[VIDEO] The Role of Story in Account-Based Marketing

We all should know by now the power of storytelling in business.  After all, stories guide and enrich our personal lives every day in many ways: the learning we pass along to our children, the laughs we have with friends, the binge watching, or the novels we get lost in during a lazy weekend.  Story is woven into the fabric of our lives, and we’re richer because of it.

Given that point, why should the same principles not apply when we’re all at work?  Of course they do, and then some.  In reading everything I can find about business storytelling – my two favorites being “Tell To Win” by Peter Guber and “Measures of Story” by K. Sean Buvala – some points rooted in psychology are worth mentioning.

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People make decisions based on emotion first and only then back it up with logic and reason.  Humans also spend four hours per day (17% of life) inside imaginary landscapes like daydreams.  That story is essentially emotional transportation…the part you take with you from a situation, and the part that allows you to connect with it in a meaningful way.

In account-based marketing and sales (hereafter “ABE” for account-based everything), I believe these “universal truths” are made all the more important and deserve special consideration by the teams employing an ABE strategy.  Let’s start with the following definition of ABE:

Coordinated and personalized approach across multiple functions (specifically Sales, Marketing, and Customer Success), to land and expand a set number of targeted, named accounts.


Story is Power in Account-Based Marketing for Three Reasons:

1. Shared vision unites to account for multiple stakeholders.

ABE strategy, by definition, aims to include multiple roles and personas in a targeted, ideal account.  Given the average B2B decision-making group includes six-plus buyers (according to CEB), ABE strategy needs to account for this, and all those personalized messages need to hang together inside a vision that binds all those stakeholders — and their individual agendas, we should emphasize.  Vision’s vehicle is story.  Fail to cast a common vision, and you risk being commoditized or missing out altogether on the opportunity.

2. Great stories get re-told when you’re not around and when much of the decision-making is happening without you.

Speaking of all those stakeholders, sellers especially know how hard it is to develop momentum within a sales (or renewal or upsell) cycle and to catch up with busy people (a problem made all the worse if you are living with bad account and contact data).  The truth is, most of the game happens without you anyway.  It’s the conversations that occur behind the scenes, inside the walls of XYZ Inc., the ones you most often have no idea are happening, the ones nobody sends you the meeting minutes from.  In this reality, story can often save the day by being re-told countless times across the target account.

I remember a few months back when something similar happened within DiscoverOrg.  A number of us from different departments bumped into a great example of marketing on LinkedIn.  The narrative that went along with it became the story each of us couldn’t wait to run and tell somebody else.  “Hey Patrick, you need to see this, and here’s why!”  It went viral within DiscoverOrg and caused a pivot in our go-to-market strategy because of the way the powerful story was re-told across functions.  Nice up, Zuora.

3. Story empowers internal teams to coordinate effort leading up to engagement with target accounts.

Lastly, sound ABE execution requires multiple internal teams to stay organized around both the content and cadence of the approach, once the target list of ideal accounts has been identified and expanded upon.  Here again, story serves as a backbone for this requirement.

Something as simple as a message map, where a well thought out headline is supported by various sub-points — think eighth grade term paper — can do wonders to ensure that the perception of your company and its offer impresses, as opposed to confuses, your would-be partner.  And it does this by anchoring your internal teams to a core message amidst many derivative messages prepared for this or that target persona.


I hope that your ABE meetings have storytelling on the agenda and that you and your team(s) find much success leveraging the power of narrative in account-based sales and marketing.

Want to implement an Account-Based Sales model supported by actionable sales intelligence?Request a DiscoverOrg Demo Today!

David Sill built an inside sales engine for PC Helps Support, Inc. (now known as Vitalyst) that posted 14 consecutive ..read more

  • Frank Schroeder

    Hi, its nice that this engine exist, but why is it not possible to come back to the customer, when he request since a couple of days a recall to get help with the password…..

    • Claire McEachern

      Hi Frank, happy to help. I’ve found you in our records and will have support and/or your Customer Success Manager reach out and get this fixed asap. Thanks!

  • Scott Shy

    Good stuff! One powerful technique is to mention a relevant feature, the advantage it offers, very importantly the benefit it provides – followed by an real-life example, it can be very compelling.

    In the Mark Wiskup book “The IT Factor,” he talk about “painting a picture of future success or failure.” As a client, one of the things that you`ll appreciate is… It helps the client to visualize the benefits of your product or the potential consequences of not.

  • Annette

    This is extremely helpful as we are currently rolling out Account Based Marketing in our company.

  • Kristen

    I found this very informative. We are moving toward ABM in our organization. Good stuff!

  • cntactmax

    This was a good overview of ABM.

  • Jake Senechal

    ABM is key when you selling to large enterprises if you do not understand their business and business needs, your message will never reach them in a meaningful way.

  • Pat Hussey

    If you don’t know the people you’re talking to, you can’t possibly understand what they have value in

  • Tony Andriani

    We’ve been hearing about storytelling in account based selling for a while now, but this is the best 10 minute summation that I’ve seen. Well done!

  • Jessica

    Story telling is always the key to relating to customers and connecting that perk of interest. I know personally when someone tells me a story I listen more rather then if its a boring pitch. If you can tell a story you can sell nything

  • Leslie

    We are looking to move to ABM in the near future. I’m excited for the change. Storytelling and knowing your targeted company is important in any type of marketing and prospecting.

  • Stephen Budlong

    Know your vertical and know your prospect’s role within that industry. Whether via email or phone, I try to tell a story that plays out over a course of several messages if I can’t reach the person initially.

  • JoelatOptio

    Good stuff!

  • Ariana Ioannidi

    This is great – storytelling is great for relating to customers!

  • LeAnn Perkins

    Stories draw people in. They are a great way to get some interested and involved in the conversation. Funny stories are the best!!

  • Jennifer Galvez

    It is important to understand the vertical and the customer. They want you to speak to them not what is working. What is important to them and their LOB.

  • Valerie Pendleton

    Great way to connect with the customer

  • Great ideas to connect with customers.