The Account-Based Imperative: Focus on Your Existing Customers and Deliver Value

By Patrick Morrissey, SVP & General Manager, Upland Enterprise Sales and Marketing 

Political strategist James Carville famously noted, “It’s the economy stupid” to remind his team to maintain their focus on the most important issue of the presidential campaign. That same advice is just as timely today for B2B sales and marketing leaders facing significant headwinds with COVID-19 and a very conservative spending climate. Unless you work at Zoom or happen to be in the business of selling recreational vehicles, it’s a challenging market.

In order to get back to growth, sales leaders must focus on existing customers. But the truth is that most organizations’ sales and marketing approach just isn’t aligned to customer reality.

Breaking Out of the Funnel Mindset

Most of us in senior marketing and sales positions have spent much of our careers thinking about customers as something that happens at the bottom of the funnel. If marketing does their job and drives awareness, business development engages and passes a lead to sales. Prospects turn into a pipeline and opportunity cadence, and boom, out the other end of the funnel comes a customer.

The reality of today’s digital-first world is that customers are already in the center of your business – whether prospects and existing accounts. They’ve checked the reference sites; They’ve talked to your customers; They’ve done their own homework and developed their own purchase criteria. This is especially true for existing customers who are working with your teams, using your products, evaluating your services, and deciding if their spending and resourcing are aligned with the value you’re delivering.

This isn’t just a sales problem—it’s a marketing and go-to-market problem. Customers get frustrated because the experiences they’re having and the content they’re being delivered misses the mark.

Why? Because it’s organized for a funnel, not for the current sales reality. I’ve been hosting a web series with Forrester Research. During a recent episode, Forrester VP Laura Ramos noted that, according to their research, “59% of respondents said that vendors give too much information and that much of that is useless.”

Executing on a Customer Revenue Optimization (CRO) Strategy

When your marketing and sales content is missing the mark three out of five times, the answer to connecting to cross-sell and upsell opportunities can’t be to crank out more content. Instead, think about revenue optimization strategy in order to align sales processes to customer journeys and help your customers capture value in every interaction.

To do so, you’ll need to:

  • Develop account plans and portfolio plans. Account planning is all about identifying the people, problems, and potential that will unlock new opportunities. Revenue optimization requires deep knowledge of the executives, key players, and decision-makers to build the right relationships with your customers while focusing on how to solve their problems. It also requires the ability to visualize the whitespace in account to find areas to focus on. Good account planning is the fastest way to develop pipeline and a plan to execute.
  • Refocus your ABM strategy to enable the buyer journey. According to Forrester’s Ramos, “70% of companies report that the term ABM has become virtually meaningless.” Applying an account-based strategy should start with your largest and most strategic existing accounts and targets and be focused on personalized content that speaks to their problems while educating them on their journey to buy. The account planning and portfolio planning process to priority territories is critical to turning ABM into account-based selling based on outcomes.
  • Bring everyone on the revenue team to the table. Enterprise selling is challenging on a good day, but it isn’t just marketing’s job to get the organization focused on growth. Success is activating a revenue optimization strategy that requires you to bring the extended team (including services, technical experts, and customer success) together to participate in account plan and opportunity reviews including services. Understanding customer needs and helping them capture value means putting the customer in the center of the dialog and organizing your team around them.


The economic reality of COVID-19 is that these conditions are likely to be with us for some time. Organizations that move more aggressively now to rethink their go-to-market strategy for the digital-first future and put the customer at the center of their business will be positioned to win and to grow their business.

We’re going to discuss how to create a strategy for customer revenue optimization and navigate the new reality of sales on July 15th with a web event featuring Forrester analyst Mary O’Shea. I hope you can join us.

Until then, remember: The economy is the economy, but it’s all about your customers.

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