What is global account-based sales development? In short, it is an outbound sales campaign for a well-defined portion of a multinational account. It could be a target account you’re already prospecting, or a current client you’d like to expand.

It’s like one single, gigantic whale – with hundreds of parts!

If you have one or more global accounts – enterprise companies with a global footprint – it’s important to approach them globally.

…But this is a tall order for a busy sales department, especially at newer companies, where any account-based approach has a learning curve!

Global account-based sales development (ABSD) requires a smart, comprehensive development plan. As described in my book, Whale Hunting with Global Accounts, here’s how to get started.

Sales + Marketing jointly own the global campaign

Hundreds of moving parts? Who owns this whale, anyway??

To answer this question, consider this example from my book: My client is a fast-growing firm that provides multiple services to the pharma industry. Almost all the large global pharma companies are my client’s customers, but most of their contracts have been based in the United States.

Suppose they’ve completed several successful engineering contracts with Novartis in the U.S., and now they want to introduce themselves to potential Novartis buyers in other strategic locations around the world.

How would my client approach a global campaign?

You might say Engineering (a practice area) “owns” the current job, led by a project manager. A sales rep or account manager “owns” the Novartis whale account on the sales side, and Marketing “owns” anything defined as a campaign.

Since my client is a whale-hunting company, it is, by definition, an account-based everything company. That means Sales and Marketing must collaborate on the campaign with input from Consulting (the practice area that wants to expand into Novartis).

And as part of their account-based strategy, marketing should take the lead on campaign activities because they are the team with that kind of expertise. But they should be deeply engaged with sales every step of the way, to leverage existing account knowledge and plan their strategy.

Read it: 6 Quick Wins for Marketing + Sales Alignment

Define parameters for sales prospecting

Global Account Based Sales Development is like fishing for whales
















Defining success is an account-based selling best practice. Here are metrics that should be defined and considered before launching a global ADSD campaign.

1. Identify campaign scope

Perhaps the hardest decision in a global account campaign is to determine the scope.

In our example, Novartis AG, headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, consists of 533 companies, organized into three segments (each major companies in their own right), several divisions, and many global business units.

So when you say you “want to target Novartis,” that might not mean much: They have 133k employees! A better approach would be to target departments or individuals on a much more granular level in order to make a dent in their awareness.

2. Define the results you want


What do you want people to do? Your desired outcome is probably similar to any other campaign: Click? Download a white paper? View a video?

Most business developers look for a sequence of coordinated touches over a period of time coming from key players in marketing, engineering, and sales.

3. Set metrics for ABSD success

Let’s get a dive in a bit.

Be very specific about the outcomes you want and what success will look like; identify metrics for both short-term and long-term success.

Because the campaign is focused on a single account, work with engagement-type metrics. In the short-term, traditional marketing metrics are fine:

  • How many touches, how many opens, likes, responses, downloads, etc.?
  • Are you reaching the right people with your messages?
  • Is there any evidence they’re engaging with you?

Longer term, the campaign must lead to more business with this account. But it requires great patience. Building a new deal with a new division of a global account could take 12 months, 18 months, 24 months!

Because global account-based sales development is such a commitment of resources, and for such a significant period of time, it’s critical to have excellent metrics to demonstrate engagement in place – from the beginning.

sales prospecting is expensive ROI


4. Research the company vertical

In our example, suppose you’ve decided to introduce yourself to a new division: Novartis Technical Operations (NTO).

NTO manages all the factory installations worldwide, comprised of 67 sites organized into six technology platforms. Of those, you’ve chosen Biologics as a target prospect, because you have engineering expertise there. (Within a global whale of a company, you may need to drill down and get very specific!)

Research at this scale should include the strategy of the specific division you’ve chosen, as well as plans for expansion, replacement or refurbishment of factories, refitting of factories to produce a different drug, problem factories.

Once you have a comprehensive view of the business landscape of the target department, you can decide where to focus your efforts: your buyers.

5. Find the buyers

Next, use a tool like DiscoverOrg or ZoomInfo, or initiate research, to find names and titles of senior NTO leaders, procurement officers, plant managers, and engineers – plus a list of potential end users and those who organize the buying process for your services.

Have your team focus on the Biologics personnel, just one of the technology platforms, and pay special attention to senior engineers as they are the people who must know of you if you are to get a hearing.

When the sales team gets involved, you’ll be able to expand the list quickly.

6. Find and manage information

Global Account Based Sales Development campaign is like whale hunting


First comes good solid sales and marketing intelligence data, such as DiscoverOrg, to prospect and prioritize a list of target contacts. In this example, look for information on prospects in the Technology, Engineering, Design, and Development departments.

Look for organizational hierarchy, roles and responsibilities, and contact information.

7. Define Message and Method

Now that information and a data management system are in place, it’s time to focus on shaping a message for your whale of a campaign.

Message content

Imagine how specific you can be with an account-based strategy! You’re not sending messages to personas, but to people – people with real names and real job titles. All content assets in all forms are available to you–videos, white papers, Skype conversations, personal notes, a blog post that someone wrote last year, an answer to a specific question, industry-relevant data. You’re not imagining what might interest someone; you’re getting to know them.

Format and delivery

As you familiarize yourself with target prospects as individuals, consider what contact formats they prefer.

Some respond well to personalized email or social touches, while others only respond by picking up the phone.

Before you start any outreach, identify the message format from start to finish – and remember that from a buyer’s perspective, the message will likely involve a variety of content from multiple sources on a specific cadence.

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Read it: Gender Matters: Selling to Men and Women

8. Clarify responsibilities

Your organization will determine who’s in charge of what parts of this campaign, but be sure to make assignments very specific so that nothing falls through the cracks. If you’re not accustomed to working across the functional lines, working out your responsibilities is even more important.

A final thought: At the end of a traditional Inuit whale hunt, the whale is expected to be reborn.

Let that expectation guide your account-based plan, as you offer the gift of rebirth to your next sales whale!

Barbara Weaver Smith is the founder & CEO of the Whale Hunters, Inc. Her highly rated recent book, Whale Hunting with Global Accounts, moves readers beyond the typical small and midsize business growth solution by providing powerful steps and tools to find, land, and harvest whale-sized accounts.

DiscoverOrg + ZoomInfo can deliver the direct contact information to decision-makers, plus 360-degree account information. Contact us today to see how great data makes great whale hunters!


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Barbara Weaver Smith
About the author

Barbara Weaver Smith

Barbara Weaver Smith is the founder & CEO of The Whale Hunters, Inc. and author of the highly rated Whale Hunting with Global Accounts.