No matter what company size you are, if you work in sales, it’s very likely that you are implementing an account based sale strategy. There are pros and cons to prospecting on an account by account basis, by one of the biggest drawbacks is the amount of time it takes to find good accounts to go after.
How to Pick The Best Accounts to Prospect

Over the past month, I’ve been researching working on assigning new accounts for our SDR team. Today we’re going to dive into some tactical ways to find some accounts for you to prospect.

Just as a reminder for the newer folks out there who don’t know what account based selling is, it’s when you find a good company to target with your prospecting, then search for the best contacts there.

So, where can you find some good accounts to go after?

There are two things you should think about before assigning an account to your rep.

finding the right accounts

The best accounts are accounts that your company can help the most, but also have the highest chance of responding to your prospecting.

If your product or service integrates with any other technologies or services, find people that use that technology if it’s relevant to your value prop.

“THIS ONE IS OBVIOUS RYAN!!! I KNOW THIS ALREADY”... woh woh woh come on now…put away the pitchfork.

I’m going to show you some different ways to do this on this post, but I want to get you thinking like this to start with.

The best logical way to find new accounts is to think backwards like this. What makes your product or service the most valuable for that account?

For many hardware, software, and IT companies, integrations to other products and services can be a competitive advantage.

One mistake I see some companies make is that they sell their integrations as a competitive advantage, when it is more of a nice to have vs. need to have. If you are picking your accounts based on their technology stack, you need to do this only if you’re directly going to make that part of the technology more valuable to the organization.

If you think your integration to another product or service isn’t a key part of the problems your product or service is serving, you’re better off looking at companies that use competitor’s products, or people talking about those same problems online.

A good example of a company who has a ton of integrations is Slack. Many of us out there use Slack to communicate with coworkers, manage projects, and send files and links to each other.

But you know what? If you rounded up your company’s CEO and asked them why they bought Slack or moved their company to Slack, how many of them would say, “Oh..because they integrate with Google Drive?”

Most teams buy Slack because they want to have a more effective way of connecting employees. They don’t want employees only working in their inbox.

The integrations come likely only come into play if their prospects’ are using a competing chat application.

slackwebsite

That’s the difference here. If you want to pick solid account to go after, you need to make sure there is a healthy balance between those two questions.

The thing is, technology can still be a good indicator that you should go after an account. Buying some technology is an indicator of budget.

For example, if a company has Marketo, and also happens to have a large sales team? There is a pretty good chance they have a budget for LeadIQ. I’m not going to mention Marketo in my prospecting, but I will use that to help guide my reps toward going after an account that actually has budget.

Now, let’s say integrations are a good play for you as a value prop? Where can you find some of these companies?

I’ll start with LeadIQ as an example.

We integrate with SalesLoft and Outreach so reps can add leads right into cadences/sequences from the web. So if I can deduce a way to know if an account uses SalesLoft or Outreach, there is a pretty good chance we can help sales teams be more productive with their prospecting.

Companies are paying thousands of dollars a month for these platforms, but having us in their sales stack makes them more valuable, makes these platforms easier to learn, while gets reps to adopt these platforms faster.

So I need to find companies that use SalesLoft and Outreach to make them target accounts.

What are some clever ways LeadIQ knows what companies use SalesLoft or Outreach?

Working backwards, try to think of where customers gather to tell others about their experiences with products.

One of my favorite places to scout for accounts is review websites.

This one is not a huge secret anymore, but websites that allow customers to share their experience with products and services is always a good place to start.

When I was building out LeadIQ’s target account lists for this month, I eyeballed accounts that wrote reviews about both Outreach and SalesLoft.

g2crowd outreach

If you look at the above screenshot from G2Crowd, I can see that over 700+ customers have written reviews about Outreach.

Not all of the reviews are ideal customers for us, but as I’m building out our list of target accounts, I can check out the accounts one by one and see if they fit the bill for a good account for our sales team.

There are tons of review sites out there. I tend to think the reviews from G2Crowd tend to be the most accurate given their strict requirements for writing reviews.

Sidebar: Why do people write reviews on review sites? G2Crowd emails on behalf of their paid customers and offers them Amazon gift cards in exchange of writing a review. So their vetting process is pretty legit since they are footing the bill to get a review on the website.

Some of the other ones that have some reviews you can prospect off of are Siftery, TrustRadius, and Capterra.

I’ve seen some of our reps attempt to mention the reviews in their prospecting emails. I tend to feel that it's best not to mention them when you are prospecting. You’re better offer having a value prop that is less direct so your prospect feels like it’s destiny!

Don’t just go after your competitors on these sites. Complementary services and products work well too.

Notice I didn’t just pick a competitor. Companies that use complementary services usually work great for everyone. Working a competitors list is effective, but the sales cycle is going to be longer because they are in contracts, and especially if you are on the techier side, implementation and evaluation can take months.

The last reason that I prefer complimentary services vs. competing is because if you close that deal this year, what’s to stop that prospect from shopping around next year? You are putting a ton of pressure on your Customer Success team.

Obviously it’s ok to steal your competitors’ customers, but don’t make that the key thing to get a new account in your pipeline.

Where else can you find companies that use certain technology?

One of the other things that you can do is do a keyword search on job postings. Back when I prospected at Dyn, I’d hunt for job postings mentioning our competitors, and even set up job keyword alerts to get emailed to me everyday on sites like ZipRecruiter and Indeed.

