on their relationship, the stage of the buyer, and the progression of the deal. Creating a turnkey nurture template for partners will help decrease the sales cycle and increase sales.

Scale and ensure customer success. Equip partners with the tools and playbooks to ensure customer success, and land and expand once they’ve closed the loop on a prospect. Once you’ve created a well-oiled ABE channel partner machine, you can focus on scaling your indirect sales channel. Maybe that means seeking larger partners or following that same “land and expand” approach within your partner strategy.

Report. Measuring your ABE activities, reporting on results and optimizing your engagements with each individual partner organization, their sales reps and your shared customers should be a top priority from the very beginning. Having a partner-centric analytics system to aggregate data from across your ABE stack into meaningful dashboards and reports is the Holy Grail to long-term ABP success.

Repeat and Scale. Affordable scalability is the number one driver for channel partners that have played such a critical role in traditional IT hardware and software sales. And it’s no different for SaaS. With an effective ABE plan in place, a solid strategy to identify and recruit the right partners, and the right platform to help get you there, you’re well on your way to leveraging Account-based Partnering to push your Account-based Everything ROI through the roof.

Scott Salkin is the Founder and CEO of Allbound. He has spent his entire 15-year career in technology sales and marketing, and experience consulting hundreds of industry executives as a sales representative, product marketer, public speaker and consultant. 

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