Around this time of year, my son, Catesby’s class studies the gold rush. Coincidentally, 6sense also plans territories and sales hiring at the same time. Though seemingly vastly different, these two occurrences do have similarities. Being an account executive feels a bit like risking it all when finding a new territory: hopping into a covered wagon, traveling long distances, and working yourself to the bone to maybe—with some luck and timing—strike gold.
Of course, sales leaders, sales ops professionals, and CMOs don’t want this to be the case. We want to provide an equal opportunity for everyone to strike it rich. However, just like the gold rush, we don’t always know exactly where to mine, but we do have a general feel where veins in the mountain might be, or in which rivers we should spend our days panning in.
Most of us generally know how to build territories; company size, industry, or geography often provide a concentration of opportunities that indicate a good place to start digging. In 1848, it was the Sacramento Valley that sparked the gold rush. The population in San Francisco and the surrounding area grew from 1,000 to 1,000,000 in a single year. It was the place to find gold with over $2B worth of it unearthed during the gold rush.
But what if you showed up late? As people rushed to find “gold in them there hills,” surface gold started to disappear. But people kept on showing up and searching for fortune nonetheless. Showing up late to the gold rush is a lot like getting a tired territory as an AE. You have to pick-axe and shovel through a lot more earth to get one-tenth of what others are getting; not all territories “pan out.”
We made a pretty interesting discovery “finding gold” this year at 6sense. We hit “pay dirt” using AI, Big Data and predictive analytics. Like most companies, we traditionally assigned territories on an annual basis and used tons of data and insights to design those territories. Though it was a static list, we found that our ideal customer profile is actually quite dynamic.
Think about how often companies, markets, and buying behavior changes—its constant and ever-changing. By not adopting a more dynamic territory model we were leaving countless new opportunities on the floor—pay dirt! Meanwhile, AEs stay stuck picking-axing and shovelling away at accounts that were already “panned out.”
Many revenue teams overlook the potential of a dynamic ideal customer profile because it requires Big Data and AI.
A robust AI-based platform constantly evaluates what accounts are in (and what accounts should move out) of the ICP. Additionally, a platform with built-in predictive analytics knows when a lead is ready to engage with your product.
Predictive analytics also tell us if an account has no intention of engaging with us, which prevents us from metaphorically traveling by covered wagon across the country to tirelessly pick, shovel and pan away for nothing. At the other end of the spectrum, knowing exactly where an account is in the buying journey and which accounts are “in market” is like showing up in Sacramento in 1848 with a metal detector—the best-case scenario.
Even when we know where to dig, we still need to strategize our approach and test our assumptions.
When we adopted this strategy, the initial predictions seemed too good to be true. After back testing and comparing our actual results with the AI predictions, we ensured our ICP uncovered the best accounts and accurately predicted which accounts we should spend our time and resources on.
What about AE’s working a territory over time? It’s a classic B2B sales cycle that takes years to cultivate. Were we at risk of missing out on a huge bonanza because we were changing accounts too frequently and not really “working” the territory?
To ensure we weren’t acting too fickly, we decided to tier accounts to so 1/3 of an AE’s territory gets consistently worked while the other 2/3 rotates in and out accounts opportunistically.
For us, marketing “warms up” accounts with display advertising and digital campaigns based on the ICP and intent signal. When real AI insights properly predict leads are in market, the Business Development Rep team begins an outbound cadence and works them until they qualify, then rotates them into an AE’s territory. This way, BDRs never work cold accounts and AEs consistently get an influx of new accounts. In addition to Big Data and predictive intelligence, we supercharged our engine with Lean Data to seamlessly match and route accounts in real-time and based on real insights. Every AE has rich territory to mine and new veins all the time.
Being an AE is hard enough. We want to ensure every one of ours strikes gold.
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