Terry Flaherty of SiriusDecisions presenting at the B2B Marketing Exchange

Adapting Demand Units & Demand Maps For ABM: SiriusDecisions’ Terry Flaherty Discusses New Processes & Models

Q&A with Terry Flaherty, SiriusDecisions

Tying leads to target accounts is a task that ABM practitioners aim to streamline early on to allow marketing teams to focus on creating innovative campaigns to engage buying groups. So much so that marketers are showing interest in new frameworks such as SiriusDecisions’ Demand Unit Waterfall, to help formulate a workflow for connecting leads to the opportunities and accounts that will drive business.

In an interview with ABM In Action, Terry Flaherty, Senior Research Director for Demand Creation Strategies at SiriusDecisions, discusses how incorporating demand units into ABM programs can help strengthen demand generation processes to tie individual leads to target accounts. Flaherty dives into how this helps provide insight into demand group engagement to better understand account opportunities.

ABM In Action: When it comes to ABM, how have you seen the Demand Unit Waterfall help build structure around the way B2B companies link individuals to buying groups and associate it with the opportunities, business needs and solutions for them?

Terry Flaherty: Our view is that the demand unit and the demand map are really the next steps within an ABM strategy. In ABM, we identify the number and types of accounts that we’re going to drive demand for and go after.

The next big question is: where do we think the opportunities exist within those accounts? We’ll look at all the potential buying groups, the relevant [prospects] for us in these accounts, and then look at their relevant business needs. You can then form a grid that shows the buying groups and account needs, and map your solutions into that grid.

That elemental building block is called the demand unit, which is basically the combination of the buying group and the business need for a solution. That’s the single point where I can invest marketing, tele and sales efforts from a very actionable perspective. What’s significant and important about that is that it gives us one more degree of visibility to take action on. We’ll say, “OK, this segment of accounts, we believe it has nine or 10, or any number of potential opportunities.” We can then define account planning and our go-to-market strategy. You say, “Of these 10 opportunities or demand units that we’re targeting, what’s the right go-to-market strategy — from a marketing, tele and sales resource mix and current program mix — to give us the best coverage across the account in the most efficient way?”


ABMIA: How do you see ABM practitioners leveraging this framework to map engagement and interactions with demand units?

Flaherty: If I’m an IT security buying group, for example, I may have three different foundational or functional business needs. I might have a portfolio of solutions that would address those different business needs. One of the key elements in the Demand Unit Waterfall is the ability to look at every possible interaction that we collected to tie them to the most logical buying group.

Coming back to the previous example, you could be an HR vendor and I have a talent management solution, a cool benefit and payroll tool and a lead management solution. The VP of HR comes in and that person could be a member of all three buying groups because they play a critical role in the organization. Looking at what they’re doing and what they’re engaging in helps us understand their interactions and map them to a demand unit. Yet, there are three things I need to understand, including who they are, what they’re interested in and whether or not they are a member of a logical buying group.

A VP of HR coming in and downloading a white paper on talent management best practices tells me a lot. Number one, from the title, I can assume the persona and what that person’s qualities are. They’re interested in talent management, so I know that I can connect that interaction and person to our talent management demand unit, as opposed to the cool benefit and payroll because they’re telling you that’s their interest in that solution.

ABMIA: From a process standpoint, what are some of the required changes that need to be made to properly adopt demand units for better ABM?

Flaherty: One of the things we see today is marketing generating individual leads, while sales is inherently thinking about buying groups. Sales knows that if they’re going to sell the solution, there are four or five people that they need to get some thumbs up from. One of the challenges is a lot of times, it’s not systematized. You have knowledge about the buying group, but if you go into your salesforce automation system and say, “I want to see how many contacts are associated with this opportunity,” a lot of times, you don’t see it. That hurts both marketing and sales from the perspective that marketing doesn’t have the insight to understand all the personas for a solution.

The other really challenging thing, especially for organizations thinking about ABM, is there are some significant process ramifications around how we think about connecting those people to the group. Oftentimes, there’s a challenge we call the “second lead syndrome,” where the value of that second lead is perceived as being very diminished. In fact, with a lot of our clients, we see the tele team go, “OK, well, we’ve already sent a lead over to sales that they’re working in this account. So, we’re not incented to call into that lead because sales are already working it.” Ultimately, they wind up disqualifying the lead.

The problem there is that the leads may represent three opportunities or demand units instead of the one already being worked by sales. Even if they were in the same opportunity, just to be able to link them and say, “These are the three people, the five people, the nine people in the buying group,” that’s huge insight, but processes aren’t supporting it. That first lead gets through while the other leads get disqualified. The output – or challenge — of that is trying to connect, in any systematic scale of a way, all these individual leads and their buying groups. That must change.

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