The art of account planning

Account selection is a high-stakes art, but a few basic guidelines can help you cut out the risk of selecting the wrong accounts.

Shelly Weaver
Shelly Weaver
June 17, 2022
min read
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Account selection is more of an art than a science and the stakes are high. Select the wrong accounts and you can pour all your budget and time into buyers that aren’t ready to invest in your product, instead of the buyers who are right at the edge of making a decision.

In this article, we’ll look at the basics of selecting right-fit accounts—and how to select fewer of the wrong ones.

The three steps of ABX account selection

1. Define your ideal buyer

Lots of companies construct their ideal buyer definition using the data they already have, but this is a mistake. It limits your vocabulary for describing your buyers. It’s much better to do the opposite—describe your ideal buyer in great detail and then find the data that can help identify those accounts.

For example, you might describe the perfect customer:

  • Has a need for multiple products
  • Must purchase this year due to new privacy legislation
  • At least five people in the compliance department
  • Is building an external product that is reliant on this internal product
  • Has a lean buying team of less than five

Then decide what data you’ll need to identify that buyer:

  • Intent—yes
  • NAICS code—yes
  • Team size—yes
  • Job postings containing keywords—yes
  • Growth trajectory—yes
  • Technographics—yes
  • Company revenue—no
  • Total number of employees—no
  • Number of locations—no

Through this process, you may find that you don’t actually need all the data types you had available. Your persona will be more concise and accurate as a result.

2. Identify high-probability accounts using intent data

You’re likely familiar with the acronym “FIRE,” short for “fit, intent, relationship, and engagement,” but you’ll want to pay extra special attention to the “I” and the “E” when selecting accounts. These are the most commonly refreshed types of data, and the most suggestive of whether an account is in-market.

Buying intent data also helps expand your view of your total addressable market. Intent data providers keep their data much fresher than your team can keep your CRM, or traditional data companies can keep their lists. Use that data to rank the accounts you’ve selected based on their buying propensity.

Intent data is also good for day-to-day prioritization. If you have a way for marketers and sales reps to target accounts based on how their intent is trending, your team can create a Salesforce report that tells each person how to spend their day.

3. Pick an ABX style

Broadly, there are three ABX styles. If you’re just starting out, pick one and master it before incorporating others:

If you’re looking for a low-risk way to run a pilot, pick one-to-few. Use intent data to prioritize a list of accounts and use everything you learn to craft increasingly custom content.

An expert word of caution

Don’t get too clever with using techno- or firmographic data. Data is rarely perfect and the more specialized or rare it is, the less clean or accurate it tends to be. If you figure out that most of your buyers tend to have a particular type of software, that’s great. But unless you can purchase a highly credible list of that exact software’s customers, that insight may not be useful. In fact, it may only convince your team to purchase a questionable list and lead you away from your target.

We've covered a lot–and you surely still have some questions. But the answers may not exist. That is, after all, part of your job, and why ABX account planning is an art and not a science.

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