During a recent B2B MX Summit on Next Level ABM Strategies, Kristina Jaramillo (President of Personal ABM) recently showcase the challenges an ITSM firm faced with their ABM program and how they overcame it. You can watch the video case study below on their ABM wins or scroll down for the written ABM case study.
Here’s the Written Case Study:
During an ABM Done Right Podcast, Cassandra Jowett (PathFactory’s Senior Director of Marketing) mentioned that she likes to compare the buyer’s journey to the “floor is lava” game that kids play. You have all these jumping points to get buyers to the safe harbor, and you want to make sure they don’t fall into the lava halfway through their journey. You want buyers to jump from one rock to the next one and so on, and you want to lay out the path to revenue in a very clear way.
The problem is….Most GTM teams do not lay out the path. They focus on getting accounts into the pipeline and put little attention to the fundamentals of revenue: sales velocity, stage progression, sales cycle time, deal sizes, win rates, retention, and expansion. They do not focus on accelerating accounts to revenue. Sumerian, a UK-based ITSM firm is an example of a company that was leading its buyers hanging halfway through their journey.
A UK ITSM Firm Was Failing to Create a Path to Revenue
Leadership at the UK ITSM Analytics SaaS firm had the vision of creating a new category, “Capacity Planning as a Service (CPaaS),” and becoming an international player like VMWare. But, as 451 Research indicated in their report, the ITSM firm would have to break out of its finance niche category. They needed to create demand for a new product in a new category in new markets. So, they brought in a PR firm to drive greater awareness for the new category. They invested in intent data platforms like 6sense and Demandbase for their ABM tech. The firm drove awareness and pipeline growth, but there was limited-stage progression and revenue improvement.
There Was No Change Management & the ITSM Firm Lacked an ABM Strategy and an Account Plan
The ITSM firm tried to retrofit its lead process, its lead technology, and most importantly, its lead reporting in and around what already exists for their new ABM reporting and approach. They did not build the foundation they need to see stronger revenue growth from ABM.
- There was still a hand-off between GTM and customer-facing teams vs. a handshake, where there is alignment, integration, and orchestration. As Sangram Vajre, co-founder of Terminus likes to say: “Modern B2B leaders talk about engagement in the target accounts, their GTM strategy, and ways to win the deals as one team.”
- They missed the fact that ABM should change “sell” processes and motions. If sales is not fully prepared to go all-in with enablement and sales orchestration in a digital world, then you are missing the mark.
- They did not have the right content to support ABM, sales, and the selling conversations that teams needed to have with future customers. The PR firm drove awareness for the category, but it was tech-focused and not business-issue focused so it did not help to drive change. Like 86% of the content and messaging that sales and marketing teams push out, the content had no commercial impact on the buyer.
- While the ITSM firm defined its ICP, it did not segment and tier its ICP accounts so they treated all opportunities the same. They gave everyone the same attention, the same focus, and the same approach no matter if the prospect was a tier 1 or a tier 3 account.
- There was no strategy for how the GTM teams would use intent data and open, engage, and close in-market accounts that 6sense and other intent data platforms would identify. They had a list of activities and cadences. There was no coordination between sales and marketing.
- There was no strategy for the 60% of accounts that are stuck in status quo and are not responsive to traditional campaigns, for the accounts that previously showed intent but disengaged, and those accounts that are stuck in their buying journey as they do not see a differentiation or they are unable to get a buying consensus.
You need to have the right foundation to build from if you want greater sales progression. Unfortunately, most GTM teams (including Sumerian’s), jump into ABM without completing any ABM readiness programs.
Sumerian Did Not Have the Right Content and Messaging to Move Accounts Forward
Sales and GTM teams soon discovered that 4 out of 5 targeted companies outside of the financial industry lacked senior executive understanding of the business issues that the ITSM firm was trying to solve with their on-demand cloud-based capacity planning subscription service. Senior executives did not see how their IT teams, the business, operations, P&L, and customers were impacted by their infrastructure visibility gaps, manual IT processes, homegrown technologies, and inadequate tooling like VMware that only looked at “current” infrastructure performance issues vs. where infrastructure challenges will lie in the months ahead. More importantly, they did not see how the business “issues” were related to them because content and messaging focused on general industry assumptions and pain points. Their one-to-many and one-to-few campaigns missed the personal relevance needed to win over IT teams, the C-suite, and the CFO that did not see a reason to change.
