In 2020, the internet has changed the way we live, communicate, learn, work and most importantly - the way we shop. For buyers, our day to day activities are made easier vPotential customers have so many options and information available at their fingertips, which leads to much more competition and less control in the sales person’s hands.
Inbound sales methodology allows you to align your companies sales process with the way that potential the customer wants to engage with you and your business throughout the buyer's journey.
62% of salespeople who do not use inbound social selling miss their quotas (The Aberdeen Group)
In the past, sales professionals held the upper hand going into sales meetings with all of the information that potential customers wanted to hear. Today prospects can easily access the answers to their questions online.
The bottom line is - potential buyers don’t really need to go directly through one of your sales professionals in order to learn about a product or service and make a purchase. This has led to the rise of a new approach that works better for the shopping preferences and behaviors of the modern buyer.
Up to 90% of the selling process could be over before a salesperson gets involved (Forrester)
What is inbound Sales?
Inbound sales is a personalized, helpful and modernized method of selling. The idea behind inbound sales is to identify a customer’s unique pain points and goals, and appropriately communicate you companies value proposition of products and services as the best solution.
Inbound sales are the transaction methods that happen when leads make the first move of contact due to interest in a company's product or service in some way. This process includes a possible customer sending you an email, requesting more information via a phone call, and electronically filling out a company form. These inbound sales actions are the "warming up scenarios" for a potential client as you and your back office support team will guide them to the right path of ultimately making an informed decision without feeling pressured.
In order for businesses to boost their sales in 2020, it’s wise to hire local inbound marketing agencies which specialize in the use of inbound sales strategies to see significant profits. Inbound marketing agencies can help your businesses create or upgrade your company sales processes, define MQL vs SQL and also help to implement inbound sales strategies and skill sets and better align them with the marketing and branding efforts, in order to close more deals and analyze data by:
- Ensuring that your sales teams spend their time only on sales qualified leads
- Ensuring that all leads are managed consistently and effectively by sales and marketing
- Ensuring that your CRM system is fully and effectively integrated into your Inbound Sales Process
Inbound Sales vs Outbound Sales
Outbound sales are becoming more and more outdated. As we mentioned above, customers can essentially walk themselves through the sales process without ever needing to schedule a phone call or a meeting. They can access all of the information they need online. What sets inbound sales apart from outbound methodology?
The idea behind inbound sales is to guide a prospect through their customer journey by providing specifically tailored content for each phase of the sales cycle. A sales rep will only reach out to the qualified leads that are already engaging with the business.
An inbound salesperson must focus on understanding the lead’s problem and circumstances before making any moves, which helps internal adoption of the customer-centric flywheeel, outlined in the video above. Technology such as HubSpot Sales Pro is excellent for assisting your sales reps in presenting your products or services as the best potential solution to a lead’s challenges.
Conversely, outbound sales involve a sales representative actively reaching out to mostly cold leads (sometimes warm leads) through direct calling, email, or messaging. Outbound sales reps use these tactics to gauge customer interest in a particular product or service with the goal of converting potential prospects into highly or sales qualified leads. The only benefit of outbound sales methodology is that it presents the opportunity for sales reps to reach out to buyers who might never have come into contact with your company otherwise.
Understanding The Buyer’s Journey
Outbound sales teams focus on checking the boxes that their manager has assigned to them, as opposed to listening to the customer and supporting them throughout their process of purchasing your product or service. This causes a misconnection between the seller and the buyer.
The self-serving process of outbound sales methodology also provides the least amount of value to the customer. Buyers do not like to be prospected, demoed, nor do they want to feel like just a deal that the sales rep is trying to close. This way of thinking and selling adds zero value to the buyer when all of the information the sales rep is sharing can be found online without their help.
If a sales representative cannot offer any value beyond the information buyers are able to discover on their own, the buyer has no real reason to interact with sales reps at all.
