My account-based selling framework that generated $900k/yr in opportunities and deals

Sankaranarayanan
Aug 30 · 7 min read
Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

After working in B2B sales and marketing for more than six years, I’ve created a framework that has never failed to generate sales opportunities, and here is my framework for account-based selling.

Before we get started, I need to make this clear. This framework will work only if your average deal size is at least $20k. If your deal value is less than $20,000, you will be putting in way too much effort that you can’t afford.

In this framework, I’ll tell you how I do my research, the tools I use, and walk you through one of my low-effort ABS campaigns that I ran with this framework.

The most important thing you need to remember is, we are not going to reinvent the wheel, we will make incremental improvements to the wheel, so it becomes an F1 racing tyre.

So, the general account-based selling framework goes something like this.

  1. Identify and Pre-qualify Target Account
  2. Create List Of Stakeholders
  3. Assemble Initial Strategy
  4. Complete First Round Of Contact
  5. Meaningful Conversation
  6. Schedule Meetings
  7. Conduct Presentation/Demos
  8. Overcome Objections
  9. Send Contract And Negotiate
  10. Close

This general framework works for most of the sales process. But to cut through the noise and stand out, we need to make this process our own. There are two kinds of differentiators, your company’s USP and your character. The first one changes when your job changes but the second one is what that makes you truly stand out.

Here is my account-based marketing framework.

  1. Buy what you sell
  2. Tear down the industry like a VC analyst
  3. Create a complete list of your potential customers
  4. Decide the effort level — Low key effort to a “my life depends on this” effort.
  5. Approach and Messaging
  6. Campaign and Follow up
  7. Meetings
  8. Presentation/Demos
  9. Send Contract and Negotiate
  10. WIN! And Manage

Now that we have a bird’s eye view of the process let us go over the details of each step.

My Account-Based Selling Framework

Buy what you sell

You are your first customer. If you don’t buy what you are selling, no one else will. This is the reality. So, learn the product or solution like you are the customer.

First, this will help you understand the ins and outs of the product. Second, it enables you to come up with a message that resonates with your target customer. Third and the most important thing, this step will help you hold a meaningful conversation with your leads and customers. So, sell what you want to sell to yourself first and think of the use cases and truly understand it.

For me, when I’m in this step, it shines the light on grey areas in the customer journey from the first touch to close and what sort of objections that would raise and how I could handle it.

Tear down the industry like a VC

This is my real differentiator. Generally, what happens is, higher-ups hands you a set of accounts to handle and you bombard them with messages, or you just put in your ICP/IBP in your sales intel tool or LinkedIn and just get started. In my opinion, this is just plain wrong. DO NOT BLINDLY DO IT. Use your brain and think like a VC. VCs and investment bankers research the crap out their potential investment market and the startup they are going to invest. They put in money. You put in the time. For a sales guy, time is more than money. Do your research and learn your market.

This means

  1. Finding out your competitors — similar services, products, and their customers.
  2. Build a list like a VC — This is crucial. You need to research the market you are going to sell like a VC. Here are some of my research about Indian Edtech market, Blockchain market, and the RPA market space.

Create a complete list of your potential accounts

Once you have done the research, you will know the market cluster, the big players, and most importantly, who is your ideal customer.

Now, segment the list of potential accounts to three categories: Dream accounts, Okish accounts, and the rest of the accounts. You can segment them based on money, market, and their current needs.

Decide the level of effort

Generally, Dream accounts need a hands-on approach, while the okish and rest of the accounts can go into some semi-automated cadence system. Prioritize based on your situation, quota, and your market.

Approach and Messaging

Now, you need to decide on three things here

  1. Approach — Decide on the outreach channels (email and LinkedIn are a few cost-effective, low key channels) and your ideal customer in these accounts.
  2. Message and Offering — Now clearly define your offering and write the message for each market segment and each ideal customer types. For a low key approach, this means email templates for the market segment. I highly recommend that you create a lead magnet (Video/GIF or PDF/SlideDeck or Trial Link). It will improve your conversion rate by at least 1.5x. Apart from this, you need to create presentation decks, talking points, and demos for your positive responses and meetings.
  3. Campaign workflow — Write follow-ups and create a cadence for okish accounts and the rest of the accounts.

Campaign and follow-ups

For a cold email campaign, you can create an email list with hunter.io, clearbit, or go for some sales intelligence tools like DiscoverOrg (expensive!) or ZoomInfo. With the email list, you can start your cadence with tools like Yesware or Outreach.io and for your dream accounts use LinkedIn Sales Navigator. If your call to action is a call/meeting, add a calendly link for the prospect to a meeting.

Disclaimer — Don’t send more than 100 emails/day/mailbox. Be aware of the prospect’s country’s laws (Like GDPR, CAN-SPAM act and so on). If you spam, you might go to jail. Also, create and maintain a company-wide Unsubscribe/DND list. Don’t spam, be polite, and give enough time gap between follow-ups. If they didn’t reply for your second follow up, they wouldn’t reply for sixth follow up, so stop annoying your prospects.

Meetings, Presentations, and Demos

If you have done everything right up to this point, you will be swimming in meetings and calls with your potential customers. SPIN Strategy (Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need) can help you move the needle. But if you are not getting enough meetings or getting irrelevant leads, you need to go back to a message or the list to troubleshoot. Tools like Zoom meeting, Whereby and Hangouts Meet can help you conduct these meetings efficiently.

Please don’t irritate your leads by being pushy because you have a quota to meet. Be kind and consultative. Put yourself in their shoes and talk to them like a friend who came to you for a solution. If you can’t help, at least point them in the right direction. Most importantly, if your lead has gone cold, try to ask the reason why they went cold. Don’t blindly send follow-ups asking for a next call.

Here are a few rules of thumb that you might want to consider

  • If you can’t explain your offering in 5 minutes, you haven’t clearly understood your offering.
  • Get on a call like a VC. This means you know the ins and out of the market, the company and the founder but be polite and ask the right questions that make your leads talk. Trust me, they will appreciate it.
  • Don’t be shy to talk about money. If they are not willing to talk about the money or skit the topic, it is safe to assume that they think they don’t have enough. So, set the expectations and give them some pointers to help get started.
  • Never forget to ask if they have talked to anyone about this solution and how it worked out.
  • Don’t get into a price war you can’t afford.

Contracts, Negotiate and Win

If everything goes well, this stage should be easy. Tools like DocSend, Betterproposal can help you send contracts/proposals and manage them. If things are not moving the way they should, you might end up going back and forth on calls to negotiate terms and cost. That’s fine, and if you can’t find a middle ground, it is ok to say “Thanks! Maybe next time”. But never let your pipeline go dry.

Manage Your Pipeline

You need tools to manage all of this, a CRM might help, but my rule of thumb is if you can’t handle this in google sheet/excel, you will never use a CRM effectively. Learn to manage this in a simple spreadsheet before graduating to a CRM/ABM tool.

To help you understand how I used this framework, here is one of my ABS campaign.

My Campaign

Offering — Product development services for Telemedicine startups and healthcare companies.

My approach — This is a small market for an ABS campaign as there were 260+ startups. So, I started my VC like research to segment these companies and ran a manual cadence. I analyzed their customer feedback, reviews, App store, and play store reviews to get an idea of what their customers need and then wrote this first touch email. I also looked at their careers page to find out if they are recruiting for relevant roles.

First Touch

Subject — 200+ customers of <company name> need <features>

Email

Hi <First Name>,

I’ve analyzed over 200+ reviews of your customers from the app store to G2crowd, and they need features like <list of features>. <if they are recruiting, “Also, I noticed that you are recruiting for relevant roles”>We can help you build these plus the features in your pipeline. Can we help?

<2 to 3 lines explaining the company and offering>

In fact, I’m calling out a relevant experience <lead magnet>

If you’re interested, can we talk? <Calendly link>

Second Touch

Hi <First Name>

I reached out to you a few days ago about how we can help you build <features>. It generally takes a week for us to get up to speed with the project and that week is on us. Essentially, you get a week to try us out and get started. If you are interested, can we talk? <Calendly Link>

Result

Sent — 288 startups

Open rate — 83%

Click — 36%

Reply — 24%

Meeting — 18%

Opportunities and Deals worth — $95,000

Final Thoughts

With this framework, I generated close $920,000 in opportunities and deals in the 12 months. So, feel free to tweak it to suit your needs.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this framework and how you do your campaign. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Sankaranarayanan

Written by

Marketer who works with VCs. Writes detailed reports (on Medium and my website tractics.co) that paints the landscape of an industry

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