The interest in account-based selling is rising as the need for more personalised, 121 conversations with buyers are needed. But it’s still relatively new and is often met with a slightly puzzled look by many organisations.
All of which means choosing an account-based selling agency is much harder.
With the concept is still in its infancy, there are no tried-and-tested formulas for finding your perfect-fit account-based selling agency. There are some red flags that you should bear in mind though – of the kind that can lull you in (as any persuasive marketing agency will do!) but ultimately spell a recipe for disaster.
They’re Proud Of Their Creative Approach
As account-based selling (ABS) derives from account based marketing (ABM), it’s only natural that traditional ABM agencies will branch out into the social side.
And that’s fine in itself. Every business needs to evolve. Where it can become a problem is when creativity is in their DNA at the expense of data.
Although an agency may have dropped the personalised invites and handcrafted “made just for you” gifts, that much-loved genius creativity may then permeate into what they prioritise with the social selling content they produce or recommend.
With account-based selling, the balance should weigh heavily in favour of data you can glean from LinkedIn Sales Navigator and social listening tools:
- The social (and other) buying signals prospects are showing
- What content motivates and interests your prospects the most
- Your benchmark social selling data:
- Existing number of connections into target account
- Number of Team Link connections into target account
- Number of people at target account following company page
- Identify promoters within target account
- Identify detractors within target account
- Identify progress:
- How the above metrics have improved
- Number of meetings booked
- Number of meaningful LinkedIn conversations
- Increase in social media-driven traffic
- Offline meetings booked as a result of social activity
- Increase in SSI scores
- Analysis of which content and employees are performing best and why
Account based social selling is about much more than glossy eBooks with interchangeable logos and introductions. Creativity is great but it’s how you use the data that’s key to your success.
So if an account-based social selling agency focuses on their creative approach moreso than data, that’s a big red flag.
They Confuse Interactive Learning With Practical Learning
Webinars, online reading, eLearning, They’re all great ways to learn online and have become a go-to resource for L&D. So if a social selling agency is passionate about the power of online learning it’s understandable.
But as any L&D professional will tell you, blended learning is critical (and McKInsey’s report stated that blended learning should lie at the heart of the revolutionary change needed in corporate learning).
Blended learning involves both “classroom-based” learning and practical “putting into practice” interactive learning - usually by a combination of teacher/coach-led learning and peer-led learning.
And this is the problem. Many agencies will equate the semi-interactive nature of webinars with providing the practical side of blended learning. But there’s a big difference between showing someone a case study of how someone else has put something into practice and getting learners to work through a problem themselves or in groups and then receiving feedback. Not to mention how important one-to-one coaching is for some social sellers.
So if the answer to, “What practical training do you offer our social sellers?” is webinars, then it should be a red flag that you need to investigate much further.
They Talk About Lifelong Partnerships
Retainers are the lifeblood of many agencies. And in some instances, a lifelong marketing agency partner is the right decision. For example, with inbound marketing there are often so many specialist skill sets needed to execute campaigns it can make much more sense to hire an agency as Rand Fishkin points out here.
Account-based social selling is different:
- With the right enablement approach, you can build those skills in-house without having to hire more employees.
- Sales teams have the highest turnover rate (making it even more expensive to rely on outside training).
- Your internal teams understand your key accounts best.
So while at the outset, hiring a social selling agency can help you scale without internal training resources and provide an outside and experienced perspective on how to roll out and overcome the teething problems of your new program - the long-term plan should be to go internal.
Yes, you may still wish to have a lifelong partnership where you can turn to your account-based social selling agency for consultative advice on new challenges.
But any agency that talks of doing it all for you in partnership long-term should raise alarm bells.
They’re Not Very Social
One of the great things about social media is its visibility. And while you can forgive a professional services company for still being stuck in the dark ages on social media, you should never do the same for any account-based social selling agency you plan to work with.
To start with you should look at their general social activity:
- Do their leaders and other employees have a high following?
- Does their content resonate with their audience? Do they get a lot of comments from people external to the company?
- Do they respond to comments quickly and comment on others’ posts with meaningful insights?
NOTE: Remember, not everyone will want to be part of employee advocacy or social media and that’s okay. Your program - and theirs - should focus on the enthusiasts but there should be one or two in each company.
And while you can’t get a full gauge for how they approach their account-based marketing, you can ask yourself how they’ve dealt with you:
- Have our social conversations felt personalised?
- Have they sent me content that is relevant to my needs? Did it make me feel like they were reading my mind?
- Did they send me content via SmartLinks (hint: it’s so they can track what you’ve read and who’ve you’ve forwarded that information onto!)
If not, then they’re not practising what they preach and that should be a big red flag.
They Can’t Provide Substantive Case Studies Or References
Account-based social selling is still a relatively new concept but nobody wants to be an agency’s own pilot study on how to run a program for clients!
While it’s understandable that some clients can be reluctant to announce publicly that they’ve received help in achieving success with their social selling program, most should be willing to chat with you.
And when you do your due diligence, you should look for evidence of more than vanity metrics. (See the first point for the data you should look for.)
Choosing who to partner with on your account based selling journey can be difficult but we hope these pointers steer you in the right direction. If you wish to discuss these issues further then why not connect with our Tribal Chief Sarah Goodall on LinkedIn (and see for yourself if she practices what we preach!).
In the meantime, you can see what we’ve achieved for one of our clients that recently embraced account-based selling. (Note the data-heavy approach and results write-up 😉).