The truth about ABM & DBM

We all love an acronym and here we pull apart the two that are currently on trend revealing why they hold the key to transforming sales and standing out in your market. 

The good news about 21st century business is that there are more contracts around than ever before. Unfortunately, they tend to be of smaller value. Meanwhile, markets are shrinking while competition is increasing. This means it’s vital to keep hold of your customers and grow the relationship through cross-selling and up-selling. What’s more, because you’re potentially bidding for more business, heightened competition means it has never been harder to win, so you need to prepare bids in a much more focused fashion to stand out and ultimately be successful.

Enter Account-Based Management (ABM) and Deal-Based Management (DBM) – the new acronyms on the block designed to help businesses rise to this challenge. As with anything new it’s taking a bit of time for people to get used to them and there’s understandably some confusion floating around. Yet using them in the right way can transform your sales operation and give you an edge in crowded marketplaces. So, here’s where to start…


First off, it’s important to understand that ABM and DBM are distinct techniques and not inter-changeable, with each targeting a different audience in a different way.

With ABM, it’s business as usual. It’s all about carefully managing your ongoing customer relationships, adding value where you can in ways you know will help their businesses. The aim is to work hard to build the knowledge and perception of your existing customers and strengthen your relationships with a view to identifying and sealing cross sell and up sell opportunities.

DBM, on the other hand, involves meticulously managing specific lucrative bids to give yourself the best possible chance of success. These might be worth £20-40 million a year upwards, although obviously the idea of a ‘big deal’ varies between sectors. DBM requires stringent planning and organisation to be able to capitalise effectively on the opportunities and be agile and responsive where necessary. All relevant elements of the bidding organisation should work closely together towards the same goal, from research and writing, to design and presentation. This means there’s a whole different set of stakeholders involved that you don’t regularly deal with in ABM, including procurement and legal, which are necessary due to the parameters of a standard bid process.

Success in each case relies on effective communication but requires a very different approach. In many cases the customer will request having a different team handling a major bid to that working on day-to-day ABM in order to create an ‘ethical wall’ between the two to ensure you don’t use your ABM relationships to influence the outcome of the bid.


So, the overall dynamic changes significantly between ABM and DBM. In the latter, you simply don’t get the time you do with ABM. You need to be much more reactive and responsive to deal with anything the customer might throw at you quickly and effectively. ABM, on the other hand, is far more of a marathon than the 110 metres hurdles and is governed by an ongoing plan. This needs to be regularly reviewed and changed accordingly – not yesterday as with DBM!

Although they may well be managed by different teams, ideally there should still be interplay between the two, particularly if you’re bidding for a contract from an existing customer. So, although you can rarely use ABM to directly influence how a bid progresses, you can use the close day-to-day contact to spot potential upcoming contracts early and alert the business. If the opportunity relates to a product or service that your customer does not associate with your company, you can use ABM to change this perception. This means that when an opportunity arises, you are wholly credible in the eyes of the customer and perfectly positioned to a bid.

Business has never been more competitive. By running a coordinated ABM and DBM strategy underpinned by the right communication programme internally and externally you can maximise the growth of both existing customer relationships and new contract wins.

  • View them as distinctly separate techniques
  • Use ongoing ABM to grow business with existing customers by continually adding strategic value
  • Use this close relationship to identify any new contract opportunities
  • In order to deliver a successful DBM approach on bids you need to ensure that you focus on and plan the entire journey from initial planning to execution and closure
  • Recognise that ABM and DBM can rise or fall based on the underlying communications programme

Finally you have to constantly consider that the essential element to winning is to concentrate on how you differentiate against the competition.

Gilroy specialises in helping customers develop coordinated and successful ABM and DBM strategies to drive cross-selling, up-selling and major new contract wins.