How to Turn Account-Based Marketing Into Account-Based Selling

How to Turn Account-Based Marketing Into Account-Based Selling

Michelle Cirocco, Head of Global Marketing at Televerde, joins the Content Experience Show to discuss ABM strategy and transitioning to account-based selling.

In This Episode:

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Full Episode Details

Account-Based Selling

It’s been said a thousand times before: Businesses are people. Shift the perspective on that statement a little bit, and you’ll find something else true: People don’t simply buy from a “business”—they buy from other people.

The whole point of account-based marketing, and what Michelle Cirocco calls account-based selling, is to connect the people buying with the people selling. Studying your audience, setting up personas, and creating content are all for the purpose of sparking a conversation.

When you create content with an account-based approach, you’re creating specifically for someone and, when successful, bringing them into a personal interaction. Ultimately, account-based selling becomes a one-to-one conversation—a genuine relationship with your customer.

In This Episode

  • Why everyone is ultimately responsible for sales.
  • How content plays a crucial role in a successful account-based marketing strategy.
  • Why sales and marketing have to work collaboratively.
  • How to create “snackable content.”
  • How to transition from account-based marketing to account-based selling.

Quotes From This Episode

Account-based marketing itself has to be complemented by an account-based selling approach. Click To Tweet

“People buy from people, and the role of the content is to warm them up to start the relationship that will build the trust and, ultimately, lead to them becoming a customer or continuing the relationship with you.” — @mcirocco

“A good account-based marketing strategy should be delivering multiple leads within the same organization and providing a complete picture of this strategic account that’s going to result in a long-term relationship for the company.” — @mcirocco


Content Experience Lightning Round

If you were going to cover something not work-related as a podcast, what would it be?

Michelle is very passionate about helping disadvantaged women, so she would have a podcast interviewing women who have overcome adversity as well as women who help other, less fortunate women.