While outbound sales teams traditionally build their sales process around their own needs, inbound sales strategies involve building the process around the needs and desires of their buyers. Inbound sales teams take into account the buyer’s journey. Before they ever pick up the phone or craft an email to send to a potential customer, they first lay the groundwork of understanding the buyer’s world, preferences, and journey.
Marketers have noted a 760% increase in revenue from segmented campaigns. (Campaign Monitor)
Let’s look deeper into the sales journey phases.
This first phase is when potential buyers recognize that they need or want a product or service. Whether it’s a new car, a new pair of shoes or new software that will work better for their company, awareness is the acknowledgement that they have a need that must be met.
During this phase you want to ask yourself the following questions regarding the buyer’s thought process:
- How do buyers describe the challenges or goals your offering addresses?
- How do buyers learn more about these challenges or goals?
- How do buyers decide whether the challenge or goal should be prioritized?
We all know the internal dialogue that comes with deciding whether or not to make a purchase. It’s even louder when it comes to purchasing an expensive item or a long-term commitment. It comes down to weighing pros and cons, learning as much about the product or service, and a thorough evaluation of whether or not this solution is the right one for a prospect’s needs. As a salesperson, this part of the sales journey needs to be handled delicately.
To fully understand the consideration phase of the buyer’s journey, you want to ask the following questions:
- What categories of solutions do buyers investigate?
- How do buyers perceive the pros and cons of each category?
- What differentiates your category in the buyer’s eyes?
This last phase of the buyer’s journey is the final step that leads to a prospect purchasing or walking away. The decision stage is when a prospect says “yes, I’m going to buy” or “no, I will not or should not”.
You can gain a better understanding of the decision phase of the buyer’s journey by answering the following questions:
- What offerings do the buyers typically evaluate?
- What criteria do buyers use to evaluate available offerings?
- What differentiates your offering in the buyer’s eyes?
- Who needs to be involved in the decision?
- How does each stakeholder’s perspective on the decision differ?
Developing your Inbound Sales Process
Once you have a clear understanding and definition of your buyer’s journey and how your buyer is most likely to experience the awareness, consideration and decision phases, you can then begin building out your sales process. The inbound sales process supports the customer throughout their buying journey, which establishes alignment between the buyer and seller throughout the process.
To begin developing your inbound sales strategy and selling process, you need to consider what you can be doing at the awareness, consideration and decision stages that would offer support to the buyers. Inbound sales methodology uses four key actions to walk a prospect effectively through these three phases. The four actions include the following:
This is the first part of the sales process in which the buyer enters the awareness stage. At this initial point, you identify potential customers and convert them from visitors, or strangers, into leads.
At this next phase of the sales process, the key is to take actions in order to qualify leads and move them from the awareness stage into the consideration stage.
As you engage with your now qualified leads using compelling content and helpful information in the consideration stage, you can then begin exploring their needs and discover opportunities to convey how your product or services will be an excellent solution to their challenges.
Once you have explored the needs of your qualified leads and have an understanding of the best solution for them, you can then properly advise them while they are in the decision phase of their sales journey.
With these four key actions in mind, there are strategies and tactics to deploy at each step of the way to effectively identify visitors that are likely to become qualified leads, move them into the consideration stage, explore their needs and advise them with the most helpful approach to close the deal. This approach allows you to develop your sales process in a way that works for a buyer-friendly journey.
How to Align Your Sales Process With the Buyer’s Journey
In order to begin building your sales process around the buyer’s journey, it’s important to start by prioritizing prospects who are already in the awareness stage. This includes building trust by staying active in online conversations on blogs, social media and other platforms that your buyers frequent.
When you know your different buyer personas and what their sales journeys will most likely look like, you can properly adjust your sales process to align with those journeys. This allows you to create the most personalized experience possible.
It is also key to use personalized messaging that speaks to the preferences of your buyers. You can better understand the needs, pain points, communication preferences and important details about a potential buyer by developing your buyer personas.
