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"Flip your funnel."

"Fish with spears instead of nets."

"Bring your marketing and sales teams into total alignment."

There are many descriptors attached to the account-based movement that is swirling through the marketing and sales space. Never heard of it? Here's a quick recap: Whereas traditional demand generation requires teams to do broad-reaching campaigns, account-based sales and marketing strategies require more targeted approaches. Marketing and sales teams use their limited resources to engage the biggest accounts that are most likely to buy their products or services.

Doing so requires extensive research, and social networks are gold mines for gathering insights about accounts. Let's take a closer look at why that is.

Why Do Reps Need to Research Your Accounts?

An account-based strategy is not built on one-size-fits-all messaging that reps copy and paste. Rather, this type of strategy hinges on a rep's ability to do his or her homework. By learning deeply about target accounts, reps are better equipped to position their products and services at each account, and they'll increase their chances of winning accounts.

According to Harvard Business Review, top sales performers interact with 40% fewer accounts per quarter. By prioritizing quality over quantity, top sales reps are able to build deeper knowledge of their markets, as well as their accounts. Moreover, they can tailor their interactions so that their key accounts continuously move to the next stage in the buying journey.

What Are Reps Looking for?

All right, you get it. Reps need to do research on their accounts. But what exactly do they need to know about those accounts? Here are a few of the topics they need to investigate:

1. The Market

Reps need to stay up to date on what's happening in their market and in the markets of their target accounts. They should look for trends, insights, growth drivers, M&A activity, etc.

2. The Target Companies

It goes without saying that reps should learn everything about their target accounts. Salespeople need to dive into a company's corporate strategy, its strengths, its weaknesses, its competitors, its org chart, its culture and values – everything a rep can think of.

3. The Buying Committee at Each Target Company

How is each key contact related to the other members of the team? Who reports to whom? Who holds budget? What are each member's priorities, biases, preferences, and styles? Where did they work in the past? What's their past experience with a product or service like your own?

4. The Reps' Connections to the Account

Reps should ask themselves questions, such as: Do I have any existing contacts at the company? Have I done previous deals with the company? Have my coworkers done deals with the company? How am I connected to the buying committee on social? Do I have experience working with any of their competitors?

Where Do Reps Find Insights on Social?

Okay, you have an idea of what reps should be looking for. Now, where do reps find that information? Salespeople have many resources at their disposal, but there's nothing quite like social for gathering insight. Here are just a few places to look for information:

1. LinkedIn Recent Activity

To see someone's recent activity while using a desktop computer, navigate to the person's profile. Then, move your cursor to the down arrow in the top part of their profile. Finally, click on "View recent activity."

By looking at this section, you start to learn more about the members of your buying committee. You can see with whom they interact on LinkedIn. You can see what type of content they consume, which tells you a lot about their current interests, which are great fodder for sales conversations.

We wrote a whole post about using LinkedIn's Recent Activity feature for social selling. Check it out!

2. The Company's Social Channels

Annual and quarterly reports, letters to shareholders, investor calls, every page on the website – all those items provide great insight into the company, but don't forget to peruse a company's social media posts.

For example, let's say that the CEO of a target company writes a blog post, and the company shares that post on its social channels. A rep needs to read that post. The CEO's thoughts might give the rep an idea of the company's strategic vision, and if the rep can show how your company's product aligns with the target company's strategic vision, the rep is more likely to win the deal.

3. Twitter Hashtags

Account-based sales requires you to understand the market, and Twitter can be a great source of information about the market. On an ongoing basis, there are Twitter conversations about nearly every topic. For example, #IoT (Internet of Things) or #RenewableEnergy.

By choosing hashtags and following the conversations related to those hashtags, reps will keep their finger on the pulse of the market. They will be armed with more knowledge, and in turn, they will have more relevant conversations with their buyers and position themselves as trusted sources of information for customers.

And as the saying goes, people buy from people they like and trust…

4. The Twitter Accounts of Your Buying Committee

If your buyers are on Twitter, reps should follow them. Like LinkedIn, Twitter can help reps better understand their buying committees. Reps can see with whom their buyers interact on Twitter. They can see what types of content their buyers consume, and they can glean information about their buyers' current interests based on the content they share.

Since people tend to mix personal and professional on Twitter, salespeople see a different side of their buyers on Twitter. Compared to LinkedIn, that portrait is often a fuller, more human version of your buyers.

And here's the best part: On Twitter, reps can interact with the members of their buying committees without jumping through hoops. On LinkedIn, you need to send a connection request and hope that the recipient accepts your request. On Twitter, things are much easier. Find the person on Twitter, click "follow," and start seeing all their updates in your Twitter feed.

To Recap…

When it comes to account-based sales, there are some tools that make your life easier. For example, platforms like Trapit bring market insights and buying committee insights directly to the sales rep. That way, salespeople don't need to go out and forage for information.

That said, sales reps still have to put in effort and extract insights from the data points that they have. Remember that an account-based approach to sales requires due diligence. Nevertheless, an account-based approach is about targeting the biggest, most lucrative accounts. And in the end, the effort will pay off.

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Posted by Mark Bajus

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