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Episode Transcript

Randy Frisch:Welcome to The Content Experience Show. I'm Randy Frisch. Usually as you know, I've got a great cohost in Anna Hrach, but Anna's off today. It's just me, but we've got an amazing guest on the podcast that you're going to get to listen to here coming up right after this little intro. The intro is always just to let you know what to expect. Today we have Michelle Cirocco. Michelle is the global head of marketing in a company called Televerde. What I really loved about this podcast myself is Michelle's career path. Look her up on LinkedIn even and you'll see that Michelle has basically worn every hat over 20 years in the same company.
It's a company that even though it's 25 years old, it's solving a lot of the problems that a lot of us as marketers struggle with, how do you generate demand, how do you accelerate sales. That's Televerde. What's cool about where she's at now and she's very humble about it in that she landed in this marketing role not really sure what to expect, not sure if she could take it on, but at the same time, she comes in with all these different perspectives from having sat in customer success roles, having sat in sales leadership roles, and an understanding of what it actually takes to create a great experience with the companies that they're trying to sell to.
Now she's sitting there on the other side and where a lot of us end up talking about account-based marketing and what account-based marketing means for the marketing department, she looks at it both as what does the marketing department have to do, but as well, what does the actual sales department have to do? What does that look like after that hand-off? Once we've identified our target accounts, when we're going more in that one-to-one account basis, what is the responsibility from an account-based selling perspective? She gets really deep into how to arm your SDR team and what some of the responsibilities are for them to take on.
I really think you'll enjoy this podcast if you're trying to figure out how to go more direct to some of your accounts, how to land those accounts, and then how you actually bridge that marketing and sales relationship, which is something we always talk so much about. Get ready to enjoy Anna and stick around for the question at the end, which is what would Michelle do if she were to start a podcast. You won't be able to tell, but this is actually Michelle's first podcast experience ever, and you'll see she came off just like a pro. We're going to roll it right now. Welcome in, Michelle.
Hey, Michelle. Thanks so much for taking the time to join us on The Conex Experience Show here today. Really excited to dig into what you do as a marketer and what keeps you up as the head of global marketing for a company of this size of Televerde. Now maybe you can start off by just helping us understand the size of the company you work for, what your role is like there, and a little bit about the team dynamic.
Michelle Cirocc:Sure, Randy. Thank you for having me today. Televerde is a business to business demand generation and sales acceleration company that focuses on the human touch as the key element to drive results for our customers. We've been in business for almost 25 years. We are a global organization with our headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona. Five locations in the US. One in Glasgow, Scotland supporting European operations. A location in Cordoba, Argentina for the Latin America languages and most recently, we opened an office in Melbourne, Australia to support our global expansion into APAC.
We're currently about 650 employees with plans to add about another 15% over the course of the next year.
Randy Frisch:It's exciting. I'll just say because usually I have my cohost here and people who listen to this podcast on a regular basis would know that at this point Anna would jump in and she'd be like, "I'm in Phoenix too," but she's on a holiday right now and I'm covering for her. I'm just going to say that you and Anna need to hang out at some point when you're in Phoenix. That's great. Maybe just at the level you're at now running the marketing team of a company of this size, maybe you can just briefly tell those listening in about your own personal journey as to how you got here to lead marketing at this level.
Michelle Cirocc:Sure. My journey to marketing is a little unusual. I started my career with Televerde actually just about 20 years ago. I was in project management and then my career continued into sales and account management. Then I moved into sales operations, leading the sales team for about five years. Then in 2011, we restructured the company to provide a greater focus on the customer experience and created the client success department, which I worked in. I led that group for six years. Then just recently at the end of 2017, I was promoted to the role of global head of marketing.
At the time when I took the position, I was a little unsure of myself because I had been in all different aspects of the business up to that point, a lot of operationally focused work that I was doing. When I got here, I realized that my career path had actually really laid the groundwork for me to really be the perfect fit for the role of the head of marketing at Televerde because I really understood our clients and what their needs were. I had a focus on ultimately customer success, which I really define customer success as when your customers are successful as a result of the work that you're doing, then you are delivering on the customer success imperative.
Being able to bring that background of sales and customer focus into the marketing department has enabled me to really develop and position the company in a way that we feel is resonating with the market in a meaningful way right now.
Randy Frisch:First of all, it's amazing to spend 20 years with a company. I mean that's quite rare these days and quite admirable. I'm sure that you bring such value as well with all the different stops. I mean I'm like sitting there thinking those situations where someone's like, "Oh, you don't know what it's like in sales," right? That's what we always hear from the sales department when we're the marketers, but no one can pull that shit with you I guess. You've literally been in every different part of the business from the sounds of it. Maybe not HR, but at the same time, I'm sure you've hired your fair share of 650 people in that company now.
Michelle Cirocc:Yes, I have. Having the background in sales and operations from an executive standpoint, I believe that everybody in the organization is responsible for selling and positioning the company and representing the brand effectively. Having that full background of experiences makes it a lot easier for me to be able to do that.
Randy Frisch:I'm curious I mean because a lot has changed and we'll talk about some of the trends that I think keep you up at night these days versus say 20 years ago. Maybe you can even just talk about your ability to adapt and what do you think are some of the biggest changes in what makes a successful member of your team today versus 10 or 20 years ago?
