Drafting Your Account Based Sales Development All-Star Team

It takes a team to navigate the football from one end of the field to the other and across the goal line. The same holds true for Account Based Sales Development. Let’s face it. Selling into B2B markets is becoming tougher and tougher. We have bigger deals, longer sales cycles, more complex buying processes and larger buying committees. This all leads to a demand for the seller to build his/her knowledge and understanding of your prospect’s business better.

The good news is that Account Based Sales Development (ABSD) is the new idea that will help you navigate the changing landscape. And it too is a team sport. There’s no “I” in Account Based Sales Development.

ABSD is a lot to tackle in a single post. That’s why we’ve written the Clear and Complete Guide to Account Based Sales Development. But in this post, I want to flush out how to think about structuring and building out your team in an account-based world.

This is a new way of selling that we call Team Selling. It means you must focus on building the right team to execute on this new way of business development and generating demand. If you try to execute this strategy with the same team structure and player positions, you’ll fail. It would be like taking an indoor soccer team and telling them to play in an outdoor game. Though the ultimate objective is to get the ball into the opposing goal. It’s an entirely different skillset, mindset, and overall strategy.

Top Traits of Successful Account Based Sales Development (ABSD) Team Players

Successful ABSD practitioners are collaborative, data-driven with a strategic orientation and top-notch communication skills. The best ABSD team members are naturally curious about the business of business. They’re interested in the complex value chains and relationships between the many different players in a market.

These are the top traits to look for in your sales reps:

  • Intelligent and disciplined with a systematic approach
  • Goal-oriented but patient
  • Great listeners and users of information
  • Respect for marketing peers
  • Openness to new processes
  • Organizational networkers
  • Natural followers of The Challenger Sale

These are the top traits to look for in your marketing reps:

  • Seasoned, senior marketers
  • Can hold their own with account executives
  • Well-rounded team players
  • Business knowledge and consultative abilities
  • Solution marketing experience (to focus on insight), and/or field marketing experience (to focus on interaction and orchestration)
  • Leadership and relationship skills to pitch and manage campaigns
  • Strong project management

The ABSD journey is a constantly steepening learning curve. A natural interest in the dynamics of business is important. As you can see, the job descriptions for an ABSD sales or marketing team member is going to be much different than your traditional job description.

Suit Up!

The players you need to suit up to tackle an account will vary from team to team, deal to deal and industry to industry.

The core Account Based Sales Development team typically includes:

  • Account executive and sales team member
  • Solutions and services consultants / delivery personnel
  • Marketing representatives from solutions, industry, communications, and field teams
  • Professional service and support organizations

Here’s a bit more about the specific roles and corresponding responsibilities. As you read through them, keep in mind what would make sense for you, your company and your industry. The last thing you should be doing is copying the team structure and roles of someone else doing ABSD if your companies are not nearly identical.

Provides reports and can escalate support items when they become consequential to customer satisfaction scores.




ABM Marketer
  • Spearheads the ABM project
  • Helps collect insight
  • Runs the initial ABM alignment process
  • Develops customized value propositions, messaging docs and playbooks
  • Orchestrates all marketing interactions
  • Tracks the metrics and communicates the program’s successes
  • Becomes a Trusted Educator
Account Executive (AE) and sales team members
  • Manages relationship with Executive Sponsor
  • Responsible for driving the plan forward with the team and at the account
  • Team meetings with internal staff and with the customer
  • Helps shape the ABM strategy and each account plan
  • Aligns all conversations around account needs
  • Becomes the customer’s Trusted Advisor
Sales Development Reps (SDR)
  • Helps research the account and build contacts
  • Reaches out to the account to build relationships
  • Crafts account-specific emails and messages
  • Nurtures relationships over time
  • Supports the account executive as needed
Solutions consultants / delivery personnel
  • Provides insight into what’s happening at the influencer and operational level
  • Ensures the ‘technical/operational’ programs and messages are relevant and resonating
  • Provides trusted information to the customer
Field Marketer
  • Works with the ABM marketers to execute campaigns at the local level
Corporate Marketer
  • Works with the ABM marketer to collaborate on corporate communications and campaigns
  • Understands what to customize for the customer and what programs can be included in the account’s communication strategy
Industry Marketer
  • Provides insight into the industry view
Product Management / Marketer
  • Provides product roadmap insights to the account team and/or customer
  • Works with the ABM team to understand if custom solutions are required and what’s possible
Professional Services Representative
  • Similar to the Solutions/Delivery personnel
  • The PS team typically has more insight into howthe technology is used, what works, what doesn’t and is incredibly valuable on the ABM team
  • Can help with how to ‘get the most’ out of current investments/technology from your company
Support Representative
  • Provides reports and can escalate support items when they become consequential to customer satisfaction scores

Team Structure

Finally, the biggest question we got around team structure is SDR to AE ratio. Deciding how many accounts each SDR can handle and how they’re deployed and managed is an important part of your ABSD strategy – but there are no fixed answers here. Once again, your structure will depend on your goals, deal sizes and team capacity.

The average ratio is 1 SDR to 2.5 Account Executives. This ratio is down sharply from previous reports. As recently as 2014 the ratio was 1:3.9.

In a recent TOPO study, the ratio varies by company size, with larger companies having more AEs per SDR (likely because larger companies focus more on profitability than growth at any cost):
topo sales development benchmark report

And another study by The Bridge Group shows a similar split:

bridge group report

This is just the tip of the iceberg. If you want to learn how to align your team, orchestrate and launch personalized campaigns at scale, then measure and adjust check out Engagio’s Clear and Complete Guide to Account Based Sales Development today.


hire sales and customer success talent

Jon Miller is CEO and Founder of Engagio. Previously, Jon was the VP of Marketing and Co-Founder of Marketo.