For example, when I was assigning accounts this month to our reps, I looked for BDR and SDR job posts that mentioned SalesLoft and Salesforce.

adp-job-posting

If ADP mentions they are hiring BDRs who know how to use SalesLoft, they likely would be a good account for us to go after because our integration with SalesLoft helps them more than people who don’t integrate with SalesLoft.

If you want some inspiration, find some customers you’ve closed, and look at their job titles. Once you find the job titles, read some job posts that are the same title and see if you can come up with some ideas.

Here’s another fun part about prospecting off job sites too.

If you work in Software as a Service and sell seats or subscriptions, companies that hiring are usually growing.

Growing companies usually have budget and problems you can help with.

If you are trying to pick between companies that are growing or companies that are downsizing, I think we both know which accounts have a higher chance of responding and closing.

One of the best ways to see if companies are growing is not only on job sites, but also on LinkedIn.

One of the ways I found accounts for this month was doing a search on people who mentioned they are hiring SDRs.

To do this, go up to your search bar on LinkedIn, and type in a keyword plus the word hiring.

With LinkedIn you can search for hiring managers that put that they are hiring in their headline, job postings, and maybe the biggest secret weapon, CONTENT search.

content-search-linkedin

With content search, you can see which people on LinkedIn have posted about hiring. This becomes extreme useful because you can now prospect these people and offer to share their post.

This makes it way more likely that they’ll think of you or open up to you when you ask them to check out their company.

Okay...now let’s talk about prospecting accounts who are more likely to respond to outreach.

When I’m putting together account lists for reps, a decent portion of your target account lists should be of old opportunities, leads, and marketing qualified leads your company generated in the past.

Between the past few years, LeadIQ has probably generated over 100,000 inbound leads between our Chrome extension downloads, calendar demoes, webinars, RateMyPitches and events. Your company, especially if it’s further along, likely has the same type of situation going on. Think of places where you've had some sort of interaction with people before, even if it is at an old company.

With our team believing in personalization, it’s nearly impossible for our SDR, LDR, and sales teams to reach out to every lead. So a decent portion of the accounts they go after will be accounts that have been untouched with personalized outreach.

If you are on the hunt for accounts, you don’t have to just keep going after net new accounts. There are plenty of former leads that could be good target accounts.

Maybe you had a webinar your company hosted and prospect traveled the week after so they never saw your outreach? Or the webinar attendee left the company shortly after signing up? Maybe they used some PTO and went fishing with friends. Timing is a huge part of outreach.

There are so many leads back when I worked at Dyn that got back to someone and said they weren’t interested, that eventually became interested because of good outreach.

I may have had an individual contributor come in on a webinar, or try a demo with no authority to buy.

That IC may not be a good prospect for us because they are too low at the company. If I make that account they work at a target account however, a rep can work that IC to find out who the right person is to prospect. That's the beauty of account based selling.

I’d say a named account list should be made up of 60% new accounts, and 40% existing accounts who have done some sort of impression of your company.

Impressions can be anything where they interact with our brand.

The cool part is if an existing lead left the company they worked out, you can go after their new company. The only way you'll notice that though is if you are checking on existing leads in the system. Don't be afraid to ask Marketing for some old leads, and then use your data provider to reverify what data is still good. If data goes bad, go find out where that lead is working now.

Response rates for something like this will be higher because only are you going after someone that may be familiar with your company, but marketing may also be running ads against old visitors of your site.

What about customers who just closed?

One of my favorite tips for assinging accounts is to go after your customer’s former companies. Network effects are real. If you sell to Jim, and Jim worked at Acme, Jim knows people at Acme. That's just how it is.

Let’s pretend that we just closed Drift as a customer, and the person who signed the contract was Armen Zildjian. One of the ways I find new accounts for reps is by looking at our new customer’s previous companies.

previous-companies

Your company solves problems right? When your buyer leaves one company and has a problem at the new company, there is usually a good chance their old company had the same problem. These companies are more likely to respond to you, and if you have permission from your new customer, you can even ask them for insight about the other account, or permission to namedrop them.

Build Target Accounts Based on Social Interactions

This is my last tip for this post, and maybe one of my favorite. A good portion of your target accounts should be made up of people who have interacted with you or your company's brand online.

Too many people miss the boat on prospecting someone that may have liked, shared, or commented on a piece of content that you've made.

You can build these interactions in as a trigger for your reps to reach out.

We actually do this with LeadIQ.

 

Conclusion

When it comes to prospecting, half the battle is picking the right accounts to go after. If you can successfully do this, you should be able to increase your prospecting response rate significantly, and more important close the business you bring in.

How-to-Sell-to-a-CEO

## EVER WANT TO SELL TO CEO'S? WE ARE GIVING YOU THE CHANCE TO PICK THE BRAIN OF A REAL LIFE CEO!

Posted by Ryan O'Hara
Ryan O'Hara
Ryan O'Hara has been an early employee at several startups helping them with marketing and prospecting tactics, including Dyn who was acquired by Oracle for $600+ million in 2016. He's had prospecting campaigns featured in Fortune, Mashable, and TheNextWeb. Ryan specializes in branding, business development, prospecting, and coaching people on how to make good digital first impressions. He also mentors two accelerators, The Iron Yard and The Alpha Loft, and hosts The Prospecting

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