The Ins and Outs of SalesLoft’s Account-Based Playbook: A Conversation With Sales Leader Derek Grant

Collin Stewart, CEO

11 Jan 2018

In the seemingly ever-growing tech sales universe, account-based sales has risen to a (if not the) dominant method guiding and propelling growth teams.

Sure, some industry leaders will argue account based sales is nothing new. In years past, if you had a defined territory, you were given a list of relevant accounts in that area and those were the accounts you sold to.

And, that’s true.

So, what, then, has launched account-based sales to its current perch? What’s been the modern catalyst?

According to Derek Grant, VP of Commercial Sales at Atlanta’s SalesLoft, the fundamental change has been the in-depth involvement of marketing teams in account based selling.

“What has really moved is the account based marketing model, which has really provided air cover for those reps. I think marketing is in this ugly adolescent phase right now as they move from lead based KPIs to pipeline generation KPIs,” says Grant, on a recent edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.

“It’s a bit of shift for marketers now, as we continue to think about account based everything.”

SalesLoft’s Account-Based Segmentation

SalesLoft, admits Grant, hasn’t always employed a nuanced account-based sales process. In fact, in the company’s early days, it was quite the opposite. It was only after a few rounds of hiring, and a few rounds of studying the small clients they were initially signing, that they decided to dive into account based sales.

But even after they committed themselves, says Grant, designing the method they would use did not come easy. Even narrowing down the accounts to attack wasn’t clear.

“When we went account based, we didn’t fully know what we were doing. So, we started to do account based sales on these small companies we were selling too,” says Grant.

“We were calling on the wrong accounts. If we were calling on the accounts with the right maturity etc. they would have been much more responsive.”

Over time, of course, SalesLoft began to define those “mature” companies. And today, they have established a tiered system that reflects the extent to which they deploy their account-based sales process.

Their tiered system is comprised of three levels:

ICP 1 – this represents about 1% of their total accounts (these are the accounts SalesLoft will do anything to get)
ICP 2 – Top 25% of accounts
ICP 3 – Remaining 75% of accounts

Each one of these tiers has a component of marketing activity, which drops in intensity from ICP 1 to ICP 3. In short, ICP 1 comes with a lot of marketing collaboration, while ICP 3 doesn’t and is handled in mostly a programmatic fashion.

Marketing Collaboration

Okay, so what does marketing collaboration with sales look like on SalesLoft’s top-tier accounts?

To use Grant’s words: “we make sure that we make these companies the star of the show.”

Some of the functions SalesLoft’s marketing team will do to help sales with ICP 1 accounts:

Demand Generation:

  • Cadences built out for multiple personas
  • LinkedIn ads
  • Terminus ads
  • Account-specific landing pages
  • Account blueprint campaigns

Pipeline Velocity

  • LinkedIn ads
  • Terminus ads
  • Account specific landing pages
  • Personalized videos
  • Custom swag / direct mail
  • Automated web personalization
  • Automated swag sending / direct mail

Closing / Pilot Support

  • Branded headset pilot program
  • Sponsored pilot team lunch and learns
  • Executive-level, account specific direct mail
  • Competitive programs for differentiation

“I think having marketing and sales aligned on one account, and doing anything to get that account, is really, really powerful for your business. The accounts you’re going after – these aren’t Joe’s Computer Shack. These are IBM, SAP, the accounts that beget other accounts,” says Grant.

“Those accounts can lend itself a great amount of credibility down the line. Focusing on the ones you can get a lot of miles out of.”

The Importance of The ICP

For sales professionals, both the novice and the seasoned, the ICP is a critical piece of success. After all, if you don’t know who buys your product or service, how are you going to know who to sell to next?
Account-based plays are no different. In fact, Grant says effective account-based sales “begins with a tight ICP.”

But, warns Grant, when marketing and sales are collaborating on lists, it’s critical for sales to review the accounts because it’s sales that has a better view of whether or not an account actually falls into their ICP.

“Early on, we began to ask the question: ‘how can marketing help us?’ They seem to know where we should be going,” says Grant.
“So, marketing found accounts that were right, they used Salesforce, they had reps etc. But, they looked wrong to the eye. We realized sales had to have some ability to scrub marketing’s lists.”
When Account-Based Sales Doesn’t Work

As SalesLoft’s tiered account system illustrates, account based sales works with a lot of different types and sizes of companies.

But, says Grant, it doesn’t work for every prospect. For SalesLoft, whether or not they employ their account-based method depends on size of the company, and the types of sales roles a company has.
“We focus on VC-backed SaaS. So, we will not be able to employ account based sales, or we won’t even look at it if they don’t have at least one of out three personas – they’re going to have a sales development function, VP of sales, and sales operation person, that’s the linchpin,” says Grant.

“We have found it to be about 100 people, a company that is unfounded, or doesn’t have sales operations people. That’s where running an account based play doesn’t seem to work.”

Some ‘Out There’ Wins

For many working in the tech world, especially those in sales and sales development, SalesLoft has grown into a well-known brand. Many of our faithful readers and listeners, in fact, probably use their software.

When you achieve such stature, it’s fair to saw the wins have been many. And often. But, with a devotion to account-based sales, some of the projects they’ve taken on for top-tier accounts have been…impressive.

For example, for the premiere of Star Wars in Atlanta, SalesLoft, along with local companies Terminus and Everstring, rented out an entire movie theatre for their prospects and customers.

“Yes there is a cost, but think about the impact,” says Grant.
“It’s really novel, not necessarily expensive, and it gives people a chance to chat in the lobby and then go watch something that people are excited about.”

For more on SalesLoft’s account-based playbook, check out Derek Grant’s recent edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.

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