Start off by reaching out with helpful advice or surprising insight. Once you’ve sparked their interest, it’s time to transition into the exploration stage.
The idea behind inbound sales methodology is to fully understand the buyer’s timeline, adapt your sales approach to that, and aim to deliver the right content at the right time at the right phase of their journey.
Defining Your Identify Strategy
During the Identify phase, outbound sales representatives often are unaware which buyers are active in the buying journey versus which are more passive. They focus on identifying buyers that seem like a good fit and begin reaching out by calling or email those buyers randomly.
However, in 2020, most buyers have already begun their buying journey and entered the awareness stage before they even speak with a sales representative. For this reason, expert inbound sales strategists know to prioritize active buyers before passive buyers and leverage sales enablement for each respective deal stage. An active buyer is one that has visited the website recently, completed a call-to-action or lead capturing form, or opened an email from a sales rep.
In order to effectively identify potential customers, you need to be able to describe which buyers you can help and which ones you cannot. This strategy is referred to as defining your ideal buyer profile. An ideal buyer profile will determine which buyers are a good fit for your products or services.
Once you have defined your ideal buyer profile (also called ideal customer profile), you can then implement the following steps to identify which leads are fit to become customers.
Do your research
At this stage, you want to do the proper research to establish active buyers. Be sure to talk to your ideal or existing customers, reach out for introductions on LinkedIn and set your Google alerts.
Identify and reach out to inbound leads
You’ll want to start contacting inbound leads and companies. Inbound leads are prospects that have visited your website and provided their contact info through a lead conversion form and fit the criteria of your ICP.
Contact leads based on behavior
It is also key to contact leads after analyzing their behavior. Technology that is designed to track behavior and trigger events can help you determine which of your prospects are spending time on your website, opening your emails, and checking out prices or other decision-making factors.
Utilize social selling
This involves investing at least a few hours each week producing and publishing content, responding to relevant conversations and sharing other content that would be interesting to your customer. By taking these steps, you can develop your personal brand with your buyers and identify additional leads to pursue.
Discover and capitalize on common connections
What are common connections? These are passive buyers who fit the description of your ideal buyer profile who you have a connection with via professional acquaintances, personal friends, or maybe even family members.
Reach out to passive buyers
As a final resort, you can try to reach out to passive buyers that match most of the criteria of your ideal buyer profile.
Defining Your Connect Strategy
Traditional outbound sales tactics rely on cold emails, voicemails and the same generic elevator pitch offering an enticing discount. Once this type of sales rep has a buyer on the phone, most of the effort is focused on qualifying the lead based on their budget size and their authority to make decisions on how to spend it.
The problem with this traditional method of outbound selling is that modern buyers no longer rely on messages from sales representatives to learn about products and services. They are also not ready for a presentation at this early stage of their buyer’s journey. Instead, they’re looking more to have a productive two-way conversation with an expert who can help them find a solution to achieve their goal or solve the challenge they're experiencing.
Inbound selling is a more personalized approach that speaks to the targeted buyer’s context, such as their industry, role, interests, common connections, etc. Connecting with a prospect starts with understanding the unique needs and perspectives of the individuals you’ll be encountering.
An inbound salesperson’s initial outreach involves making an offer that aligns with the Awareness stage of a buyer’s journey. An example of this might be offering a free consultation or e-book about the topic that the customer is researching. Furthermore, an inbound sales expert knows to implement the following steps to effectively “connect” with the buyer.
Define targeted buyer personas
One of the most important pages to take out of the inbound sales playbook is defining your buyer personas. This helps you to develop inbound sales strategies around a qualified lead’s preferences. Establishing your buyer personas involves doing your research, interviewing existing or ideal customers and asking the right questions to learn basic and specific details that will reveal how to appeal to a certain persona.
You’ll want to segment by the types of companies that make up your target audience first. Then, you can define the individual personas of the different types of people you want to reach.
