Account-Based Engagement and the Fallacy of Job Titles

Every week during our check-in, MadKudu Co-Founder & CRO Francis Brero & I talk about our current priorities. Our regular call also become an opportunity for Francis to download some knowledge from his time working with some of the top SaaS Sales & Marketing organizations, such as Account-Based Engagement. What started as an effort to onboard me with recordings & note-taking has turned into a series I call MadOps.

As we saw recently with the Sales SLA, the path to alignment often starts & ends with clear definitions of metrics. The leads marketing hands to sales need to have the same definition & measurement for success, which is where actionable lead scoring plays a key role in establishing lasting alignment.

If we step back from Sales & Marketing and look at aligning each department to business objectives, we can see that metric disjunction can result in each individual team being successful while ultimately failing to create a relevant customer journey at scale.

The fallacy of job titles

One area where we often observe this is when we run funnel analysis by customer fit and look at job titles as predictors of activation and conversion. On self-serve tools such as API-based products, we often see that someone with a developer title is more likely to activate but very unlikely to convert (that is, to hand over the credit card), whereas someone with a CEO/owner title is more likely to give a credit card, but less likely to convert.

One analysis we recently ran for a customer demonstrated that perfect:

How job title affects conversion | Account-Based Engagement

  • Developers convert 60% less than the average user
  • Founders, CEOs & marketing convert 70-80% than the average user.

When we look at conversion & activation side-by-side for this same customer, the number speak for themselves:

Conversion vs. Activation | Account-Based Engagement

  • Founders/CEOs don’t use the software that much but end up converting higly
  • Product & Project managers have a higher activation but lower conversion rate

Product teams are historically motivated by increasing activation by building an increasingly engaging product; however, a developer is unlikely to respond to marketing’s nurturing emails or jump on a first sales call no matter how active they are on the product.

Likewise with more sales-driven products like enterprise software, SDRs are often singularly focused on the number of meetings they can generate for their AEs; however, low-level team members are significantly more likely to jump on a phone call and significantly less likely to convert as compared to their director counterpart.

In both of these instances, we see that product & sales development are able to optimize for their metric without accomplishing the core business objective of creating a great customer journey.

How Account-Based Engagement changes the rules

What this comes back to is account-based engagement, a nascent terminology in the marketing space stemming from the principal of account-based marketing but extending it across the entire customer journey and to all customer-facing teams. Where account-based marketing encourages running campaigns to generate interest not at the individual lead level but the account level – especially important when you have multiple stakeholders in the decision-making process – account-based engagement extends that to all teams, meaning that:

  • Product teams should seek not only to make as many active users as possible, but to create active accounts: building features that encourage getting other stakeholders involved or making it easy for your hero to evangelize your product value to other stakeholders.
  • Marketing teams should not seek to generate marketing qualified leads but marketing qualified accounts, including nurturing existing accounts in order to get other stakeholders involved so as to set sales up for success
  • SDRs should not seek to generate meetings at the account level, not at the lead level, and shouldn’t be working on accounts where the necessary stakeholders are not already involved.

Account-Based Engagement | Identifying hidden opportunities

We’ve been recently working with two of our bigger customers who have a prosumer user base to identify marketing-qualified accounts that aren’t getting attention. We do this by looking not only at customer-fit at the account level – does the account look like the type of accounts that typically convert when sales engages – but also at behavioral-fit: are they engaging with the product the way paying customers typically do?

Sales reps who are qualifying leads as soon as the account is created aren’t going to be able to sift through the hundreds of warm accounts to identify which accounts have engaged properly (and been properly engaged) to be sales-ready; however, this is core to Account-Based Engagement. Just as our Sales SLA gives a common metric for marketing & sales to work towards, so Product, Customer Success, Sales & Marketing all need to have a common qualification criteria for an account in order to be aligned on how best to achieve business goals.

Remember: In B2B, you’re not selling to users, you’re selling to Accounts

The goal is not to reduce all teams to a single metric like revenue-generated, but rather to help reduce the natural tendency to game a metric by linking a common thread between the metrics that we use to measure success. That thread is Accounts.

It is all too easy to lose track of the fact that selling B2B software means that a company is going to buy your software, not a person. There are users, decision-makers, stakeholders and other advisors in the buying process, but at the end of the day a company is going to make a decision about whether to pay another company for their solutions. In this respect, every team should be focused on how to acquire, activate, convert & retain accounts, because at the end of the day it is not a user that will churn but an account.