Michelle Cirocc:Certainly things are much more complex. There's a lot more moving parts. The amount of technology that we're dealing with in the marketing department has been exponential the growth of the amount of technology that we deal with. As a result of all of the technology we're dealing with and things like social media and marketing automation and all the other avenues for us to deliver content, the need to keep up with the volume and amount of content that the marketing effort demand has become one of the I think the biggest challenges of marketing today.
The thing to really be successful working on my team and I'm sure on any other marketing team is the ability to be innovative, creative, and really be able to respond with a high degree of urgency to be able to get things done and meet deadlines in a timely manner.
Randy Frisch:I love those three words: innovative, creative, and urgency. I feel like that's something that all of us as marketers should be testing everyone we interview to join our team these days. Because as you say, there's that growing need to respond and probably even personalize a little bit more on the one-to-one basis. Another area that we were talking about before we pressed record today was how things have shifted a bit in how your team is taking more of an ABM approach.
For those who maybe are less familiar with ABM listening in on the podcast, that's the idea of how am I going to go and win the accounts that I know I can win, what tactics am I going to do to target those accounts on a more one-to-one basis? I'm wondering, Michelle, when did you start to shift towards more of an accounts-based approach? Was it more recently or have you been doing it longer than the buzz word has been out there?
Michelle Cirocc:That's exactly right, Randy. Having grown up in sales, account-based approach was what we did and what we've always done. As an organization that has been focused on generating demand and accelerating sales, our focus has been about how you do that by targeting an entire company, understanding and recognizing that there are multiple buyers within any organization. Not just multiple buyers, but multiple influencers, buyers, recommendations that are involved in any decision-making process.
Our approach has always been about identifying all of the right and appropriate people within an organization to communicate with and communicating with them about topics that are most important and most meaningful to them in their roles. That's really what account-based marketing is about. Account-based marketing itself has to be complimented by an account-based selling approach.
As marketers, if we are taking the time and investing the energy to build out our total addressable market to include all of the relevant context within the demand unit and then building content and vehicles to distribute that content to all of those people, then our efforts will fall flat if we have not fully engaged sales in the process to take our efforts to the close. It starts at the very beginning in selecting the accounts that you're going to target in the process and then having sales buy in on the process of what's going to happen with all of the leads that you're going to generate and pass over to them. It's about taking ...
Randy Frisch:I want to jump in there just before you go to that next step because I think that's a really important part that you talked about. I'm curious with you coming from a sales background as to that selection of the target accounts. Who do you think should be held responsible for choosing that? Is that a marketing responsibility, the global head of marketing, or is that a VP of sales, or to what degree does that actually happen in collaboration versus as you said just now, sales has to buy in at the end, at the beginning? When does that process actually happen?
Michelle Cirocc:Well, I think sales has to be involved in the process from the beginning. There's elements of the process that need to be owned by each individual group. Marketing owns doing the research and the analysis and the understanding of where have we had the most success, where do we lose the most, how does our product or service resonate in the market, and then using that research and analysis to develop out the profile, the ideal customer profile, but then collaborating with sales and making sure we're fully understanding when and where and how and why sales is winning and losing in the different spaces and what they feel they need to be successful in the different areas.
It has to be a collaborative effort. I mean that's what sales and marketing alignment is really all about.
Randy Frisch:I love that answer. Especially as you've outlined, I mean you've had that experience sitting on both sides of the fence here and understanding how you got to get together at the end of the day to figure this stuff out. What we're going to do, we're going to take a really quick break here on the podcast, hear from some of our sponsors, as well as a special message from Jay Baer. Then we will be right back to dig deeper into that next step with Michelle in terms of how do you now go and target this account, list of target accounts, in an ABM strategy right here on The Conex Show.
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Randy Frisch:We're back here on The Content Experience Show. I'm chatting with Michelle Cirocco, and we're digging into the challenges of ABM at scale. Michelle, you just outlined for us that first step of coordinating really closely with your sales leadership, your marketing leadership to figure out these are the accounts that we know we can win. Where do you go from there? As you outlined, I want to make sure because this is a show so geared to content, when content starts to come into play from a planning perspective for engaging with our audience.
Michelle Cirocc:Well, I mean content is critical to the success of any ABM program. The way that it comes into play is once you've done the heavy lifting of defining the total addressable market and who the right contacts are for you to be targeting, then the next step is to really develop out the personas. What are the things that matter to these people? What is the message that's going to resonate with each of the different personas in your audience? Then you have to build the content that's going to promote the specific messages.
The content that is going to reach out to that person at the places where they digest content, whether it be podcast, white papers, thought leadership, and having the appropriate type of content relevant to the different stages of the buyer's journey. Then the next step, of course, is building out the vehicles that you're going to use to deliver those content so people are able to get their steady diet of content that the watering holes that they visit most frequently.
Building that out and then of course, like I mentioned before with all of the technology that we have, using the technology to track their behaviors, obviously lead scoring methodologies that help you focus on who is moving through the buying cycle at what pace, and then determining how, when and where to start the conversation with them. Because no matter what, all of the good content is really designed to lead to a conversation that moves the person into the sales cycle.
