Inbound Sales Strategy: An Interview with Ellie Wilson
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Hi Ellie. We're excited to talk about Klood's sales strategy transformation. Tell us about the early days and the challenges you faced as Business Development Manager.
In 2017, Klood Digital changed ownership, with our MD, Trevor Nicholls taking the reigns. He had a vision and an ambition to refocus the company on the things we do best.
Feeling my way out in the new terrain, I began responding to inbound leads, which were sporadic and from a variety of industries and company sizes. To supplement this, a large proportion of my day was taken up with targeted cold calling. I used LinkedIn's Sales Navigator for prospecting and finding right-fit companies and the people in them – typically, the marketing manager.
Why and how did Klood's strategy change in 2018?
After studying our results and working closely as a team to identify our strengths and weaknesses, we took the decision to niche into working with SaaS businesses, focusing all our content on the challenges facing SaaS companies.
The SaaS industry responded, and we started generating a sizeable amount of interest.
With this new focus on the SaaS industry, what changed for you as a salesperson?
I became more observant of the content that our audience was downloading – eBooks, templates, guides, etc. I would call that lead, even though they were entered into a nurture workflow. My calls aren't scripted, but there are certain pieces of information I wanted to gather:
- What were they looking for help with?
- What challenges are they facing?
- How do they organise their lead gen activities now and with what success?
More often than not, the lead wasn't ready to move onto the next stage of our sales process – they were in the research phase, but the ice had been broken. I'd create a task in HubSpot to follow up with them at an appropriate time.
Were there any challenges to this new SaaS sales focus?
I was finding it difficult to get hold of leads on the phone. Which is understandable, they had cold callers after them all day offering them services they never knew they needed.
Tell us about the use of video in your sales process and the impact on results.
It was around this time that I introduced video into my sales process. A short, personalised video of me talking to the lead, asking about their challenges, maybe a couple of sentences about us, pushing them to book a call. I used this in the outreach process too, not just for inbound leads.
Routine is, if I can't get the lead on the phone, they'll get a video via email. There is a much higher response rate to video, even if it's a 'no', it's usually a 'not right now, but you've made an impression, and I'm storing your details'.
Did you have a social media strategy and which platform did you use the most?
I started to use LinkedIn in my outreach strategy. This involved connecting with prospects on LinkedIn then sending nurturing messages offering them content helpful to their job role. I set out a sequence in HubSpot to message the prospects at set intervals. This had limited success, out of around 200 leads enrolled in this, only a handful either responded or downloaded content from links I shared
I've found that LinkedIn in the past two years is much more conversational, and although I was genuinely offering help, prospects knew what I'd have liked it to lead to, and that would only really happen if they had an immediate need. They are bombarded daily with messages – some very aggressive – trying to sell to them. Unfortunately, this then tars everyone with the same brush.
After Klood niched down and you streamlined your inbound sales process even more, how were things shaping up?
Our marketing efforts continued to bring in leads for me to respond to. The difference now was that they would be in the industry we wanted to work with so were more qualified.
Even if those leads weren't ready to engage with us at the time of downloading a content offer, I'd make a task to follow up with them at a later date, send them something useful, call them, or connect on LinkedIn.
Our sales cycle can be lengthy at times, a lead's needs change, or their internal affairs can be obstacles. I find it's key to keep in touch – as long as they are interested, it's just the timing. This has been more important than ever in the last few months, due to the situation, leads that were about to become clients didn't. But, I've kept in touch, and this has paid dividends now that their situation is changing for the better.
Have you got any tips for other inbound salespeople and marketers to help them get more out of their efforts?
Picking up the phone has proved essential; you can't communicate with a prospect or lead effectively via email – especially not in the early stages. The information gathered during a phone call is priceless, as is the relationship that is built with the interaction.
Networking is something else I did a lot of. Eventually, I found three to four groups throughout a month that I liked (because you have to like doing it) and stuck to them. Virtual Zoom meetings have become the norm for networking now, so I do one a month to keep a presence and because the group is a charity we support.
I have come to realise, however, that networking groups in Milton Keynes don't really have the type of companies we target. Having said that, I built up some great relationships and friendships and have received good recommendations.
How has COVID-19 affected your sales strategy?
The last few months have been difficult – getting through to people on the phone is harder than ever as people are mostly working from home. So, video is even more prevalent now; it was difficult to stand out pre COVID, but even harder when email is the only form of communication.
I've had really good quality conversations with the leads that I've spoken to, giving them time, listening to what they're going through and offering resources to help (if that's all they need right now). I know I've developed trusted relationships with them and when they are ready to engage with an agency, it'll be with us.
If you'd like to talk to Ellie about your own inbound sales strategy and receive direct and genuinely helpful advice, schedule a call now.
We can help you improve your marketing through tried and tested techniques and methodologies that apply inbound marketing best practices. To get you started, we recommend downloading our complete guide to running an inbound marketing campaign and see where you can adjust and adapt your strategy today.