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Aligning the Challenger Sale with Account-Based Marketing: a lesson from Stephanie Deane

Stephanie Deane opened the talks at The ITSMA ABM Forum with an overview of the O2 Business ABM Strategy from Pilot to Scale. 

Most interesting was the statement that the strategy was carefully aligned to The CEB Gartner Challenger Sale*. There is a good reason why the Challenger Sale fits with an ABM Strategy, here is why...

The focus of the Challenger Sale is to establish a position with your buyer where you teach, tailor and take control. In Account Based Marketing the focus is to treat each individual account as their own market and therefore provided highly relevant and value-add content. This could be in the form of events, blogs, research etc

Where the two blend together is the ability to use content to do just that. As Stephanie points out below their successful ABM approached started by working closely with sales.

Those who know what content to produce are those engaging directly with the client (often sales and business development). It makes sense that that same group should connect the content to the client since they hold the relationship. 

It shows that to have an effective nurturing and awareness system you need content available to your relationship holders. It can't be content produced by a team that 'think it is what the client wants', it needs to be far more timely, tailored to what the buyers are asking for when they are asking for it. 

For example, O2 are discussing network security with the public sector:

  • After the meeting, the sales team know the key concern of the supplier is end-user data protection. 
  • They then coordinate with the content team to produce a piece that answers the concerns of the buyer in a "non-salesy" educative way.
  • The sales team can then take that content back to the buyer to nurture the deal, demonstrate their expertise, build the relationship and win a follow-up.

Content must also be of the quality to impact the potential buyer. Today's buyers have too much information available and receive it in more formats than ever, content needs to come from someone that they trust and very relevant to their needs. 

This has been supported through the continued research by Edelman PR and LinkedIn that says the highest performing content must be:

  1. Relevant and Applicable 
  2. Digestible
  3. Delivered by a trusted source
  4. Industry Insights 
  5. Stay current

In summary, being able to build trust at every stage of your ABM strategy is of significant value and as Stephanie explained you need a collaborative approach.

“We work closely with sales from initial workshop to deployment: it’s become something they want to do, rather than have to.” Stephanie Deane, Head of Account Based Marketing & Customer Advocacy


content marketing, b2b marketing, e2e