3 Tips for Fueling the Account-Based SDR Engine

Mini Mighty ABM

This article is part of the Mini Mighty ABM series where we ask top experts in ABM to share one actionable idea that you can use at work today. These tips are mini, but mighty. For more, visit ABM Revealed.

In a finely tuned account-based revenue organization, your prospect’s first touch is often a call from an SDR. Not an ad, not a blog post. A call. That’s because, in a world of finite accounts, reps know they can’t rely on the right buyers to wander in through a demo request form. Sales has to engage prospects before the competition and to get multi-threaded within the account. As marketers, our job is to enable the sales development team to be extremely productive.

To motivate and measure your SDRs, define your ICP, ditch lead scores, and don’t ignore organizational hygiene.

1. Tell them who they’re going after

SDRs need an ideal customer profile (ICP) that’s more specific than just “anyone who fills out a form on our site.” That doesn’t scale, as we found out at SalesLoft. I started here three years ago as the one person responsible for demand gen, without a standardized definition for our ideal customer, right as we were moving upmarket. Like many companies, we were asking, ‘What has to change when you go from $5,000 to $50,000 or $500,000 accounts?’ A lot, as it turns out.

You have to switch from thinking purely about quantity and focus on quality. Good buyers are accounts that close, not just leads who take calls. You need to get away from the mess of multiple ICPs.

When you’re going after three or more contacts per account, and the total addressable market (TAM) is finite, SDRs have to spend their time more wisely and add real value. There has to be messaging consistency across channels, from marketing all the way through to sales and support. You have to use the same terminology to explain benefits, features, and concepts. That all comes from having one shared definition of the customer.

Marketers, who do people think is your customer? Ask around the office, if you hear multiple definitions, it’s time to nail that down with sales. Only then should you go through target account selection.

2. Let the lead score go

I’m not a huge fan of lead scoring because I think it relies on assumptions that are based on anecdotes, not data. Most people assign points to the magnitude of each action in a way that’s completely arbitrary. The conversation typically goes like this: “What’s a non-Gmail email address worth? I don’t know, a point. What’s watching a webinar worth? Say, five.” Scores bundle unscientific guesswork into something that feels authoritative but often isn’t predictive and encourages aggressive, brute-force prospecting.

The typical lead score inspires SDRs to hit high-scoring contacts repeatedly until the prospect cries “uncle.” Often, it’s not even the right contact.

I’m a bigger fan of account scores. If they’re based on the level of sales activity against an account as well as the marketing campaigns the account has engaged with, it’s a much surer identifier for organization-wide buying intent. We’re launching them now, and we plan to use them to measure:

  • Sales activities into target accounts such as calls, emails, and meetings.
  • Marketing activities going into target accounts such as ads, direct mail, and email. I’m especially interested in activities going into target accounts with an active opportunity.

    Pro Tip: We used TOPO’s account-based benchmarks for our metrics and definitions.

    3. Don’t ignore organizational health

    You can’t succeed at building an account-based organization without organizational health. You need that to pull off the level of collaboration and shared accountability required to be successful. Lucky for us, that’s been a focus at SalesLoft from day one. The company has been generous with professional development and ensuring that marketing and sales have a supportive relationship.

    People love to talk about sales and marketing alignment. They write posts, share anecdotes, and buy each other pizza. The real way to generate sales and marketing alignment is to adopt an account-based system around a well-defined ICP and good metrics. With that, you have trust. Without trust, it’s going to be very, very difficult.

    My Actionable Takeaway

    To better support SDRs in an account-based revenue organization, define your ICP, define your finite target account universe, ditch lead scores in favor of account scores, and don’t ignore organizational hygiene.


  • Eric Martin

    Senior Director, Demand Generation, Salesloft

    Eric Martin is a business-to-business marketing team leader, strategist, technologist and demand generator. Over the past decade, he has built the marketing function from the ground up for multiple technology companies. His primary areas of expertise include executive go-to-market strategy, demand generation, marketing technology stack development, and management. He leads a team of talented demand generators, program managers, and field marketers with the goal of driving account-based engagement throughout the customer experience.