AI, ABM Strategies Aren’t Just for Marketing
Sales based on artificial intelligence and account-based strategies can provide outstanding results for companies that follow them, according to a pair of Gartner experts who discussed their research findings at the recent Gartner CSO and sales leader conference.
AI has transformed guided selling capabilities, a change that became evident during the COVID-19 pandemic when traditional forms of selling were sharply curtailed due to lockdowns, Gartner said.
“The pandemic exposed cracks in many organizations’ sales processes,” said Tad Travis, Gartner research vice president. “Knowing that sales process discipline must be improved to increase the chances of closing new deals, sales leaders are investigating new data-driven, AI-based guided selling functions for improving sales execution.”
AI-based selling has four primary components, Travis added:
- orientation models;
- process steps for sales execution;
- detection and collection buyer signals; and
AI-based selling comes in two forms:
- prescriptive, which includes recommended next best actions, such as which content to send next to a prospect; and
- predictive, which includes insights that reveal statistically relevant indicators about sales process steps.
Rather than requiring sellers to decide what to do next to move a relationship, deal, or quote forward, sellers can rely on statistically derived analytics, according to Travis. “The value proposition of AI-based guided selling is undeniable. However, it is not an immediate solution for better sales execution, as organizations with data quality or process issues may not be able to take advantage immediately.”
Before implementing AI-based guided selling, Gartner recommends that sales leaders take the following actions: (1) educate all sales partners about AI-based guided selling’s foundational elements, focusing on the importance of collecting all of the engagement elements that sellers undertake during active deals; (2) identify an organization’s unique sales process steps and business outcomes to find the best solution; (3) use the AI-based guided selling technology that is most relevant to the sales organization’s lead, opportunity, sales enablement, and quote management use cases; and (4) prioritize where AI-based guided selling functions would be most relevant.
SUCCESSFUL ACCOUNT-BASED STRATEGIES
Account-based strategies are being used by nearly half of the CSOs that Gartner surveyed. Unlike traditional demand generation tactics, account-based strategies enable marketing and sales teams to focus resources on highly targeted engagement interactions with key accounts.
Sales and marketing need to work together closely to drive engagement and advance target accounts through the customer life cycle, the research firm said.
“Sales leaders who see account-based strategies as an initiative solely driven by marketing will miss opportunities to acquire new customers and grow existing customer accounts,” said Craig Rosenberg, distinguished vice president analyst in the Gartner Sales practice. “Leading B2B organizations have adopted a coordinated, cross-functional account-based strategy, leveraging real-time data and technology in order to be more timely and scalable in their go-to market.”
There are three key pillars to a successful account-based strategy, according to Rosenberg:
- Targeting: By understanding the purpose and intent of each stage in the account-based funnel, CSOs can focus their collaboration efforts to avoid sales/marketing misalignment. Rosenberg said the best way to work together is to build an effective ideal customer profile resulting in the highest priority accounts on the target account list. Gartner research shows that 81 percent of top-performing account-based organizations have confidence that their ideal customer profile accurately represents the attributes of ideal accounts.
- Orchestration: Successful orchestration in an account-based strategy leverages multiple channels and functions to meet a specific objective for a specific list of target accounts, Rosenberg explained. CSOs and their teams should follow three key steps in designing an orchestration plan. First, identify the right mix of digital and human channels, with marketing creating awareness before any outbound touches begin. Sales and marketing must work together to create a high-value offer, an interaction, or a meeting that provides unique and timely business value that compels a prospect to engage or change.
- Measurement: Rosenberg recommended that CSOs focus on tracking three account-based metrics: opportunity rate, target account pipeline, and account win rate.