Jacqueline DooleyJune 24, 2020

Enterprise sales: tips & tricks for hunting whales

The enterprise application market is projected to be worth an estimated US$259 billion by 2022 but pursuing and closing large B2B deals is not for the faint of heart.

The B2B buying journey is a long one. A 2019 study by CSO Insights found that B2B sales to new customers take at least 4 months to close, with nearly half of respondents indicating it takes much longer (about 7 months).

The complexity of B2B SaaS solutions combined with a lengthy sales pipeline, strains sales teams both from a resource and time perspective. In addition to ongoing outreach and follow-up, sales reps often sift through large volumes of unqualified leads to ensure there are enough viable leads in their pipeline to make quotas and meet their company’s revenue and sales goals.

In another post, we touched on why the old lead-based approach to generating revenue is inefficient compared with a growth-based approach that focuses on bottom-line metrics like revenue generation, average revenue per user, business growth over time, and account retention/growth. In this post, we’ll provide some concrete tips for how B2B sales teams can use this growth approach as a foundation for hunting (and capturing) whales.

The strength of an account-based marketing approach

Ocean.io’s platform was created to support an account-based marketing (ABM) approach to B2B sales. Our tool relies on our clients’ CRM data which forms the foundation of what we call Growth Intelligence, the process of analyzing which segments are most and least successful in your sales and marketing funnels (regardless of where they entered the funnel) and creating a strategy that supports these insights.

ABM’s strength lies with the knowledge your sales team already has based on their experience with accounts they’ve worked with in the past. The most important information your business has is contained within your CRM system — data that can help you identify industry segments which enables you to identify the inbound and outbound leads that are most likely to close.

ABM flips the traditional B2B funnel, starting out by identifying one or two key segments or businesses, and expanding your marketing and sales efforts within tightly defined segment parameters.

Marketing with an account-based approach is all about hunting whales, because it forces you to identify, and focus on, the most viable industry segments, spending time on leads from within only those segments that are likely to net the biggest return.

Save time by choosing the right accounts to target

An account-based approach is a time-saving approach. It helps eliminate the sales team’s time spent sifting through large quantities of junk leads. Instead, sales can now pursue accounts that are much more likely to close.

Here are some tips on how you can get started with this approach.

Qualify the right accounts: Begin the process of account qualification by using a combination of the data within your CRM and feedback from your sales team to identify your ideal customer segments. Here are a few parameters to consider when identifying segments:

  • Deal size

  • Average time to close

  • Industry tag/category

  • Company size

  • Country/Geographical location

Proactive outreach: Once you’ve identified a list of companies within your target segment (or segments), you can focus on getting your foot in the door at different levels within a given company. Think of this as cold calling 2.0. Yes, you’re reaching out to a prospect who may not already know you, but you’re doing so only after you’ve identified them as someone highly likely to be in-market for your specific B2B solution.

Pro tip: An account-based approach to B2B marketing is proactive versus reactive. The approach focuses on identifying companies and prospects that are the most likely to be interested in your solution and reaching out to these accounts accordingly. This approach leverages both inbound and outbound leads, effectively enabling your sales team to spend time on only those leads that are highly likely to convert.

Aligning sales and marketing: All successful whale hunting expeditions rely on a strong team of people working together to locate, reach out to, and capture the best whales. Your whale hunters extend beyond your sales team to include marketing (and, really, anyone who touches your customers and prospects). Aligning sales and marketing is so critical to developing a successful account-based approach, that it warrants a bit more scrutiny.

The importance of aligning sales and marketing

Sales and marketing teams have inherently different worldviews. Sales is all about immediacy, reaching out to leads, and closing the deal while the deal’s hot.

Marketing traditionally has a longer, more strategic view of company growth. We tend to associate marketing with terms like “strategy” and “planning” (versus “growth” and “revenue” for sales.)

An ABM approach combines these two philosophies. Now, marketing must think as much about closing deals and sales must think about planning and strategy. For both teams, the goal is the same – to grow their company. Each team has strengths specific to their given discipline. Together, they form a powerful alliance in the successful pursuit of the ever-elusive whale.

When marketing and sales are aligned, the right segments can be targeted with paid ads, content marketing, and other media. To this end, the feedback from the sales team is a valuable starting point for creating an account-based marketing plan that includes customized, personalized messaging aimed at specific industries and customer segments.

The marketing serves to generate leads and help prime the pump, alerting in-market buyers about your technology solution so that they’re more receptive to sales outreach.

Get ready to hunt whales

Enterprise sales presents unique challenges for B2B marketing and sales teams who must contend with an overly crowded marketplace, complex (and long) sales pipelines, and the added uncertainty of a post-Covid-19 world. Hunting (and landing) whales can seem like an elusive, uphill battle, even for the most seasoned sales professional.

However, applying an account-based approach that focuses on choosing the right segments, aligns sales and marketing, and includes proactive outreach to the most viable accounts can help you land your whale (and grow your company).

Contact us to learn more about how Ocean.io uses your existing CRM data to enable an account-based marketing approach.

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