Sage is a market leader for integrated cloud accounting, people, and payroll systems. A global organization committed to supporting small and medium-sized businesses, Sage has a mission to transform the way people think and work so their organizations can thrive. The differences in the way both of these markets operate requires targeting them with very different go-to-market strategies.
Before 6sense — and before adopting an account engagement strategy — Sage applied very similar sales and marketing tactics to both their small and medium segments. From digital marketing to LinkedIn campaigns, from Facebook to live events, and more, the marketing team would do their best to incorporate some targeting strategies, but for the most part, they were running the same campaigns with the same messaging across the board.
The sales team would follow up as individual leads came into the organization, but with the lack of differentiation between marketing tactics across business sizes, they were not capturing the right audience. They realized they needed to go back to square one and better understand their total addressable market (TAM) and ideal customer profile (ICP), start personalizing campaigns and outreach, and prioritize the right prospects at the right time.
We recently spoke with Paul Tasker, VP of Marketing Operation at Sage Software, to learn more about how Sage moved towards — and ultimately built out — a full account engagement approach and aligned their revenue team with 6sense.
Adopting an account-based approach
Once the Sage revenue team realized their previous efforts were scattered, they decided to implement change. They needed a more focused, targeted marketing strategy, and began to look into account engagement platforms. They also engaged with SiriusDecisions (now Forrester) to gather insight on ABM frameworks, and learned that two core pillars of an account-based strategy are selecting the right technology and comprehensive, accurate data.
One main criteria for Sage in jumpstarting their account engagement journey was to find a platform that allowed them to leverage intent. An ideal platform for Sage would help marketing identify accounts showing first- and third-party intent in order to run targeted campaigns that help push them through the funnel. Capturing intent signals was also important to help sales prioritize their efforts on the right accounts, increase the number of opportunities, and ultimately close more deals.
Sage was introduced to 6sense through sister company Sage Intacct, a long-time 6sense customer. Things quickly progressed from there.
It’s been a rapid 12 months for Sage. Gone are the days of the field sales team cold-calling lead lists, hoping a prospect is interested in their platform or has downloaded a whitepaper from their website. And rather than using the same methods across various business segments, they’re now hyper-targeted in their efforts, prioritizing their resources effectively and engaging with the right buyers at the right time — at scale.
First on the Sage team’s list: embarking on a 6sense global roll-out mission. From the inbound and outbound teams, field sales, and all of marketing, the Sage team made sure there was full alignment end-to-end across all functions of the revenue org from the start. “This wasn’t just a marketing initiative,” explains Paul, “It was a joint initiative — a business transformation.”
From “spray and pray” marketing to targeted efforts
After deploying 6sense and hosting dedicated training and enablement sessions, Paul mentioned that one of the biggest differences from before is the way the Sage team thinks about data. With the ability to dynamically segment and target specific accounts, they now have complete visibility into their TAM and ICP.
This has prompted the Sage marketing team to develop specific content tracks for different vertical markets — something they had never delved into before. The marketing team leverages the 6sense Company Details API to create dynamic, personalized landing pages on the Sage website that curate specific, targeted content for visitors. For example, one of the key verticals they target is discrete manufacturing, so prospects from that vertical see personalized content relevant to their industry when visiting the landing page.
The Sage marketing team also leverages 6sense for display advertising targeted to specific accounts, with relevant messaging across verticals around the benefits of their platform. Taking it one step further, they have also created stage-based display campaigns that are currently running across the globe — in the U.S., Canada, South Africa, and Australia, with goals to further expand to more regions. Their stage-based display ads target accounts based on 6sense predicted buying stage: Awareness, Consideration, Decision, or Purchase.
Gaining confidence with deep insights
When 6sense was first deployed, the Sage marketing team spent time with their inbound and outbound sales team to not only teach them about the 6sense platform, but also to ensure reps have a deep understanding of what intent data really means.
This allowed them to create a framework around next best actions based on 6sense’s buying stage predictions — a framework that is now embedded into their sales process. There are different designated actions for the sales team when an account is in Awareness or Consideration vs. Decision and Purchase. Now, when a lead comes in, the inbound team first uses 6sense to determine whether to prioritize the lead or not.
On the other end, the Sage team also uses 6sense to prioritize accounts showing high levels of intent but that have not yet been engaged; based on the account’s keyword and intent data, the BDR brainstorms outbound activities in which they can target key personas with personalized content based on what the prospects are researching.
The Sage team uses 6sense predictive scoring in conjunction with their existing lead scoring model, allowing them to layer deep insights onto their current model and prioritize accounts much more efficiently. This has greatly increased efficiency across the sales team, particularly as it relates to targeting medium-sized businesses.
Before 6sense, Paul admits, the Sage outbound sales team would shy away from accounts where there was little background knowledge, as it was difficult to start conversations and immediately provide value. Now, the sales team is trained to look at intent levels and keyword research, leveraging actionable insights from 6sense to confidently open up relevant conversations with prospects. It’s made their opening dialogue much smoother and more effective, and the sales team now displays more confidence in their outreach with the valuable insights they have right at their fingertips with 6sense Sales Intelligence (which resides within the CRM).
Paul explains, “Now, the sales team is able to have ‘warm’ conversations, knowing there’s intent there and the topics the prospect is particularly interested in. It’s made conversations a lot easier, as they can navigate the conversation completely around the prospect’s needs.”
A revenue team aligned
One of the first things Paul recalls about post-6sense roll-out across the Sage team was that they administered a strict rule — they did not leave the room without agreeing upon an SLA between sales and marketing. They developed specific agreements for sales and marketing on lead or opportunity follow-up, differentiated by their small and medium-sized business segments.
Marketing and sales together prioritize accounts showing intent, and agree that follow-up should be as immediate as possible. Sales has committed to calling and having a meaningful conversation within five days of 6sense picking up intent signals and alerting the sales rep, or a lead coming in based on their intent and keyword research.
Every geographical region within the Sage org works a little differently, but after implementing the specific SLAs there is alignment across the global teams and they’re all operating under these conditions as a unified team.
Another significant change Paul mentioned was the increase in credibility and trust in marketing as an organization. With a comprehensive account engagement platform in their hands, the sales team sees that intent data works, and are reaping the benefits by engaging with the right prospects at the right time with the right message, at scale.
“This has been extremely powerful in showing that marketing is adding a lot of value here — sales now feels empowered when they use insights and data to frame their outreach, because they trust the data,” says Paul.
Previously, the field sales team was reliant on marketing for leads and opportunities. Now with 6sense, the team heavily leverages 6sense intent data and creates opportunities left and right! The Sage team opportunity creation with 6sense has climbed over 50% since last year, before 6sense. In Q1 2020, they uncovered over 4,000 newly engaged accounts, and over 1,000 accounts with increased engagement — accounts and insights that would not have been uncovered had it not been for 6sense.
From dipping their toes into ABM to full-blown account engagement across 90% of their global team (and growing), Paul says, “6sense has been incredibly, intrinsically valuable. It’s a huge win for us. We’ve scaled, we’ve aligned the business around a single go-to-market strategy and the power of 6sense is right in the middle of it all.”
On the bond between sales and marketing, he goes on to say, “With 6sense, the trust and relationship between marketing and sales is now a lot stronger — it’s pulled the teams together and they both can see how the other team operates, and they are working together to achieve the same business goals.”
It’s no longer only sales or only marketing for Sage Software; the Sage revenue team works in lock-step on every stage in the customer journey. From uncovering demand to prioritizing their efforts to increasing opportunities and engaging at scale, the Sage revenue team is aligned on a single platform, and 6sense continues to be instrumental to their success.
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