Selling has changed more in the last 10 years than it has in the previous 100 years, and this is especially true in B2B markets.
At the forefront of this change is what we at Engagio call, Account-Based Everything (ABE), some people know it as Account-Based Sales Development (ABSD), and others call it Account-Based Marketing (ABM).
Regardless of what you call it, it all starts with selecting the right accounts, and that requires an account targeting strategy based on good data.
We’re going to look at what data you need to develop an account targeting strategy and where to get that data.
- The foundation of an account-based sales program
- 3 types of data you’ll need for account-based sales
- How to choose the right data vendor
The Foundation of an Account-Based Everything Program
ABE is more than just a marketing campaign or a sales process — it’s a mindset.
Account-based models focus on a few specific accounts, so you need to invest substantial time and energy to select the right ones.
In other words, account selection is the foundation of any account-based program.
Jon Miller, co-founder of Engagio, states:
The goal of the account selection process is to optimize your sales and marketing resources — time, headcount, and budget — by focusing on the accounts most likely to drive big revenue.
In the past, managers would give their SDRs free rein to prospect whomever they wanted. The smarter managers would write down a list of target accounts they hand-picked based on gut-feel or, at best, data collected in their CRM.
Today, technology enables us to become laser-focused on who we should target. It’s worth repeating — your entire Account-Based program hinges on the account selection process.
The Three Types of Data Required
To select the right accounts, you need the right data.
There are three types of data inputs you should take into account when building your account targeting strategy:
- Firmographic data
- Technographic data
- Behavior data.
These three types of data allow you to analyze your target accounts and more accurately predict success.
Firmographics (Company Profile Data)
Just as demographics are characteristics of people, firmographics are characteristics of organizations.
Firmographics look at the characteristics of a company that correlate with a higher close rate.
Some common company profile data includes:
- Organization size
- Industry, market, and vertical
- Projected financials
- Growth trends
- Number of locations
- Market share or industry position
Technographics (Technology Stack Data)
Technographic data looks at what technology a given organization uses and interacts with.
This form of data is highly relevant in today’s high-tech environment. If you know what technologies power an organization, you can acquire valuable knowledge on how that organization functions, and even what they might need in the future.
Technographic data includes:
- Technologies the target company uses on a regular basis
- Technologies used by their competitors
- Technologies used by complementary product or services
- Technologies that signal status (e.g., a startup won’t be using Netsuite)
The best sources of technographic information are Datanyze, HG Data, and BuiltWith, but you can also look at job descriptions (hint: look at required skills) and LinkedIn (hint: look at skill endorsements for their employees).
Buyer Behavior (Behavioral Data)
Buyer behavior data can get a little tricky, but it can also lead to very valuable insights.
Behavioral data is less concrete, and therefore takes more thought and creativity to find. It can range from intent and engagement data to trigger events.
Intent and engagement data are the core of what you need for an account-based approach. They help you prioritize different accounts.
Trigger events look at the common causes that trigger certain actions. For instance, Craig Elias, author of the book SHiFT, is an authority on trigger events in sales. His data suggests that a change in vendors is triggered by changing account managers 28% of the time.
Behavioral data signals interest, which can help you understand the challenges they’re facing and how you can provide a solution.
Behavioral data also includes:
- Activity metrics and Interaction with your content (eBooks, webinars, whitepapers, etc.)
- Job postings
- News regarding the company as a whole – company updates (e.g., a round of funding, welcoming a new executive, acquisitions)
If that kind of research isn’t your style, you’re in luck. There are several AI assisted tools, like Outreach, to help you track engagement data across different platforms.
How to Choose the Right Data Vendors for ABSD
It’s possible to gather all the above-data yourself, but that takes valuable time away from developing the rest of your account targeting strategy. There are plenty of companies and vendors that deliver the data points listed above. The bad news is that it’s hard to tell the good vendors from the bad until it’s too late.
Every vendor has strengths and weaknesses, so it’s important to take the time to select the right one for you, your company, and your industry.
Follow these 6 steps to find the vendors that can provide you with the right information on target accounts.
1. Determine the basic data you need
Define the absolute minimum criteria the data provider must supply. This is typically the information that old school prospecting provides: name, company, number of employees, etc.
Think of this as table stakes — if they can’t meet the minimum to play at the table, it’s time to move on to the next vendor.
The most common data points you need are:
- First and Last Name
- Physical Address
- Number of Employees
- Company Site
2. Investigate the reputation of the provider
Good products and services get other people talking about them. If you can’t find multiple people who have good things to say about a product or service, beware.
There are plenty of sites out there dedicated to reviewing products, so make sure you do your homework.
It’s pretty common for customers, both happy and otherwise, to leave a comment on a social media. So, hop over to the company’s Facebook and Twitter profiles. You can even go one step further and ask for referrals to current customers and clients.
You also probably want to avoid offshore services that are using the most basic web scraping tools. It’s tempting, because of the low cost per lead and the sheer volume they can provide. However, the low price comes at an extremely high cost — poor quality data.
3. Examine data accuracy and integrity
Data has a limited shelf life. The Department of Labor reports that more than 10 million people change jobs each year in the US. This number is only going up as employee tenure declines.
As such, getting current data is a must.
The most reputable and accurate data providers diligently maintain and update their data.
The best vendors will work with you to match the criteria you need and replace any inaccurate data. Many offer to give you a refund or replace every bad lead sent your way.
That said, beware of vendors who boast an accuracy rate that’s too high to be credible (like a 95% accuracy rate). Most aren’t truly able to deliver on the promise.
It’s up to you to substantiate their claims, so ask for a sample data set to test. A more realistic benchmark to aim for is 80% accurate data.
If that sounds a little low, don’t worry, you can enrich your data and fill in the gaps by cross-referencing with other providers. Which brings me to another important point — don’t rely on any one single provider.
4. Get on the phone with a rep
At this point, you should have enough information to narrow your list down to a few providers. It’s time to call and ask some key questions.
➡ How accurate is your information? (Again, take this with a grain of salt.)
➡ Do you test and maintain the quality of your database for accurate information? If so, how frequently?
➡ Do you filter out spam traps, honeypots, blacklisted domains, and anything else that would hurt my Sender Score?
➡ What kind of QA program do you have in place?
Make sure to dig a little deeper with every question to get the full picture of how they get their information and check its accuracy. Don’t let flaky or ambiguous answers slide.
When you talk to a rep, assess how easy it is to work with the vendor. No matter how accurate their data is, they must be responsive and willing to work with you.
5. Get a sample set of data
It’s standard practice for vendors to provide a sample set of random data that meets some of your basic segmentation requirements. Before you drop that list into your outbound platform, and hit “go,” make sure to do some verification of your own.
Some vendors will also offer to test your existing data to make sure they do not provide duplicate records in data sets that you purchase. They can also gauge the state of your current data health and make recommendations for maintenance.
6. Choose your vendors
Finally, choose your vendors (yes, you want more than one). Never rely on a single source for anything, especially sales intelligence and data providers.
A mentor of mine used to say, “One is the most dangerous number in business.” You should never rely on a single source for leads… or anything else in your sales process.
It’s important to remember that an increase in data doesn’t always lead to an increase in insights. You still have to sit down with your team and make sense of the data.
Developing an effective account targeting strategy is just the start when it comes to building your overall ABSD program, but without a good foundation of data your account-based program won’t survive.