If given the option, would you prefer to do lots of little things well, or excel at one big thing? Would you spread yourself thin to please the masses, or focus your time, energy and resources on achieving one important goal? While this is down to personal preferences, in the world of business sales, there’s a growing trend that’s in favor of the latter: quality over quantity. Otherwise known as account-based selling.


What’s account-based selling?

Account-based selling (ABS) is a strategic sales approach where companies target specific high-value accounts instead of individual leads. Teams collaborate across departments to personalize their outreach and engage with key decision-makers within these target accounts. ABS often involves longer sales cycles but can lead to more significant revenue and customer retention. Data and analytics play a key role in measuring the effectiveness of this approach.


Is account-based selling the same as account-based marketing?

Account-based selling (ABS) and account-based marketing (ABM) are related concepts but serve different purposes within an organization. Here are the key differences.


ABS is primarily a sales strategy

ABS focuses on tailoring the sales approach to meet the specific needs of individual high-value customers or target accounts. It involves building one-on-one relationships with key decision-makers and stakeholders in those accounts to close deals and generate revenue.


ABM on the other hand, is a marketing strategy

It aligns marketing efforts with sales by identifying and targeting high-value accounts with personalized marketing campaigns. An ABM strategy aims to generate interest and engagement from these target accounts, making it more likely that they will be open to conversations with the sales team.

In a nutshell, ABS is about the personalized sales approach, while ABM is about the personalized marketing approach. (Pretty much what they say on the tin!) Both strategies often work together in a coordinated effort to maximize the chances of winning high-value accounts and nurturing them into long-term customers.


Who should use account-based selling?

ABS is a powerful approach ideally suited for businesses with specific characteristics and objectives:

B2B companies
ABS is particularly effective in the business-to-business (B2B) context. If your company primarily sells products or services to other businesses, ABS can help you navigate complex sales processes and engage with multiple decision-makers.

High-value sales
Businesses that rely on high-value deals, where the potential revenue from a single account justifies the resources invested, should use ABS. It's not suited for low-value transactions.

Long sales cycles
ABS is beneficial when sales cycles are lengthy and involve multiple touchpoints. It allows you to build and maintain relationships with key accounts over an extended period.

Complex solutions
Companies offering complex or customizable solutions that require a deep understanding of the customer's needs can benefit from ABS. It enables you to tailor your approach to address specific challenges.

Limited target market
If your ideal customer base is relatively small and well-defined, ABS can help you focus your efforts on a select group of high-potential accounts.

Cross-functional teams
ABS requires collaboration between sales, marketing and sometimes customer success teams. Businesses with the capacity and willingness to align these functions should consider ABS.

Retention focus
If your business places a strong emphasis on customer retention and upselling, ABS is valuable. It helps nurture long-term relationships with key accounts.

Data-led approach
Companies that can use data and analytics to identify ideal target accounts and measure performance should use account-based sales strategies. It's essential for tracking success and making data-led adjustments.

lightbulb graphic 5-step account-based selling process

Ideally, you’ll be working alongside ABM marketers to pinpoint and engage target accounts, and customer success to retain, delight and grow converted customers. Here’s the process.


1. Account selection (identify and prioritize the right accounts)

Begin by carefully selecting the target accounts that align with your ideal customer profile (ICP). These accounts should represent high-value prospects with the potential for significant revenue and long-term partnerships.

Use data and analytics to identify accounts that are a good fit based on criteria such as industry, company size, revenue and pain points.

2. Account research (gather key insights)

Dive deep into each selected account to gather essential information. This includes understanding their organizational structure, decision-makers, influencers and their specific challenges and goals.

Research the account’s recent activities, industry trends and any existing relationships your company may have with them. This information will guide your personalized approach.

3. Personalized outreach (tailor your approach)

Create highly personalized and targeted content and messaging for each account. Craft your communications to address their unique pain points and objectives.

Use multiple channels such as email, phone calls, social media and even direct mail to engage with key stakeholders within the account. Your goal is to establish rapport and demonstrate your understanding of their needs.

4. Engagement and relationship building (nurture the relationship)

Begin the engagement process by reaching out to the identified decision-makers and influencers within the account. Share valuable insights, educational content and solutions that align with their challenges.

Focus on building trust and credibility by delivering value over time. Continue to nurture the relationship with regular communication and personalized content interactions.

5. Close and expand (win the account and grow)

As the relationship matures, work towards closing the deal with the target account. Tailor your proposal to align with their specific needs and expectations.

Once the deal is closed, shift your focus to customer success. Ensure the account realizes value from your product or service, which can lead to upsell opportunities and long-term loyalty.


How to implement account-based selling

Transitioning to an account-based selling strategy should generally be a well-planned and gradual process rather than a sudden switch. Here are some reasons why an incremental approach is advisable:

Customer transition to ABS

If your business has been using a different sales approach, your existing customers may be accustomed to that approach. Abruptly switching to ABS may disrupt those relationships and create confusion or resistance. Gradually introducing ABS to new accounts while maintaining your existing approach for current customers can help manage this transition.

