4 tips for creating a team of ABM superstars

  • 01 Mar 2022
Rob Leavitt

Rob Leavitt

There's a dearth of marketing talent — but looking beyond hard skills could be the answer. Here's 4 tips for creating a team of ABM superstars

Marketing leaders often bemoan the shortage of talent — but should you be looking beyond skills?

For Navin Rammohan, Vice President, Segment Head Marketing at Infosys, hiring for attitude, the ability to learn, and multidisciplinary experience has been far more fruitful in building a robust and successful marketing team.

We’ve picked out four people-focused insights from our recent conversation with Navin that could help you create a team of ABM superstars.

Look for empathy

“Empathy is one thing that I would say is […] an important ingredient for every marketer now, because I think it’s important for people to understand and live what the clients are going through or live what the account [team] are going through.”

Empathy has long been associated with better performance in the workplace. For instance, one study analyzed 6,731 managers in 38 countries and found that “managers who practice empathetic leadership toward direct reports are viewed as better performers in their jobs by their bosses.” Empathy of course is the ability to understand and share the feelings of someone else. It’s not surprising that empathy goes hand in hand with ABM, a practice that relies on getting to the bottom of an organization’s core motivations and challenges.

Consider ABM Competency Assessments like those offered by Momentum ITSMA, which can help hiring managers spot candidates that are proficient in leadership skills, collaboration and other ABM must-haves, but who may go unnoticed.

Find problems before solutions

“We’re moving away from just pursuing specific opportunities to actually creating opportunities. So instead of being problem solvers, [we’re] becoming problem finders.”

Because the marketing function has visibility into the account and customer – arguably more so than any other function – you are well-placed to find opportunities to drive value for both you and the client. This approach is like the one popularized in The Challenger Sale, the bestselling book that revealed the best sales reps approach customers with unique insights and, instead of yielding to the customer’s every demand, are assertive, opinionated and willing to take control of the sale.

It's more about the approach and the attitude that an individual brings into the conversation.

Navin Rammohan, Vice President, Segment Head Marketing at Infosys

This, says Navin, is not a matter of skills. “It’s more about the approach and the attitude that an individual brings into the conversation.” Are you and members of your team willing to think laterally and pursue opportunities in the face of client scepticism? Do you have a “learning mindset” that enables you to draw insights from multiple sources across the business? These are the qualities that you should cultivate.

Recruit from multidisciplinary backgrounds

“We want people who have more general experience, who are coming from different kinds of backgrounds, and then we [can] train them on what marketing would require.”

At Momentum ITSMA, we’ve written previously about the importance of hiring for potential over experience and focusing on the intellectual and emotional commitment that a candidate could bring to a role. Not only does this get around the skills shortage but it also creates a diverse team – which has no end of benefits.

Remember that skills are transferable too. For example: “A media person pitches to journalists, tries to convince them about your organization, tries to give them stories [for an] article to come out. That is a special skill that can be very helpful even in an account scenario.”

Influence people

“We wanted to make sure that the sponsorship for ABM comes right from the top, not just from the CMO of the organization, but actually the CEO of the organization itself.”

Senior buy-in can be hugely beneficial to ABM programs since executive support can encourage sales to collaborate more openly with marketing and vice versa. When you convince everyone from the CEO down of the efficacy and role of ABM in a successful organization, you can more easily secure additional funding and resources, not to mention better ROI.

On the flip side of that, if you’re not getting the support and buy-in you need from account teams, take action. “We are very, very clear that if we don’t get the right kind of support from some of the accounts, we are willing to drop that account. And we have in fact dropped four or five such accounts in the last two, three years, where we didn’t get the right kind of support from the business from the account teams. This means it can only work if it’s a collaborative effort between the account teams and the marketing team.”

To hear more insights from Navin, including how he helped set up an ABM Centre of Excellence and instilled a culture of learning across the organization, listen to the ABM podcast.

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Rob Leavitt

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