Because at the end of the day, people buy from people and the role of the technology and the content is to start to warm them up to start the relationship that will build the trust and ultimately lead to them becoming a customer or them continuing the relationship with you.
Randy Frisch:I love that entire soundbite. I feel like it's such a well-thought-out approach to the strategy that needs to go into content creation in the first place, right? I mean your point around the buyer journey and mapping the right pieces is exactly what we have to start to do. Too often I think we see companies that are still stuck saying, "Okay. It's Monday. What content are we going to create this week," versus saying, "Okay. What content do we need to map to that buyer journey?" I'm curious. I'll tell you actually first. We actually started to change the way we think about content creation at Uberflip, where I am when I'm not doing this podcast.
We came up with three very basic stages for driving pipeline. Those stages for us was capture, prove, and align, right? The idea of capturing is like what is keeping marketers who we sell to up at night. The prove part is once we've captured their attention with talking to those use cases, we show how our solution can actually help them. Then the align part is aligning that entire group. What it's done for us is really gotten our content team to buy in to say, "Okay. We're not going to just create that piece of content we felt like on Monday. We're going to create that next piece that we need."
What are some of the tricks that you've done with your team to bring the content team into that more strategic demand gen planning?
Michelle Cirocc:One of the things that we are testing out right now is this idea of what we're referring to as snackable content or soundbites. We've spent a lot of time in the past developing out these kind of long range lead nurturing flows that are made up of 6 or 8 or 10 or 12 pieces of content with the idea that people would come into the flow and then they would follow it all the way through. We recognized that that may not always be the right approach, so we're actually trying some new ideas starting out with here's a relevant piece of information to you and your particular role. If they click on it, then it immediately takes them to the next one or two pieces of content.
It becomes a single event that ... Like I said, it's like snacking on it. Rather than trying to keep them moving through a big long storyline, we're doing little short soundbites along the way, making that part of how do we further engage the prospect little bits at a time because we believe that people's attention span is much shorter these days than it used to be.
Randy Frisch:I was going to say I'm curious when you talked about that because I think some people listening in are trying to figure out, okay, what is a snackable piece of content versus maybe more of a yell size piece of content. Is the idea, tell me if I'm wrong, that you're seeing less success with something like a 20-30 page eBook and leaning more to like, I don't know, a short video clip or something of that sort, or is it more the number of pieces that you're finding that you need to serve someone out in one seating?
Michelle Cirocc:It's actually both, right? The snackable content is the ... With the first piece being a bit of a teaser that gives you enough to stimulate your thought about it and then maybe there's a short video which then the next piece of content might lead them to say, "Okay. Now go here and download our ultimate guide to assessing your SDR or ABM strategy." That keeps them kind of moving from a little bite, little bite, little bite, and guess what? This has really gotten my attention. Now I do want this bigger piece of content. Because that's a big commitment, a 20 or 30 page document. I think even 20 or 30 pages is too much for just about anything these days.
I think our longest piece of content we've created this year is probably only about 8 or 10 pages.
Randy Frisch:Yeah. I've said this for a long time, which is I think a lot of us get really excited when we look at our landing pages and we look at the conversion rates and we say, "Okay. Well, 2,000 people downloaded by eBook," right? But remember, there was a time when they downloaded, it's going into this offline experience where we can't really track what happens next. What's the actual open rate and how far do we actually make it into that eBook? To your point, I personally as a marketing leader, I'm looking for the close notes, right? I'm looking for the summary page. If that's good, then yes, I may sit down and read it on my next flight.
Michelle Cirocc:We've actually added video as one of our top strategies for this year as well is using video as a means to get people's attention and to spread the message about what we do and how we do it in, of course, very short soundbites because video ... Really 90 seconds, 3 minutes is about as much time as you're going to get for somebody to focus on a video.
Randy Frisch:Yeah, I couldn't agree more. It's so important that we're tracking all these things that you're talking about so that we can improve and understand what that engagement actually looks like at the end of the day. You spoke at the beginning about this idea of the importance between account-based marketing and account-based selling, right? I'm sure some people were listening and hearing ABM and ABS and they just don't know the difference exactly. Maybe you can help people understand like what actually is the difference there and where does the line get drawn if somewhere specific that you can nail?
Michelle Cirocc:That's a perfect segue, Randy. That is really where we view the biggest challenge to the success of account-based marketing strategies is that path from how does it go from account-based marketing to account-based selling. We do all this work creating the content and the personas and messaging out to people and then they become a lead. They've downloaded the content. They've scored high enough and we need to pass it over to sales. Sale's responsibility is to go and close the deal and turn it into revenue. Oftentimes there's this ... Most times there's a space in between the point when they become a lead and sales is ready to be able to take it across the finish line.
We believe that there's a position that belongs between account-based marketing and account-based selling. That's kind of the role of the sales development rep whose responsibility it is to go and make contact with that person. In your model where you talked about capture, prove, and align, this is almost a prove point in the middle that says, "This person's going to go out and ensure that the account-based marketing that resulted in this person becoming a lead has led to a real qualified opportunity."
They're going to start to build the relationship and develop trust with that person and really map out the entire demand unit or buying unit and capture all of the relevant information before handing it over to an actual field sales rep to close. Marketing is now passing completely over to sales who can then take it and say, "Now I understand the lay of the land of the entire account that I'm selling into. I have all of the relevant contacts. I understand what their pains and challenges are, and I'm positioned to be able to sell to the entire account rather than selling to an individual person or an individual lead if you were."