Training teams for ABS

ABS often requires a different skill set and mindset among your sales team. They may need training and time to adapt and buy into this new approach effectively. An incremental transition allows for training and skill development to occur gradually.

Integrate tech to manage accounts

Implementing ABS may involve adopting new technologies or tools to track and manage key accounts more effectively. When sending personalized messaging, choose a content creation platform that can integrate easily with your existing martech.

ABS account selection

Identifying and prioritizing key accounts is a critical part of ABS. This process should be well-researched and refined over time. Rushing this step can lead to suboptimal results.

Testing and iteration

Like any strategy, ABS may require adjustments and refinements as you gain experience and data. Starting with a smaller subset of key accounts allows you to test and iterate your ABS approach before scaling it up.

Resource allocation

Shifting resources from a traditional sales approach to ABS can have financial and operational implications. Incremental adoption allows you to adjust your resource allocation as you see results and gain confidence in the approach.

That said, the pace of transition can vary depending on your specific circumstances. Some businesses may choose to start with a pilot program involving a few key accounts to test the waters, while others may have a more structured phased approach over several quarters or years. Assessing your organization’s readiness, objectives and resources is essential to determine the best approach for transitioning to ABS.


Technology and tools for ABS

There’s always going to be tech out there that makes your working life easier, more streamlined and more impactful. From an ABS perspective, businesses are certainly spoilt for choice: CRM systems, marketing automation platforms, analytics software, content publishing platforms… sales teams can quickly streamline their ABS activities to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

You’ll be sending a lot of content to these accounts and need to continuously collect data to identify:

  • Who is ready to speak to sales
  • Where people are in the funnel
  • Which topics/content types are most interesting for high-growth accounts

Turtl’s reader tracking shows exactly who is reading your content, which sections they’re reading and for how long. You can quickly gain a crystal-clear view of how engaged they are and edit your content (in real-time) to refine it further.

By asking the right questions in your content you can learn more about your audience. Audience surveys help teams improve personas for account-based marketing (ABM) and ABS – and steer your future content strategy.


How to use content in account-based selling

So, you’ve done your research and have your high-value account wish list pinned to your wall. You know you need to create highly personalized and targeted content to engage with them, but – where do you start?!

Here are some ways you can use content effectively in your ABS strategy.

Personalized content creation

Tailor your content to address the specific needs, pain points and objectives of each target account. Customize content types like white papers, case studies, webinars and other resources to resonate with the account’s unique challenges.

Account insights integration

Infuse your content with insights gathered during the research phase of ABS. Reference recent company news, industry trends or challenges specific to the account in your messaging. Channel your inner Prince Charming.

Multi-channel content distribution

Use a variety of channels, including email, social media and direct mail, to distribute your content. Ensure your content reaches key stakeholders within the target account through the channels they prefer. (Avoid the ones they don’t use much – you’ll be throwing money at the wall.)

Value-focused messaging

Content should deliver value to the account. Showcase how your product or service can directly address their bugbears or help them achieve their goals. Highlight ROI, cost savings or other tangible benefits.

Educational resources

Provide educational content that positions your company as a thought leader in your industry. This can include industry reports, guides and webinars that demonstrate your expertise and the value you can offer. Thought leadership works for lead generation, brand awareness and demand (webinars being a great example of demand and lead gen activity).

Interactive content

Consider interactive content such as quizzes, polls, assessments or calculators that engage the account and encourage participation. These can be valuable tools for assessing their needs or demonstrating the potential benefits of your solution. Forget PDFs and opt for interactive content that provides engagement data.

Content cadence

Plan a content cadence that aligns with the account’s buying journey. Start with introductory content and gradually provide more in-depth materials as the relationship progresses. Content design and mapping helps organize and sequence relevant journeys.

Tracking and analytics

Use tracking tools and analytics to monitor how the account interacts with your content. This data helps you understand what drives engagement, allowing for laser-targeted follow-ups, shorter sales cycles and clearer ROI reporting.

Content for customer success

After closing the deal, continue to use content to support customer success. Provide resources that help the account derive maximum value from your product or service.

Iterative approach

Continuously evaluate the effectiveness of your B2B content strategy and adjust based on feedback and data. An iterative approach ensures your content remains relevant and impactful.

As you can see, when used strategically within an ABS strategy, content can help build trust, educate prospects and ultimately contribute to the successful acquisition and retention of high-value accounts. You offer value to prospects – a reason for getting in touch, a basis to spark conversation.


Key metrics for account-based selling

The below list will help you measure the effectiveness of your strategy and make data-led decisions. Here are some crucial metrics to track.

Graphic showing the key ABM metrics - engagement rate being most important


These metrics will help you make informed decisions, optimize your approach and maximize revenue from high-value accounts.

So, there you have it – rather than casting your net wide in the hope of catching little fish often, ABS can help target the big fish accounts that can make all the difference to your bottom line. Think less sardines and more sharks.

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