When choosing your sales method you have to consider the sales cycle, how the companies buy (i.e. is there one person in charge or a committee of decision makers?), what are their expectations (are they an independent business that just needs a little help or a company that needs constant guidance and reassurance?), etc.
In order to help you better understand Inbound and Account Based Sales, we’ll use the Market Republic example.
Say you have a Business Development Manager, let’s call him Alex, and a Marketing team, let’s call them Anna and Marco.
So in Inbound Selling, Anna and Marco prepared a whitepaper with information that they believe would be valuable for Market Republic customers.
More than a few people have opted in, so they just say to Alex: „Hey man, we just made this huge whitepaper, people are interested, they’re downloading it, make sure you sell to them. We’re off to lunch, and maybe coffee (covfefe?) later, and maybe a meeting, so… see ya!“
Alex is left to his own devices to try and convert contacts that may or may not be interested in the services we offer.
In Account Based Selling, Alex would approach our Marketing Team and say: „Look guys, these are the accounts that we’d like to sell to and these are the decision makers. So, see what blog or video or whitepaper you can come up with to attract their interest and engage them into purchase, I’m off to lunch, and maybe coffee (definitely covfefe) later, and maybe a meeting, see ya, wouldn’t want to be ya!“
Now, Ana and Marko have to find out a way to show their expertise in solving the problems that the decision makers may have through interesting and educational content.
Inbound vs. Account Based Selling – Who Would Win?
This example might oversimplify things, but in a nutshell, Inbound means creating content and casting it to the Total Addressable Market hoping to attract someone that might be interested and then transferring those contacts to sales.
On the other hand, Account Based Selling means sales is spear hunting the specific account (potential client) that is very likely to become a customer and transferring to marketing the responsibility of creating engaging content that will help sales attract targeted decision makers.
Naturally, anyone wishing best for their company would try both of these approaches (as do we) and let sales and marketing work together in order to achieve best possible results.
(Except those selling to the Fortune 500 million companies who should take the Inbound approach and those selling to Fortune 500 companies who should take the Account Based Selling approach.)
But there are many other reasons as to why each of these principles is good in its own way.
What is Inbound Sales?
The winner depends on the product you’re selling and type of companies you’re targeting. When choosing your sales method you have to consider the sales cycle, how the companies buy (i.e. is there one person in charge or a committee of decision makers?), what are their expectations (are they an independent business that just needs a little help or a company that needs constant guidance and reassurance?), etc.
Inbound means you are targeting your Total Addressable Market with content that might be interesting to them hoping some of them will consider you as a partner/service provider based on the knowledge you offer. Then you will guide them through your pipeline with offers and other content and selected few will actually become your customers.
Like mentioned above, Inbound method is recommended for those selling to the larger number of companies and whose target audience is wider and somewhat unnamed. If your product or service suits numerous businesses, you have no reason not to target anyone who might convert.
Sales implementing Inbound method are cost effective and best for higher volume transactions and faster sales cycles, not complicated expensive deals.
This is a better choice for those who have limited resources and budget in creating content. You are creating what you can since your team probably has other responsibilities as well and could use anyone who finds your content attractive and valuable. This way you will collect potentially high quality leads by publishing on your blog, posting on social media, sending emails and promoting your services on your website. If you manage to turn your content into a popular source of information, you will have a machine that supplies you with fresh leads at all times.
Inbound should be a choice for those who have more time to drive their contacts through the funnel (supposedly 6 to 9 months).
The negative side of Inbound is that exact extensive period – it will take you a long time to build your customer base, reach out to them, create all the content that they may like and promote it.
Other negative aspects may be too much involvement from the marketing which, like we mentioned above, chooses the TAM and just hands it over to salespeople to close the deal.
Scott McKenzie explained it beautifully in his INBOUND16 presentation.
What is Account Based Selling?
Account Based Selling is Inbound sales funnel turned upside down.
In Account Based Selling you know exactly who you want to sell to, then you look for the decision makers within those companies, after which you find out what interests them and then supply them with relevant content.
In Account Based Selling you are focused on quality of your leads, which also insures you against one contract traps. To be more precise, with Inbound and less costly sales of randomly converted customers, there’s a greater chance that you’ll be hired for one project or one month or other short term service. With Account Based Selling your more expensive and better targeted product or service has a better chance to be purchased in every sales cycle and on a long term basis.
Since you are investing so much time into researching your desired customers, Account Based Selling is best suited for those selling high value products or services to large companies and enterprises.
Account Based Selling also means that you have a somewhat flexible budget and considerable resources that can dedicate their time to specific accounts and communicate topics relevant exclusively for those decision makers.
You have a team that prepares your strategy, writes, edits, designs, develops and does any other promotional activity that might help you fill your sales pipeline. You are willing to teach your contacts about the benefits of using your product or service and how they can help them in growing their business, using customized content adapted to their very needs.
Account Based Selling is the best choice for those who are on a deadline or have to make a sale in a short period of time. With this precise targeting you know there’s demand and you are convinced that your prospects may use your product or service – you just have to convince them to actually purchase it.
Account Based Selling is aimed at those clients who will remain your customers for a long period of time and will spend a relatively large amount of money in every sales cycle.
Best thing about Account Based Selling is that you know exactly who you’re targeting and what kind of information and service you have to deliver, so you tailor your messages accordingly. It works best when marketing and sales cooperate.
Negative aspect of Account Based Selling is that they are generally harder to scale, the cost per interaction is higher and you have to be careful not to overwhelm your prospects and become spammy.
Combining Inbound and Account Based Selling
Source: Scott McKenzie INBOUND16 presentation
Mixing Inbound and Account Based Selling would be the best solution since you can use Inbound to attract those of high intent of buying and then treat them like specific accounts through Account Based Selling approach. Balancing between quality and quantity as well as speed and value can be complicated but highly effective. If you’re doing it well, you will only reap the benefits.
Whichever of these two approaches you need, even combined – contact us, we can help you find decision makers to target and deliver the right content to them.
For quick overview of Inbound and Account Based Selling – take a look at our infographic below: