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The Hardest Part of ABM: How to get leadership buy-in for your ABM strategy

One of the hardest parts of ABM is getting buy-in from your Leadership team. In this article, we explore how that's done and why it's so important.

Strategy   |   Sales enablement   |   ABM

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Jack Rawlings

strategicabm 550 60

Jan 11 2023 - 8min Read Date published: Date modified: 2023-08-22

ABM is simple, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy.

It's straightforward and direct, but at the same time, Account-based Marketing requires effort and can present difficulties. So it's by no means easy.

ABM is all about immersing your ideal customers in an account experience that is relevant, contextualized, and lands at the right time. 

Ultimately, that’s it. Simple right? Absolutely. But easy? No!

How to get Leadership buy-in for your ABM strategy

Account-based Marketing can be hard. 

It’s hard to build that all-important alignment with Sales. Or get to grips with what messaging resonates well and when. 

It’s hard to build a clear picture of who the right personas and job roles are in the accounts you want to target, or put the right value proposition and messaging into the right channels. 

It’s hard to create the right formats that engage your audience and cut through the noise.

But one of the hardest parts of all when launching an ABM program is making sure that your strategy is fully aligned with what your organization is looking to achieve. 

And this, more than anything else, is what will determine whether your ABM campaign succeeds or fails.

Here are some thoughts on how to get that important buy-in from your Leadership team. 


1. Connect the dots

ABM is much more than a marketing strategy, despite the name. It is an organization-wide strategy that goes beyond Marketing. 

It goes beyond Sales. It is each and every department that ‘touches’ a client (present or future). It’s Customer Success, it’s Operations, it’s C-suite, it’s the Board - get the point? 

And as such, without that crucial buy-in and support from all areas of the business, an ABM campaign will always struggle to achieve its goals.

So how do you get that important buy-in? Marketers need to help connect strategy and execution across the divides between Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success. 

Equally, the ABM road can be rocky at times as the results are rarely there at the beginning. 

The strategy needs full support from your Leadership team and clear communication to the entire organization that:

  • The ABM strategy is a business-critical strategy
  • It is aligned with overall business objectives
  • That it supports their client-centric focus
  • And finally, it will help deliver growth in your most important accounts

ABM, when done well, is all about integrating Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success as tightly as possible. 

It's all about breaking down the ingrained cultural divisions that exist in organizations and engaging deeply and effectively with your most important customers, ensuring the long-term success of your business.

ABM readiness workshop

2. Educate leaders

Helen Keller said, “A well-educated mind will always have more questions than answers.”

This is where your Leadership team can play a huge part in the success of your Account-based strategy.

Your leaders possess significant business experience and a strong strategic mindset. They are capable of making high-quality decisions and managing conflict while remaining adaptable.

Learning how to harness this wealth of experience should be high on your list of priorities before you embark on your ABM journey. 

So what should you do?

  • Find a champion

    Which senior Leader can be your champion? It may not be the obvious one – it may be the CFO or the COO. Build that meaningful relationship - particularly if the CMO is not part of the Leadership team or a member of the Board.
  • Find advocates

    Find supporters to ensure that your voice is not the lone voice in this strategy. Numbers count. Equally, each voice might bring a different element - data, strategy, internal alignment, etc. Mobilize your allies, build a coalition, and gain credibility.
  • Tailor your message

    Tailoring your pitch to Leadership is directly associated with a successful outcome. It’s essential to familiarize yourself with your audience’s unique mix of goals, values, and knowledge and to use that insight to shape your messages.
  • Frame the ABM case

    It’s all about priorities. What is important for you may not be important for others. If you want to gain buy-in and support, you need to frame the case for ABM. In other words, you need to package it correctly. 

    How does your ABM program support a strategic objective? Once you are able for others to see how your initiative fits into the bigger picture, they will be willing to invest in it, and you. 

    Be sure to frame the ABM case with solid business outcomes and benefits. It may also be useful to underscore the urgency as an opportunity that should not be missed, or indeed a way to see off a threat that is on the horizon. By highlighting a threat - a consequence of not adopting your strategy - can also create pressure to act now.

  • Manage emotions

    Selling anything is an interpersonal skill and emotions often run high when personal investments are involved. We’ve all made good and bad decisions in our business lives and your leaders are no different. Channel these emotions correctly – for example, if a previous Marketing strategy had not succeeded, show why and how this ABM strategy is different and have the data to back it up.
  • Get the timing right

    Timing is everything, be very aware of this. Has something happened to the organization? Has there been a new strategy announced that you can align with? Has there been a change of personnel - a person blocking that is no longer there, etc.?
  • Show the destination

    Make the intangible tangible. Show the solution, the journey, and the final destination. This will build confidence and support for your plan while showing Leadership what and who is involved and needed.

ABM Lunch and Learn

3. Agree business outcomes

More often than not, an ABM strategy is deemed unsuccessful by a Leadership team due to unrealistic expectations being set from the beginning. 

Over-promising or suggesting that ABM can solve all problems is setting yourself up for failure.

Therefore, agreeing on realistic business outcomes is fundamental. What is the ultimate outcome that you, the business, and the Leadership team are looking to achieve with the ABM program? Reverse engineer this to uncover the key performance metrics that you should be tracking throughout the campaign. 

The  3 Rs, Reputation, Relationships Revenue, are a solid approach to deciding which metrics are important for you to monitor, and in particular, as a way to communicate the impact and performance of the ABM program to the Leadership team and the wider business. 

3 Rs Framework

What is also key is time to results. ABM is not a quick fix. – it never has been and never will be. Make the effort to show what the early indicators of success are, your expectation on pipeline growth, and the eventual impact on Revenue uplift.

4. Align with business objectives

This part cannot be understated. Any investment must see a return – this is one of the main tenets of business. 

ABM is resource-hungry – whether that's in people, time, or money. But that should not put you off and it won't put your Leadership off either. 

This is provided you have sold the benefits of an ABM strategy, articulated the challenges that you may face, documented the Return on Investment, and clearly shown what will happen and when. 

Importantly, if the goals of your ABM program match the goals of the wider organization, you will have ‘economies of scale’ on your side and more people invested in you and your program being a success.

ABM Playbook

5. Show quick wins

ABM is a journey - some would say a marathon.  That does not mean that you need to wait until the finish line to show success. 

Build strong communication channels with your Leadership with the aim of over-communicating and sharing the results of the progress your ABM campaign is making. 

So what are quick wins? The number of new contacts made, the number of meetings achieved, attendance at your Executive events, positive PR from the target accounts about your brand, etc. 

The goal should be that you eventually put a $ value to a lot of the key interactions you have in the Reputation and Relationship building phases – but first, you have to build those Relationships and that Reputation!

Don’t be afraid to share roadblocks and wrong turns. Being transparent and honest - what's working, what's not - means that you will build trust with the leadership team, and they may be able to point you in the right direction for solutions or support.

Involving the leadership team and other areas of the business – whether that's planning, data acquisition, or campaign setup – will also increase their interest and buy-in. It no longer becomes just your program, but theirs as well.

"One of the tenets at Google is 'fail early, fail fast, learn fast'. And that's exactly what we did. We took stock of where we are, what's working, and what's not working. We paused our program and rethought it in certain ways." - Akriti Gupta, Global Head of ABM, Google Cloud

ABM case study

6. Systematize your dialogue with Leadership

Long term, the goal is to be influencing revenue and a strategic go-to-market shift with your ABM program. 

If you're successful in this, all conversations around investment and buy-in from the Leadership team become significantly easier.

It’s important not to get complacent with the processes and strategies that you implement. There is always room for improvement and the chance to optimize campaigns as well as introduce new content and messaging as the market develops and changes. 

Quarterly and annual reviews of the programme with your Leadership are a great way to maintain their interest in the program and demonstrate its effectiveness. Get them involved, keep them involved,  and make them part of the overall strategy and success.

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Final thoughts

Aligning with the leadership team on ABM may be one of the most difficult aspects of setting up a program, but it's also one of the most rewarding. When done right - with full buy-in and shared ownership of and interest in the program - you start to see results across the board.

The trust and relationships that you build could have far-reaching consequences for you, your business, and your clients, for years to come.

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