5 Ways to Bring Sales and Marketing Together for Greater Accuracy
The rich, multi-touch approach that leads to success in account based sales (ABS) isn't created in an instant — but the time and effort you invest in coordinating across every channel of your sales network really pays off. With that in mind, here's a look at five ways to make accurate forecasts as you adopt or fine-tune your ABS sales funnels, informed by insights shared at the SalesHacker 2018 Revenue Summit by Jaimie Buss, Vice President of Sales in the Americas for Zendesk, and Ran Xiao, Director of Sales and Customer Operations for Zendesk.
1. Data Drives the Bus
Gut feeling is a huge part of what drives the big picture in sales. But you need data to drive accurate forecasts, too. This is where the ABS approach pays off, because every department can inform the benchmarks you use to mark a client's progress through the sales funnel.
Does this client historically minimize buying in Q1 but spend like crazy in Q4? Is there a new industry trend on the horizon? Who actually has the power to okay the sale on the client end of things? When you bring all of this information together, both internal and external, it creates a clear, quantifiable path toward closing the sale.
2. Create a Road Map
Great, now you're swimming in sales data. But in order to make those numbers useful in a forecast, you need a way to interpret them and how they drive your progress toward a sale. Consider the MEDIC/MEDDIC/MEDPICC sales methodology. Here's one way of breaking out the criteria:
M = metrics. The quantifiable, bottom-line economic impact that makes a customer want to move forward with you.
E = economic buyer. This is the person who can actually approve the use of funds for your services.
D = decision process and criteria. Know the client's formal criteria and process for approving a new vendor. Who are the stakeholders and influencers? When do they typically decide and when do they buy? What about your internal process?
I = identified pain points. What drives the prospect to change? Is there an industry event coming up or a pain point directly affecting the company now? If there's no clear pain point, show the client the cost of doing nothing.
C = champion. Have you identified and established a relationship with the decision maker in the company — or with an influencer with access to the decision maker? A champion is the person who delivers your message, opens doors, and ultimately sells on your behalf inside the account.
Every company has their own version of this; for example, some break the decision process and criteria into separate points, while others add an extra "C" for knowing the competition. No matter how you break out each element, the idea is to have a clearly defined, quantifiable road map that you can slot your data and customer relationships into, making it easy to measure your progress toward each sale.
3. Don't Be Afraid to Triangulate
The above example takes in the big picture — but don't be afraid to create multiple forecasts based on each department's angle. Consider industry trends, pacing and leading indicators, the prospect's history of purchases and decision-making, and external factors like business seasonality, competitors' marketing, and product launches. More likely than not, forecasts built on all of these factors will overlap and illuminate the sweet spot for your own projections.
4. Identify Call and Response
It can be tempting to base your projections on internal activity, like how many benchmarks you met last quarter or how many criteria a sales rep has met with a given prospect. While this is valuable information, your forecasts will be more accurate if you ideate these transactions as a call and response. For example the sales rep puts out the email, but it's the prospect's response and acceptance of a discovery call that actually drives the sale to the next step. Measuring sales based on the client's progress through the funnel instead of your own not only keeps the focus right where it needs to be — on the prospect's pain points — but also gives you a more accurate way of gauging your forecasts.
5. Build a Culture of Communication
For an ABS approach to work, every department has to buy in and communicate, creating a sales pipeline that's smoother and easier to predict. You can build that stability into your sales — and your forecasts — by building a solid culture of communication straight from the start, training each department to communicate so that sales reps know when a big marketing push is coming, when a product or service is going to be redesigned, and so on. When all three legs of the stool are invested and aligned, it'll be much easier to predict and capitalize on the downstream effects.