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Targeting the Big Guys: Account Based Sales Development

Account-based sales development is the new era of sales. Characterized by a small number of curated, cultivated prospects; working closely with marketing teams; and “land and expand” deals; ABSD is the next big thing. Lars Nilsson, VP of global inside sales at Cloudera, walks us through his ABSD process and shares his stack, team structure, and tips for a successful effort.

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Special thanks to Jason Lemkin of SaaStr for putting on this conference and giving us the chance to publish these summaries.

In a nutshell:

  • Be creative about identifying target accounts. One way Cloudera builds its prospect list is by understanding individuals at target accounts hitting their website through IP lookup. These “signals” can mean an account is ready for outreach and targeting.
  • Work with the marketing team to get on accounts’ radars by using account-based marketing techniques about a month before your SDRs reach out.
  • Customize your emails. Templates are well on their way out.

Step 1: Identify your target account list and enter into your CRM

Because account-based sales development requires so much time for each account, you need to be strategic about who you target. Cloudera has around 800 to 1,000 customers. They mined their existing customer database to identify key decision-makers, stakeholders and firm-level characteristics.

Then, they found companies with those same characteristics. For Cloudera, that meant companies that have data architects or data scientists. They were crawling through Data.com, DiscoverOrg and LinkedIn to find people who listed those titles and keywords (e.g. “Hadoop”) in their job descriptions. They build their target account list from there.

Finally, Nilsson recommended identifying the key decision-maker for each vertical – that person will differ between financial services, retail, etc.

Step 2: Partner with account-based marketing team

Nilsson says that he works with the marketing team to get account-based marketing efforts going one month before a sales rep makes contact. The ABM team then starts making hyper-targeted ad buys on those accounts to increase brand awareness and give the sales team some air cover. Those ads don’t necessarily even have to be about the product – just get the company name out there. The biggest thing is to get on the prospect's radar.

Step 3: Create carefully crafted emails

Cloudera uses a three-email cadence, sent to five to 10 hyper-relevant titles within a company. They’re seeing an impressive 70% response rate – up from 5-8% before their ABSD effort. The key is personalization. They’ve considered automating email content, and while they have around 10-15 use cases per vertical and some templates to work off of, the SDRs are responsible for finding sales triggers and hooks tailored to the individual account. The emails should be concise with the hook in the first line of the email.

Step 4: Get meetings

ABSD, if you haven’t noticed, takes a pretty darn long time. After the initial contact, you need to start setting up meetings to deliver a pitch tailored to the account’s use case (the SaaStr panel on selling to enterprises covers this in depth).

DataFox aside: A key feature of account-based sales development and marketing is that the customer relationship doesn’t end when a deal is inked. A customer presents an opportunity not just for up- and cross-sales, but for getting a logo, testimonial or advocate that will help you close more deals down the line.

The team

When Nilsson started 2.5 years ago, Cloudera had 6 SDRs and an SDR manager. Now, they have 45 SDRs worldwide, and he’s created a clear career path for those team members. As an aside, he notes that he had much more success hiring SDRs when he left the Bay Area. His inside sales team is now based in Austin, and has international teams in Budapest and Singapore.

He’s planning to go from 45 to 65 SDRs quickly. He recommends hiring new graduates – you can just hand them the playbook, he says, and they’ll run with it. (Check out the panel on building a top-tier sales organization for more on this topic.)

The stack

Cloudera, like pretty much any SaaS company with a large sales organization, has a number of products in its stack:

  • Salesforce Trust for CRM
  • LeanData for lead conversion
  • Outreach.io, ToutApp and Yesware for email sequencing and outreach
  • LinkedIn, DiscoverOrg and Data.com for contact sourcing
  • TalkDesk, InsideSales and Five9 as dialers

Check out all of our SaaStr panel summaries here, follow us on Twitter at @datafoxco to see live tweets of the event, and visit SaaStr itself for more great content.