Outsourced SDR: the key to populating your Target Account List (TAL) with the right accounts?

A target account list (TAL) is essential to the success of any ABM program. But sourcing relevant contacts within those accounts takes time and resources. Could an outsourced sales development team be the answer?

So you want to carry out an account-based marketing (ABM) campaign for prospecting? You’re not alone – 70% of marketers reported integrating ABM practices in their daily workflow [Hubspot – State of Marketing Report 2022]. The key to any successful ABM campaign is to create a target account list or TAL and populate it with contacts, before planning outreach or creating personalized content. Of course, you want to target the accounts that have the biggest potential to convert and will be most profitable – but how do you decide who these are? If you find this hard, you’re again in good company – 39% of B2B marketers say that determining which accounts to target is one of their biggest ABM challenges [Inbox Insight].

A target account list is a directory containing all the data-qualified accounts that make them the perfect fit for your business, based on criteria such as industry, company size, geography, revenue and technology stack. It is made up of all the ideal customer profiles (ICP) that your sales and marketing teams have collaboratively put together. A TAL is not only useful for running ABM but for aligning sales and marketing to the same goal and making wider data-driven marketing decisions.

Having a target list that is clean and open to discovery is the starting point for any ABM program. It sounds simple and straightforward, but it can be the most difficult thing to achieve and can derail outreach efforts if not done properly with full alignment. There may be duplicated data, perhaps restrictions from sales on who to call or not to call, existing customers wrongly included, or simply a list that’s not up to scratch. Understanding what makes a seemingly ‘good target’ unsuitable is another key to fine-tuning the account list.

Once you’re happy with the accounts to target, you need to build a list of relevant contacts. Just as your TAL is based on a clear set of criteria (a segment of your Total Addressable Market or TAM, chosen based on the goals of your ABM campaign), the contacts you select within these accounts need to be a good fit for your proposition, and the sheer tenacity that’s needed to identify and reach these contacts in the new world of remote and office-working requires a high level of perseverance.

How an outsourced Sales Development team adds value

Building a list of the right contacts is not as easy as it looks, but a trained sales development representative (SDR) team can relieve this burden. They will start by picking up your current target list and identifying who they really need to speak to, taking into account the categorization of contacts not only by job title, but also by job role – sometimes a person has a relevant job role that has very little to do with their title. The SDR team will take the time to navigate through the company and find out the right person to call based on the role they perform within their organization, rather than simply calling a title (an important distinction).

The next step is to check the accuracy and recency of that person, to make sure they haven’t moved on, cross-checking across tools such as Zoom Info and Lusha, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, company blogs and websites and talking to other people within the organization. At MarketOne, we like to develop a clean and accurate contact list before we make the calls – while the names aren’t warm yet, that way we know they’re correct.

“When we look at our list of cold names that we’ve been given by the client versus effective names, MarketOne has typically sourced 90% of the names we call.”

Approaching the sourcing of contacts for a TAL this way can make a radical difference to the results. This is also how we start to have referral conversations – when we’re looking for the right contacts, we’re often talking to their assistants who may recommend other people to talk to, which becomes really important. At the end of this process, when we look at our list of cold names that we’ve been given by the client versus effective names, MarketOne has sourced typically 90% of the names we call.

What are the challenges in creating a good target list?

Account-based marketing is hard
Done right, ABM delivers a higher ROI than other forms of marketing, as well as greater alignment with sales, a better reputation and improved customer relationships, plus greater access to C-level contacts [SiriusDecisions found 30% of marketers who used ABM reported greater than 100% engagement increase with their C-level targets].

But no-one says it’s easy. ABM requires effective cold outreach, as well as comprehensive data management and reporting that requires budget and resources. According to an Ascend2 research study, 37% of marketers find it challenging to gather adequate funds and resources, and one-third of marketers are still in the implementation stage of ABM strategies.

Making those calls requires an ‘above and beyond’ effort
Because of the inherent challenges of ABM, an internal sales development team may abandon attempts quickly, giving up on a name after a couple of tries and never going back to it. Often, unless the internal sales development representative has been specifically directed to contact that person, the name will be abandoned.

What’s the solution? At MarketOne, our teams don’t stop at, say, two calls. We have a remit, we’re counting, we’re monitoring teams and we have a contract that specifies the minimum number of calls and emails, which we track and deliver on. The rigor to ensure your people make 30 calls to one person is a specialist skill. We like to set a ‘stretch’ metric where our people should be doing outreach to between 30 and 40 contacts a day, and for those that really excel it’s around 50 contacts a day. We know calling is effective and this is backed by other research that says 50% of buyers like speaking over the phone and this percentage increases the higher up the ladder (VP or C-suite) you go [Spotio].

Marketing tools are not specifically built for ABM
There are undeniably useful and effective marketing tools available that a caller can use but none specifically built for creating an ABM contact target list. While there are new calling platforms built for SDRs, these are often names-based systems. Current marketing tools have limitations in efficiently creating a queue and tracking across the whole account; you’re not getting a nice easy queue field or screenshot of what you’re looking for. It’s not easy to use these tools effectively, potentially leading to duplicate calls or hitting the wrong person multiple times and the right person only a few. At MarketOne, if we’re not inside our client’s system, we will generally build our own databases and apply our methodology to the data to make this process as smooth and efficient as possible.

Validating data sources
Making sure your data is rock solid is integral to creating a TAL you can trust. This is sometimes easier said than done – in one Demand Generation report, 83% of marketers reported having old or outdated data; 71% reported not having the time or resources to implement good data processes, and two out of three claimed not to have enough data on current customers. Similarly, in a LinkedIn report, 43% of respondents said unreliable data makes it difficult to know who to target within their accounts. This is where calling plays a crucial role. By putting in the effort and having the conversations, our SDRs can build confirmed lists of accounts and contacts rather than relying on older and potentially outdated data.

Why create an ABM target list?

In conclusion, creating an engagement-driven contact list for your TAL has numerous benefits for your business and can have an immediate impact on driving new meetings, expansion of account leads and retention. Done well, having a refined list can provide your organization with:

  1. Clear direction and goals
    Outsourced sales development representatives have the specialist skills, time and resources to create a superior quality list. This list has numerous benefits for your internal sales and marketing teams; saving time, saving costs wasted on disinterested leads, providing clear direction for the business.
  2. Better alignment
    Having a clean TAL contact list means there are also fewer issues with alignment. Many companies have siloed inbound and outbound marketing activities happening at the same time, which is a problem because a target may be irritated by receiving different calls from different people. Alignment between teams is so important, not only to maximize the effectiveness of your outreach, but your marketing dollars too.
  3. Improved understanding of target audience
    Your target list drives your ABM strategies but can also become a source of data-driven marketing decisions, helping you to tailor content, CTAs and follow-up process into a personalized experience for each targeted decision-maker.

With a confusing number of Martech tools and strategies available, having a high-quality, SDR-generated TAL that contains your most valuable leads may be no guarantee of success but it’s a great jumping off block towards new business generation and increased revenue.