Mastering ABM: 3 Strategies to Improve the Marketing to Sales Handoff 


When it comes to account-based marketing (ABM), your marketing team might have invested in intent data, built tailored content, and spent time targeting accounts. But is the juice worth the squeeze? 

You could say marketing operations teams are there in part to squeeze every last marketing dollar in order to maximize each ABM effort.

While the deal itself might be out of your control, it’s critical to ensure any front-end effort generating leads doesn’t fall flat in the handoff.

In order to get ABM right, both the marketing and sales team need to be working as one. 


Ready to bridge the gap? Here are three steps to master the marketing-to-sales handoff to drive better ABM and maximize every last dollar.

Improve match rates by 74% like Coveo

The first critical step is matching incoming leads to existing accounts in your Salesforce CRM. But where does your organization sit when it comes to the maturity of your lead-to-account matching?

Hint: If your team is still doing this manually, that can be a huge speed-to-lead setback just brewing with inaccuracies. On the flip side, if you’re using automation, are you leveraging the most advanced lead-to-account matching methods to your advantage?  

Are you…

Using out-of-the-box Salesforce: 

We love Salesforce! But it isn’t designed to match and connect leads to accounts. After the handoff sales reps will either spend precious time manually finding a connection in their CRM, or reach out blindly, hoping they don’t reach out to an open opportunity or existing customer.  

Either way you slice it becomes a poor customer experience and slow-you-down speed-to-lead on target accounts.

Implementing automation: 

Automated lead-to-account matching saves time, provides more information and context for sales reps, and prevents awkward interactions. On top of that, by merging incoming leads with existing contacts, you can prevent dirty data from piling up in your CRM. 

“Using the matching engine Coveo improved their matching rate by 74% compared to Salesforce’s native functionality. Second, by utilizing auto-merge the team was able to proactively prevent duplicates from entering Salesforce in real-time.”

Good data also plays a foundation in your ABM operations and reporting. Lead-to-account matching helps keep your data free of duplicate accounts and leads, ensuring that your enterprise ABM marketing and sales efforts don’t go to waste. 

If you’re already a pro and have this in the bag or are selling to B2B enterprise companies, have you considered the impact of enterprise accounts on your ABM strategy?

Mastering ABM with hierarchy-based matching:

For a B2B business selling enterprise solutions, in order to truly operationalize ABM, you need to think beyond traditional ABM and consider enterprise ABM

Traditional ABM and enterprise ABM differ in the sense that account targeting is approached on an individual account level, versus looking at an entire account hierarchy – child accounts aren’t automatically connected as subsidiaries of a larger parent account. 

This means you have blind spots within the hierarchy of accounts, can’t effectively track and measure ABM across the entire enterprise, and risk sales and marketing alignment friction.

Instead, implement hierarchy-based lead-to-account matching to eliminate blind spots and help map leads, contacts, related accounts, and more:

  • Match to any object including leads
  • Configure complex rules without APEX code
  • Automatically merge & convert across the entire enterprise
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Pro Tip: With the account hierarchy into consideration, you can create a list of target accounts within an enterprise family tree and work hand in hand with sales on their land and expand strategies across the hierarchy. Sales will be giving you those handshakes and you’ll be tracking influence when accounts are connected.

What’s next? Well, a match is nothing without somewhere to go.

Encourage speed-to-lead and SLA’s on target accounts

Are leads on key target accounts getting routed to sales but aren’t being responded to fast enough (or at all)?  

When it comes to your sales counterparts responding to a lead, the average response time for B2B companies is 42 hours. Even worse, 58% of companies don’t respond at all, which can be frustrating for your marketing team as time slips by. 

Using Salesforce native:

Lead assignment rules are managed in list format. But as your company grows and your go-to-market strategy becomes more complex, these rules become too long, convoluted, and complicated to change on the fly. Not to mention IT or admins owns any change that’s made.

Implementing automation: 

Automated lead routing is a no-brainer when it comes to faster routing and speeding up response times. Not only can you forgo a queue of hot leads (including target accounts), but you have more control and ensure those leads get into the right rep’s hands. 

Being able to visualize and easily customize your lead routing rules saves time and lets you accommodate for unique routing scenarios such as open opportunities, partner leads, and different account owners within the same global parent company. 

Mastering the sales and marketing handoff with a lead response timer

You can take it one step further by using SLA timers – not just on lead records but on other objects such as opportunities, accounts, and contacts. 

Not only does this encourage urgency and keep sales reps accountable, but it also helps track where bottlenecks may be occurring in your marketing to sales handoffs. 

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Key metrics to track:

  • Average first response time by rep
  • Average rep response by team
  • Response time trends over time
  • Sales qualified lead to opportunity conversion rate
  • Performance against SLA’s

Monitor intent on key accounts and trigger actions

Gaining insight into how a lead from a target account interacts with your company, as well as when they’re sales-ready, will help nurture and improve the marketing-to-sales handoff. 

You want sales to have as much information in their back pocket to maximize a smooth handoff and in turn, produce a higher lead-to-opp conversion rate. 

While this enrichment isn’t natively possible using out-of-the-box Salesforce, there’s a multitude of tools at your disposal. 

Using intent data platforms 

Having a single source of truth for marketing, sales and operations when so much data is floating around is a huge win for ABM. Teams can understand who’s ready to buy, when, and what products they might purchase. 

With intent tools like 6Sense and Rollworks, you can prioritize inbound leads based on specific behaviors like: 

  • Email subscriptions and opens
  • Website visits
  • Form submissions
  • Content downloads and engagement
  • Webinar registrations and attendance

All this data is pulled into Salesforce which is a big win for your programmatic marketing campaigns. The flip side of this is inbound expressions of interest. 

Master ABM with intent-driven trigger-based automation

As you receive intent signals from your ABM program, it’s important that this information is visible and acted on. 

Trigger-based automation can empower more effective marketing operations by routing leads to the sales team once they’ve hit a certain scoring threshold or a certain Salesforce activity.

New expressions of high-impact activities or interest on target accounts can be immediately triggered. For instance, when a new lead or contact is added to a campaign or campaign member insight is updated, automation will allow notifications to happen and or routing decisions to be put in action.

This, along with matching a lead to an existing account, ensures that the marketing team is connecting intent data to leads tied to target accounts (and any account, really).  

Master ABM with Traction Complete

Traction Complete has a full suite of solutions including matching, routing, SLA trackers, notifications, integrations, and more so you can ensure your ABM program is built on a strong foundation from lead to close. 

Curious about taking your lead management to the next level?


About The Author — David Nelson
David Nelson

CEO, Traction Complete

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