More Personal Relevance Was Needed to Move Accounts Forward
As Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson mention in their book, “The Challenger Sale,” in most cases, buyer unresponsiveness is not because you failed to make a logical argument. It’s because you failed to make an emotional connection. It’s not that buyers didn’t believe your story. It’s because they didn’t see it as “their” story.
Sumerian’s sales and marketing team did not align their content and messaging with the specific retailer, airline, and online service accounts they wanted to win. As Doug Landis mentioned in a recent Forbes article: “When selling to larger companies you must come to every social, email, and live conversation with a point of view about their business.” Sumerian’s GTM team needed account intelligence to know what their target accounts focused on as those strategic initiatives for the business trickled down to every department across the organization.
Sumerian needed more than persona-based content and messaging. The airlines, retailers, and online service firms needed to see their specific gaps and how they would impact their strategic initiatives’ success. As you can see by the image below, IT buyers need to see that you understand their business landscape, their company, their needs, and what they will need for each stage of their buying process.
Top-to-Bottom, Left-to-Right Engagement Was Needed to Move Accounts to Revenue
In many cases, the GTM teams were single-threaded with the IT managers that were responsible for capacity management. They were not penetrating accounts and building relationships with VPs, CTOs, and CIOs across multiple channels, including LinkedIn. They were not extending beyond IT managers to drive engagement with business strategy, CX, and finance teams. These teams could have provided the insights that the GTM teams needed to make a stronger case for capacity management and show how IT was misaligned with business objectives.
The GTM teams were not able to influence the internal conversations that sales teams were not privy to and have teams discussing how last-minute reactions to threshold crossings impacted IT finance, IT security, IT operations, eCommerce, revenue, and customers. The content did not support selling conversations.
Besides the right content, they were missing the required account-based engagement that is needed to move accounts forward. Account-based engagement is how you make future customers feel with each interaction and each touch point along the journey and lifecycle. It’s about how you create a team-to-team connection and multithread to ensure closed deals, adoption, retention, and expansion. It’s about building meaningful, intentional relationships and making a connection with the human buyers at the accounts you want to win and grow. I discuss this in the video below:
For Stage Progression to Happen — The ITSM Firm Needed Greater Customer Alignment
As Richa Pande (Global Head of ABM and Content Strategy for HP) mentioned on LinkedIn:
ABM demands absolute customer obsession. Demand gen and strategies are pursuit-led, whereas ABM is customer-led. This means value props should be designed by customer needs, not what’s available in solution stable to sell. Value props should be custom designed to the unique opportunity in each account.
The ITSM firm needed to look at profiles, content, and messaging across all communication channels and ensure that GTM teams were relevant at each touchpoint and with each interaction. They needed to go beyond “pushing out” content based on intent data and what potential customers engaged within their Demandbase campaigns. They needed to uncover “why” there was intention or engagement in the first place so they can align with the target account’s strategic vision and put a plan in place to get to the C-suite since the VPs and above are not the ones showing intent within enterprise accounts. They needed to use intent data and engagement as a springboard vs. something to react to and they needed to uncover:
- What’s behind the prospect’s intent and specifically what is their million-dollar headache, on both an account and personal level?
- What’s going on within the organization and the different divisions that can impact operational excellence, customers, and P&L?
- What are the account-specific or competitor-focused gaps that are not being considered and the personal impacts which may be under-estimated?
It’s this information that helped sales and marketing speak to the human buyers within target accounts and create a “personal” buying journey that helps target accounts move forward through the different stages.
Above all, the ITSM firm needed to change its mindset to drive growth
They needed to slow down to speed up and get the strategy right. This means we needed to focus on:
- Increasing their relevance across all channels. LinkedIn profiles, content, and messaging needed to speak to the specific decision-makers that teams wanted to connect with.
- Changing sales and marketing motions across the buying journey as it doesn’t matter how many accounts you initially engage with if they do not progress toward revenue. We need to have the right sales AND marketing conversations. We need to take the right calculated steps together.
- Taking a more personal account-based approach where they align with their future customers, their business, and their needs and improve interactions before going for scale. By trying to scale ABM too soon, too fast, Sumerian was limiting their ABM success.