Because a good account-based marketing strategy should be delivering multiple leads within the same organization and providing a complete picture of this strategic account that's going to result in a long-term relationship for the company.
Randy Frisch:I really like that. I talk about this all the time. Almost everyday we're talking about how we're targeting accounts, but something just clicked for me a bit there, which is this idea that ABM is really generating those leads, rounding out who is in the account. Perhaps ABS, account-based selling, is where we can actually start to really interact more and personalize to those leads, right? It comes back to what you were saying, which is in your sales role over the year, you've been doing this for ages, right? Like you've been trying to find the right things to hook those different key contacts in that organization.
For those listening, I think this is the real opportunity where content can be put to use and personalized to the many different people weighing in. I mean one of the stats that always overwhelms me, Michelle, is this idea and I believe it's a Gartner stat or it used to be CB that would come out with this, which is that there's 6.8 people who are weighing into your buying decision in the organizations that you're targeting, right? It's no longer like who's my champion. It's I have my champion plus I have almost 6 other buyers who I need to get on side at some point along that evaluation process.
Michelle Cirocc:Correct. That's what I was saying about the role of this SDR, sales development rep, as being able to go in and take the time to do the complete account mapping to understand who are those 6.8 people and what exactly is their role in the decision-making process, and putting that information together into a complete profile that enables sales to take it over the finish line more quickly.
Randy Frisch:Now this has been a really great conversation highlighting a lot of very basic things, but I think a good strategy in mindset for people to start to take to how to actually execute this. Michelle, I want to keep you around. We're technically out of time, but we always have a couple minutes at the end here where we get to know you outside of your work life because we always talk so much about life and work being the same, but there usually is a separation for a lot of us. Stick around. We'll take a short break, and we'll be right back here with Michelle.
All right, Michelle. As I said, we've got a couple minutes left here just to dig in and learn a little bit about you. There was a question I asked someone recently and I'm going to hit you with it. You're not prepared for this, but it's a good way to I think get to know people's personal passions, which is you're on a podcast ... By the way, you've done an amazing job. This is your first podcast as you told us off the air. Now maybe you've got that podcast love. Let's say you were to go out and start a podcast tomorrow. What would be the topic of your podcast?
Like if you were going to cover something not work related as a podcast where you could interview really interesting people, what would that topic be and what would the angle be to your podcast? Fun one, huh?
Michelle Cirocc:Yeah.
Randy Frisch:I'll give you a minute here to brainstorm this one. I mean like I know it could be crazy nights out in Vegas because that's the first time we met. I think we were out in Vegas. Some of the best stories of Vegas, but I also know you're into scuba diving, skiing. There's so many angles, but now that you had a little bit of time to digest, what would your podcast be all about?
Michelle Cirocc:One of my greatest passions, disenfranchised populations, providing women in transition with coaching, mentoring, education, training that enable them to become their personal best. Really helping people overcome a place of adversity to realize personal success and accomplishment. If I was going to do a podcast, I would probably want to focus it on two different groups of people.
One would be the group of people who have started from a point or found themself a point in their life that was not where they expected to be, not where they wanted to be, and they had to overcome major adversity, personal challenge, whether it be physical, mental, whatever that particular challenge might be, to have to overcome that challenge to achieve great success. Then I would also focus on interviewing people who have worked to enable and empower people in those positions to achieve their best, whether they were coaches and mentors or people who started businesses that focused on providing opportunities to the less fortunate if you were.
Randy Frisch:I love that. I feel like there's probably so many amazing stories tied to that and great stories to highlight. Now I'm kind of curious. Any great ones that you feel comfortable to share where you could kind of synthesize it in 30 seconds? Did Someone you've worked with who's kind of overcome adversity?
Michelle Cirocc:Someone that I've worked with that have overcome adversity?
Randy Frisch:Yeah, absolutely.
Michelle Cirocc:That's one of the interesting things about Televerde that I didn't really touch on at the beginning of the conversation, but Televerde is and has always been focused on providing job opportunities that lead to careers, meaningful careers, to women who are incarcerated. Five of our nine call centers are located in women's correctional facilities both here in Arizona and in the State of Indiana. We provide the women with jobs, training, education while they're incarcerated, which then leads to them having the opportunity to come work for us here in our corporate office and/or go on to work for our clients. Over the years we've had over 2,000 women work for us in this capacity.
There are literally hundreds and almost thousands of them who've gone on to become incredibly successful and do really great things with their lives. I have a whole population of people that I admire and I respect everyday because of their ability to do this type of thing.
Randy Frisch:That's amazing. It's really inspirational and congrats to you and your organization for finding a way to give back to community. I think that's fantastic. In general, Michelle, thanks so much for taking time out of your day as a head of marketing for a global company of Televerde's size and scale to share some of these best practices with us on the podcast. For everyone listening, if you want to learn more about Televerde, just Google it. Go check out some of Michelle's team's content. We really thank you, Michelle.
For those listening to this podcast who want to listen to other of our podcast, please check us out on Spotify, on Stitcher, iTunes, Google Play, wherever you get your podcast and especially when you can leave feedback. Please let us know. Usually on behalf of Anna Hrach, who's hopefully enjoying some vacation time, I'm Randy Frisch from Uberflip. We've been pleased to have Michelle Cirocco from Televerde. Until next time, thanks for tuning in.
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