Marketing, Revenue Teams, Sales | June 15, 2024

What Does “Account-Based” Really Mean?

Read time: 6 minutes

Written by:

  • Mallory Lee
    SVP of Revenue Operations Strategy

Exec Summary

Misunderstanding ABM results in:

  • No ROI on massive ABM budgets
  • Multiple ABM approaches that don’t align
  • Undefined goals and end points
  • No momentum, low morale

Insight Partners study shows top B2B SaaS companies use ABM

  • But they do it correctly
  • Which means: sales and marketing alignment

ABM does not have to be complex

  • Take what you’re doing, make it account based
  • Read on for the basic steps of ABM
  • It’s working when inbound demand matches account list
  • ABM success is a joint effort


ABM is one of those buzzwords in B2B SaaS that gets thrown around while rarely being understood. I have a bit of a unique perspective here because I worked in the industry at Terminus, and when you work on something first hand, you always feel misunderstood 😉

We oversimplify ABM and overcomplicate it at the same time. I’ve seen a wide range of side effects from this: (spoiler, none are good)

  • Teams throw hundreds of thousands of dollars at account-based ads with little return
  • Many teams within a company adopt their own ABM approach and they don’t align
  • Revenue leaders don’t know how to set goals and define success
  • Teams quickly give up due to lack of momentum

Top Performers Use ABM

Insight Partners recently did a study on which GTM best practices are actually being followed by top performing companies. In our RevOps Corner Podcast episode, GTM Best Practices from Insight Partners, our CEO, Eddie, chatted with Jeremey Donovan at Insight about the results of their study.

In the study, the second, third, and fourth GTM best practices most correlated with top performing companies were, respectively:

  • Sales and marketing aligned at top of funnel
  • Sales and marketing collaborating on pipeline gen strategy
  • Sales and marketing aligned on the content being produced

We see the theme: Alignment is at the center of success. And what if we don’t have it?

I’ve walked into organizations where the sales people had target accounts and the marketing team had a different set of accounts, so they never aligned on the target account list. And that means marketing is wasting money.” – Jeremy Donovan

Treating account-based strategies as siloed motions is a waste of resources.

Listen to the full podcast here.

ABM is Not a Separate Sales or Marketing Motion

One of the biggest challenges in beginning ABM is that people think they need to add it on as an extra project on top of all they are already doing. That’s a recipe for confusion and burnout.

Instead, think of what you’re already doing and then convert that to be account based.

  • We already invest in ads. Can they be account based?
  • We already post on linkedin. Can it be account based?
  • We already do outbound calls. Can that be account based?

The answer of course is yes. The trick is to apply focus in targeting toward your account list and to niche-down your message/audience where you can.

Here are the basics of ABM 

  1. Executive + GTM team alignment on ideal customer profile
  2. Study, rank, score the accounts in your CRM and add more if needed
  3. Determine sales capacity and assign top accounts by territory
  4. Examine sales and marketing efforts; re-tool to focus toward your target accounts
    • Write down the key words and phrases that resonate with your ICP and buyer (use these in your targeted efforts)
    • Double down on the current efforts that bring in the best quality accounts
  5. Assign new budget and tactics to capturing attention of accounts by tier
  6. Measure and celebrate inbound activity that happens from the correct target accounts

You may have already done some of these steps. Great!

If you already have some of the ICP and buyer persona foundations in place, take those to your data vendor. Work with them to translate this into a list of target accounts. You can also then enrich that to see if anyone is showing third-party intent for your category.

We won’t always be reinventing the wheel – and this helps improve our speed.

How to Know When ABM is Working

How do we know when ABM has started to work? Someone is a little more willing to take your call. A prospect has actually heard of you when you tell them where you’re from. Maybe a target account just magically comes and starts a free trial.

These often feel like coincidences or “brand”.

Some of the intangibles are hard to measure in this scenario, because not every prospect is going to click on that account-based ad and follow the exact trail you’ve laid out for them.

But there’s one new KPI to add to your dashboard if you’re serious about ABM: Qualified Conversions. 

What’s a Qualified Conversion?

A qualified conversion is any inbound lead who comes into the system for the first time where we ALREADY know they match an existing target account.

(Inbound demand that matches our key account list.)

These can be measured and tracked via lead to account matching –  and I highly recommend that you mark them with a special status before converting them to a contact. Measuring the increase of qualified conversions over time, and comparing them to how much budget was invested toward their target account, is the perfect way to measure ABM.

Who Wins Attribution?

The most important thing about measuring and celebrating success of an account-based effort is that they are joint efforts: Sales and marketing coming together to activate demand and interest in the best possible accounts for your business.

Qualified conversions are coming inbound to us, but maybe sales was already outbound-calling that account for months. So who wins? Well that answer is easy: everyone.

Stop measuring who wins. Look at how often your efforts come together and overlap, creating the best possible outcome.

This is true alignment and this is true account-based go-to-market.

When you’re ready, here’s how we can help:

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