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Are You Really Account-Based?

As a consultant, one of my key roles is discovery: a fancy-sounding word that simply means asking questions. Sometimes client answers to important questions about their business are unintentionally vague. So I ask more questions to unpack what’s going on. One topic that frequently warrants scrutiny is the degree to which the client has implemented an account-based go-to-market strategy.

Many companies have identified the need to get more focused on their most valuable prospects and customers. They may even have assigned a leader to drive their account-based programs. But claiming to be account-based and having it be true are two different things. For most companies, the core of that difference is how well they have defined their target accounts.


Here are a few questions to ask see if your account-based GTM passes a basic “sniff test.”

1) Have we defined our Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and, critically, have we embedded the ICP within our go-to-market strategy?

The ICP is the foundation of any target account list. We don’t create ICPs to educate new hires on our target market. We create ICPs so we can make many strategic and tactical decisions in the execution of programs. The ICP drives not only the target list, but also hiring, training, media planning, offers, creative, channels, metrics, and even technology.

Need some help with your ICP? Review our Framework for ICP Development and our Best Practices in ICP Development: Qualitative Analysis.

2) Have we actually used the ICP to create the target accounts list, which will be the focus of our account-based programs?

It might seem hard to imagine an answer to this question of anything other than “yes.” But in some companies, sales creates the target account list in a vacuum and gives it to the marketing team as marching orders.

The target account list is the first point of alignment between marketing and sales that is downstream from ICP creation. The accounts on that list should reflect the firmographic, behavioral, and environmental attributes of the ICP. Once this has been done, the list can be supplemented with a reasonable number of strategic accounts, which may not strictly reflect the ICP but are nonetheless critically important to win, as defined by the sales team.

3) Have we tiered our target list based on expected value of the accounts?

Companies that focus on high-value accounts will estimate the potential account revenue (PAR) of each account. Grouping these accounts into tiers facilitates critical planning activities such as territory assignment, resource allocation, budgeting, and campaign planning.

4) Have we established accountability/ownership for each of our highest value accounts?

Each account must be assigned to a specific sales rep and sales development rep. Additional overlay resources (e.g., field marketing, executive sponsors) are commonly assigned to the highest account tiers. The lower tiers will contain unnamed accounts, which are not assigned to a specific sales rep until the account passes a designated engagement threshold. Pipeline growth within these lower tiers is typically the responsibility of a senior demand generation marketer.

5) Have we defined and implemented an account team model?

The account team model gives structure and focus to the creation and management of the target account pipeline. Rhythms include daily collaboration on campaigns/plays, weekly team dashboard reviews, monthly executive readouts, and quarterly account plan reviews. An account team of 4 Account Executives and 2 SDRs helps identify best practices within that team. A “league” of several account teams facilitates performance comparisons across those teams. Finally, grouping account teams into leagues greatly simplifies the allocation of overlay resources.

These are just a few of the questions to be asked when assessing current account-based efforts. If the answer to one or more of these questions is “no,” it’s an opportunity to refine your account-based strategy and program.

About the Author:

Tom Scearce is Senior Demand Generation Consultant for TOPO, bringing clients more than 20 years of experience developing and executing high-growth marketing and sales programs. Tom has an insatiable curiosity for the people, processes and platforms that drive world-class demand gen organizations.

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