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The Dirty Secret of Account-Based Sales

If you follow the latest trends in sales and marketing, you’ve almost certainly been reading a lot about account-based marketing, or ABM, as the cool kids call it. If you have been in B2B sales for less than a decade, ABM probably seems like a radical new approach. One that could revolutionize an entire profession.

But the dirty secret is that account-based sales is nothing new.

OK, yes, it is a new twist, but the idea has been around for decades. It’s way older than the staff here at SellingBrew (and that’s saying something).

You see, there have always been two fundamentally different approaches to sales and marketing depending on whether you are in a defined or an undefined market.

An undefined market is one where everyone and their third cousin might be able to use your product. Most consumer goods are in undefined markets. If you are selling a new kind of toothpaste or tennis shoes, you don’t really know who your prospects will be. Anyone with shoes or feet might need your product. Since that’s almost everyone, that’s an undefined market.

As a result, you need a two-pronged marketing approach. First, you need a broad marketing campaign that lets everyone know about your product. Hopefully, that will entice people who are interested to visit your website and/or a retail store, and you’ll need to follow up that broad marketing campaign with a targeted sales effort designed to convert these prospects into sales.

Some B2B products are undefined markets. For example, if you sell reams of copy paper, you are in an undefined market, and you’ll need to use the same two-step approach that B2C firms use.

However, a lot of B2B companies are in defined markets; that is, there are a limited number of very specific customers who might want to purchase your product. This might seem like a disadvantage—after all, you have fewer potential customers. But from a sales and marketing perspective, being in a defined market actually an advantage.

Why? Imagine that your company sells incubators used in hospital NICUs. There are only so many hospitals in the country with neo-natal intensive care units. You can make a list of them. It might be a long list, but it will be a comprehensive list of all your potential customers.

Once you have that list, you can skip that whole first step of doing a broad-based marketing campaign. Instead, you can go right to the targeted sales phase, honing in on your potential buyers. That saves a ton of money and makes your sales and marketing efforts more efficient.

That’s really what account-based sales is all about—going after a targeted list of potential accounts for your products and services. It’s a great idea, and we’re big fans of using it when it’s appropriate. (We just don’t want to mislead you into thinking it’s something brand new.)

If you’d like to learn more about this approach, check out our webinar on The Realities of Account-Based Marketing and Sales. You can also take a deeper dive into how to develop that list of accounts you want to go after with How to Identify & Target Your Best Prospects and Recognizing Seven Deadly Targeting Mistakes.

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