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Gabe Larsen

Gabe Larsen

At a high-growth tech company, the sales development leader told me, “We’re going all in on account-based sales. We’ve gotten rid of our inbound sales development team and we’re moving completely to named accounts.”

I was perfectly fine with that, but I wanted to know why they had decided to change their sales strategy. So I asked, “What made you want to move in this direction?”

This question was met with an awkward silence … a few industry buzzwords … and a brief mention of personalization.

I left the room thinking, “I don’t think this guy has a clue as to why he’s doing this.”

Oddly, the same experience resurfaced two weeks later with an SVP of sales.

“Gabe, I’ve only been here a year, but we’ve decided to focus on an account-based approach.”

I smiled. “That’s great. What made you decide to make the change?”

Again, there was an awkward silence … a few industry buzzwords … and some random reference to research by a well-known company on the importance of account-based sales.

I left that meeting wondering, “Are companies really thinking through this or are they being distracted by the latest shiny object?”

I came back to the InsideSales.com Labs and started to examine the data. I began to ask customers and industry experts where they thought an account-based approach made sense and where it didn’t.

I’d like to share a quick summary of what I’ve learned.

Who should use account-based sales?

Just because it’s a buzzword doesn’t mean it’s right for everybody. It also doesn’t mean a company can’t run a targeted account-based model and a high-velocity model in the same business.

When evaluating if the account-based approach is appropriate, here are five criteria to consider:

1. Decision makers: 4

CEB research indicates the average B2B buying group includes 5.4 individuals. My experience says that number is more like four, but I’m not going to fight it. If you are dealing with four or more decision makers to close a sale, your model most likely requires an account-based approach. It’s important to realize a high-velocity approach also has multiple decision makers. Very rarely in a B2B environment do you have one decision maker. In a high-velocity model, you’ll typically see two or three decision makers. In an account-based model, you’ll have four or more.

2. Deal size: $50,000

Trish Bertuzzi, from The Bridge Group, says if you’re selling a strategic product and/or your average deal size exceeds $50,000, you should consider an account-based initiative. I believe Trish is right and $50,000 is a good rule of thumb.

3. Sales cycle: 90 days

Sales cycle and deal size often go hand in hand. If your sales cycle is complicated enough that it typically lasts more than 90 days, you’re a prime candidate for an account-based approach.

4. Segment: 100 employees

Every company segments their sales team differently, but employee count is a fairly standard approach. If you focus on companies with more than 100 employees, it’s worth your time to consider an account-based strategy.  

5. Customer preference

Anneke Seley, from Reality Works, passed on this advice and it really resonated with me: When all’s said and done, how does your ideal customer like to be treated?

If there are multiple decision makers to educate, they like taking their time to make decisions, and they expect a certain experience, then meet them where they are.

Putting it all together

You don’t need to rush to adopt an account-based strategy simply because everyone else is. Using the five criteria in the chart below, you can take a more proactive approach and ensure you’re following a sales strategy that fits your business.

Account Based Sales Criteria

Sales Cadence Templates