Inbound sales isn't just a buzzword or sales technique; it’s a complete framework to align your sales process with the way your prospects like to buy. It's not another sales tactic to turn your sales reps into super closers, persuading a sales lead to purchase whether or not they really want your product or service.
Inbound sales is all about being extremely helpful, helping your prospective customer make the right decisions as they navigate the buyer journey. It is a complete switch around from making the sales process all about you, the product or your company, but tailoring the whole experience around the customer.
It focuses on providing the right information at the right time and in the right format, whilst giving your sales reps or sales team a defined and proven model to help people progress through a structured sales funnel.
Why is inbound sales important?
The buyer's journey has changed.
Your potential buyers have so much information that the reliance upon a sales rep isn't as strong as it used to be. We all do our own research and know a lot about what it is we're going to buy way before we contact the vendor.
We're less responsive to cold calls and spam emails and less tolerant to pushy salespeople.
The inbound marketing process, starts with understanding your buyer personas. Ensuring that your marketing teams are equipped to proved valuable content in order to answer your prospects questions.
Customers want to feel that they are valued and listened to and that their individual needs have been considered. This is valid both when they are on your website and enjoying a valuable browsing experience as well as when speaking to your team whilst on sales calls.
Inbound sales is the natural extension to the inbound marketing methodology, which is all about producing content that is valuable to your potential customers, giving them all the information they need in order to move them through the buyer’s journey:
- Attracting them to your website
- Gathering qualified leads by capturing their email address and any other contact information needed
- Nurturing them by continuing to provide personal and timely marketing material
- Identifying which leads are ready for a sales conversation
This is when the inbound sales strategy kicks in. The sales team picks up the lead, makes contact by phone or email, and looks to start a conversation to find out information relating to the contact's pain points, buyer's needs and where they are in their buying journey.
There is a specific model that a salesperson can adopt to make the inbound sales process smooth and efficient.
The Inbound Sales Methodology
The inbound sales model was developed by HubSpot in 2016. HubSpot evolved from being an inbound marketing software company when they realised that marketing was only one part of the overall strategy needed to grow a business. Marketing was generally there to generate leads but, unless those leads are dealt with effectively by the sales team, then there's a lot of money being left on the table.
The inbound marketing model has four stages: Attract, Convert, Close and Delight. Similarly, the inbound sales methodology has four stages: Identify, connect, explore and advise.
Inbound sales reps will firstly identify the leads they wish to reach out to. They will want to prioritise active buyers over passive buyers.
Active buyers are those leads that have ‘raised their hands’ to signal they want to speak to sales. Those people that have requested a call will be contacted first before moving on to leads that have requested information, such as brochures, ebooks or templates.
Passive buyers are those that are browsing the company website and blog posts, including people that aren't aware of you but fit your buyer profile.
Only once they have exhausted those inbound leads will they revert to outbound sales, such as cold calling or social media outreach. However, they will still only call those that fit the buyer persona and prospect fit matrix. Even then, they will be looking for trigger events that will prompt a sales approach. For example, someone who publicises on LinkedIn that they have won an award, that they are recruiting or launching a new product.
To be effective at this stage of the model, marketing and sales need to work together to ensure that there are proper definitions of the lead stages. This ensures that the ownership of the lead is clearly documented. You'll also need CRM software that is sophisticated enough to monitor the prospect's activity on your website and then notify you sales people in a timely manner.
Once prospects have been identified the team should start their outreach activity.
Consider the best way to make contact. For an inbound lead who has left their details, a more direct sales call may be the most appropriate, but for someone who has simply been reading a blog post, email or LinkedIn messaging might be best. You may be asking what the difference is between inbound and outbound sales when cold calling, well with inbound, you have researched and found a reason to call and when you are on the sales call you're looking to add value, not just give an elevator pitch.
Consider using video in your outreach by recording your personal message to them. This gets a much better response than a cold text email (1-2-1 video email is one of the tools in HubSpot Sales Hub Pro).
When you do manage to have a conversation with your prospective client, then focus on their pain points or challenges. The goal of this phone call or meeting is to help them decide whether or not that this challenge is one that they will give priority to solving, and whether or not they want to spend the time, effort and money in order to do so.
Marketing techniques can help with the connect stage of the process by providing the relevant material, copy and systems in order to make this outbound sales element more effective.
The next stage of the inbound sales strategy is to have an exploratory conversation with the buyer.
The aim of this to ascertain whether the solution is going to be the best one to solve their challenge and meet the goals. It is a qualification, but it reverses the qualification from you qualifying your prospect in or out, to helping them qualify your product or service. Of course, they still need the budget and the authority in order to proceed with a purchase, but the emphasis is on the buyer's needs rather than the salesperson’s needs.
Once you have all the information you need, you then provide your expertise in order to show them how your solution is a good fit.
Here’s an opportunity to show you have listened to their individual requirements and that their best option is your product or service, assuming it is. This isn't a sales pitch where you just spout out the features and benefits, but this is where you give valued advice that shows your company to be the subject matter experts that you are.
If the prospect is still not ready to proceed, then the sales process doesn't end there. What else is needed to assist in the buying process? This is where you'll need to work with your marketing team in order to ensure that you have the correct quality content that will assist in the decision-making process. The process of ensuring that sales have the correct content, technology and materials required to take sales inbound and increase conversion rates is called sales enablement, and this should be part of your company's sales strategy.
The difference between inbound and outbound sales
There is a big difference between inbound sales and outbound sales. Outbound sales is very focused on the salesperson's agenda, where the core consideration is the company's sales processes rather than the customer experience. Inbound is a much smoother way of taking the leads generated through your inbound marketing efforts and turning them into customers.
When sales teams adopt an inbound approach, they find that the whole process is more streamlined and there is less friction between the buyer and the seller. That is only going to be supportive to your team's sales performance.
In summary, inbound sales removes friction from the sale. It meets the buyer's needs whilst still allowing for sales success. It takes away the high-pressure sales tactics often seen with legacy salespeople and is a much more human approach. It enhances relationships with your prospects and goes a lot further to providing the confidence that the buyer needs. If you've already adopted an inbound marketing philosophy to your company, then this is the next step.