Caveman style ABM is pissing off everyone’s best prospects


I don’t want to hear about spear-fishing ever again.

I’m Charlie, the head of ABM at Velocity. And I have a bone to pick with tired ABM metaphors.

Good ABM isn’t about hunting targets and herding them into a funnel. Those strong-arm tactics may deliver a few metrics but they’re not how you win revenue. All the power is in buyers’ hands and they’ll come to you when they’re good and ready.

Which leads us (excuse the pun) to what ABM should do, which is apply modern tools and processes to an old strategy: find your friends and nurture those relationships. Do this and selling will be easier, because it’s win-win.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? But in practice, ABM tends to fall short of this promise. Here’s why.

The missing ABM element

In its early days, we thought about ABM in terms of targeting: using big data and automation tools to home in on top prospects. But it wasn’t enough to deliver the ROI we all expected.

So what was missing?

Partly, it’s about missing the real ICP. Data is only the starting point, but quite often it’s flawed. And without real insight into your customers, targeting tends to end up looking like demographics: company size, role, etc. What it doesn’t do is find the personality type most B2B sales need: someone who can be galvanized to shake off their inertia and buy your shit.

This plays into the vicious sales-marketing-at-loggerheads cycle. Because when your targeting isn’t quite right, then your leads aren’t right. And we all know what happens when sales gets fed dud leads: they roll their eyes and neglect even the leads worth pursuing.

To make matters worse, when they do talk to people, they trot out the same tired sales pitch they’re comfortable with. Not that one relevant to the campaign that piqued the prospect’s interest in the first place.

And that’s a major problem. Because Marketing and Sales remain irritatingly, intractably, impossibly siloed. (In your head, you’re now hearing Angela Lansbury sing “Tale as old as time” … well, you are now).

It’s too bad, because when Marketing and Sales work together and are guided by a well-designed strategy, everything falls into place. I’ve seen it happen.

ABM is a long game

ABM’s timeline is long, and it takes lockstep strategy to keep it all together. While marketing is building credibility as an insights provider and generating content, sales needs to be out establishing personal relationships with key targets and securing meetings and speaker slots.

It’s not easy to point a sales and marketing coalition in the same direction — and keeping it that way for 15 months is much harder. So having a clear end goal to anchor all the work is critical.

And yes, ABM is hard work. But coordinating long sales and marketing motions pays off a lot better than sellers relying on hunches, networking and brute-force door-knocking while marketing does a bunch of stuff we hope helps.

That way leads to a whole lot of inefficiency — and wasted opportunities.

But meh ABM is probably worse.

Quite often, the issue is timing. If it’s not a good time for your ICP to hear from you, you’re not going to force them to listen. And one of the cool things about ABM right now is there are a lot of ways to pick up on signals about when it is the right time.

But sometimes, ABM just loses momentum. There’s no feedback loop from Sales to adjust your nurture, you don’t know that a prospect has already talked to someone in your org, and that they need something different now.

And partly, it’s about creative: because the best-laid strategies can be brought down by dull, unoriginal or off-the-mark creative. ABM is about getting personal — and that requires having a personality.

Stuff is changing in ABM. Let’s talk about it.

ABM pros have recognized we can’t strong-arm prospects into our funnels. We have richer data — and more conversations with Sales — to figure out who the natural fits are, when it’s the right time to talk to them, and what to say.

And we have better ways to test our hypotheses and adjust as we go.

So stick with me for the next blogs while I spill the tea (or beans, if you’re Stateside Gen X). And chat me up on LinkedIn, I’d love to bend your ear about ABM. It’s not the kind of topic I get real far with at dinner parties.

I have a lot to share about ABM. Stay tuned for more…



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