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High-value sales are often project-driven in B2B markets. On major project release the main contractor allocates work. Each contractor then orders on their chosen subcontractor and so on down the chain.

A simple sales process in principle. All you need to do is identify the project, the main contractor and each subcontractor in the chain. You then need to position yourself to secure business from the subcontractor who allocates orders at your level.

If only it was that simple. Often the project-driven sales process is much more challenging. Several contractors may bid to secure business from the main contractor. Below them many contractors will bid to secure their orders and so it continues.

Let’s assume one contractor in the chain has a decision to make between three subcontractors, X, Y or Z. You have a great relationship with the key decision-makers in contractor X. A weak relationship with contractor Y and no relationship with contractor Z.

You will probably have no influence over the contractor further up the chain. If they allocate their order to customer A, great. But what if they order on contractor Y or Z.

KAM vs ABM – Targeting Key Accounts

You may employ key account managers (KAM) to look after your existing key customers. Their role is to embed themselves in the account and ensure you extract the maximum sales value you can from that account.

In contrast, Account Based Marketing (ABM framework) is about generating sales opportunities in new accounts. Potential customers where you have no (or very low) sales and limited (if any) relationship with key decision-makers.

So in a project-driven sales environment, your key account managers should be doing everything they can to secure orders. If their account receives an order from their customer further up the chain. 

Your Account Based Marketing team should identify the businesses where you do not have a presence (customers Y and Z in the above example). Their job is to build awareness in those accounts and generate opportunities for your salespeople to gain a foothold. 

Influencing The Customers Project Team

In a project-driven environment ABM Lite (see definitions below) is the best approach. The focus of the ABM strategy should be on overcoming the roadblocks to building awareness in the target accounts. 

Often your competitors will have a established relationship in these accounts. So, you should focus your ABM efforts on building credibility in those target accounts.

It is likely the information needs of decision-makers in customers Y and Z will be similar so much of the work will be duplicated. While some level of CRM system will help there is no need for marketing automation in the project-driven scenario.

The approach to implementing ABM should be more human than automated. With sales and marketing working closely together to implement ABM tactics to secure a way in. With a foothold secured they need to work in partnership to build out from that bridgehead.

Types Of Account Based Marketing 

ITSMA defines three generic types of Account Based Marketing campaign as strategic (one to one) lite (one to few) and programmatic (one to many). A single organisation can employ one type of ABM campaign or all three.

One to few (Lite) is executing lightly customized programs for clusters of accounts with similar issues and needs. Therefore, by our definition, small scale ABM in a project-driven environment is ABM Lite.

If your sales are project-driven and you have lost high-value sales because you failed to cover all eventualities ABM could help. But it is important to start long before project placement. It takes time to gain a foothold and time to build relationships.

Account Based Marketing is not easy and it is resource-intensive. It is also slow to deliver results. That said, if your business routinely bids on contracts worth more than £50K then over time it can pay for itself many times over.

You can read more on building a ABM framework here and some ideas on how to start generating content to support your ABM process here.  Many ABM resources are available from  ITSMA although much of it relates to programmatic ABM for large businesses.

If you would like to talk through how ABM (lite) could help your business secure more major contracts please get in touch. If you have an ABM process in place and need content to support that process we can help with that too.