Define sequences for each of your personas
Another important part of connecting with your prospects as they move along in their buyer’s journey is defining the sequences through which they will take that journey. The key is to know which mediums to use to reach out to each persona.
Does this persona prefer chatting over the phone or email? Do they communicate through social media platforms? You’ll be able to identify this information in your research and customer interviews. Also determine how many times you plan to reach out to each persona before you decide to throw in the towel.
Define the content for each sequence
The connect step is not too deep into a prospect’s sales journey. Remember, at this point a prospect is still most likely in the awareness phase. What does that mean? It means your goal should not be to sell them on your product or services, or offer a demonstration. It should be to offer resources to educate them on whatever solution or opportunity they are exploring.
Defining Your Explore Strategy
Outbound sales representatives typically switch into presentation gear the moment a customer expresses interest in the company. The issue here is that these sales reps are not taking into consideration the buyer’s context. Understanding the buyer’s context helps you to deliver a value-adding presentation that speaks to the buyer’s needs and goals. Going in with an underdeveloped buyer context causes outbound sales reps to deliver generic demonstrations that offer information the buyer most likely already knows or can access easily.
On the contrary, inbound sales representatives enter the Explore stage when a buyer expresses interest. They realize that they haven’t earned the level of trust and understanding to give the buyer a personalized presentation. They don’t know if they are even able to help the buyer at this phase of their journey.
The Explore stage in your inbound sales process involves guiding your prospect through an exploratory conversation. By doing so, you can control the conversation while giving your prospect a sense of empowerment to make the right decisions. Unlike the traditional outbound sales techniques, this exploratory tactic of inbound selling is something you can openly share with your leads.
Through these exploratory conversations, inbound salespeople are able to leverage the buyer’s initial interest to build additional trust and reveal their goals and challenges. By using their own credibility to dive deeper into the buyer’s specific needs, inbound sales strategists can evaluate whether they can help the customer efficiently and offer more value than what they might gain on their own.
Proper value positioning and strategic questioning allows inbound sales reps to lead prospects to making their own decision about whether or not your offerings are right for what they need. An effective exploratory guide will include the following tactics.
Focus on the lead’s challenges first and foremost
“Challenges” is the keyword here. Avoid using the term “problems”. This small adjustment will help you tremendously. People usually only decide to make changes and seek a solution for one reason - that is, they are experiencing a challenge that is getting in the way of their progress.
Connect those challenges to goals
An important aspect of exploration with a prospect is discussing their goals with them and how you can help them achieve them. When you talk about a prospect's goals, listen for their acknowledgement that they are lacking the right solution. Present the challenge at hand that is standing in the way of them achieving those goals. This allows you to set up your product or service as the right solution.
Present your plan within the prospect’s timeline
At this point, you have established your prospect’s unique challenges and goals. The next step in exploration is to position your product or service in a way that will help the potential buyer achieve their goal or solve their challenge. Ideally, you’ll want to present your strategy to help in a way that the competition cannot.
Discuss the prospect’s budget
Finally, you’ll want to understand the prospect’s plan for funding the investment that they will have to make in order to put their new plan into action. Help them consider all of the necessary costs involved, such as financial, time, and human resource investments.
Defining Your Advise Strategy
Outbound sales tactics during the Advise stage have typically involved the sales person delivering the same stale presentation and case studies to every customer. They might try to do some shallow discovery around the buyer’s needs, but only enough to ensure that there might be interest. Then it’s back to the regular routine and generic presentation.
But modern buyers have most likely already seen and learned about the content of this generic presentation while doing their own research online. They have a hard time connecting the company’s generic value proposition with their own unique challenges and goals. And outbound sales reps don’t try to help them make the connections.
While traditional sales strategies that follow a generic script fail to present your solutions in an effective way that speaks to a prospect’s needs, inbound sales techniques involve advising potential customers on why your products or services are uniquely positioned to solve their specific pain points and challenges. Inbound sales pros know to tailor their presentation to the customer’s context, which they were able to uncover during the Connect stage.
Potential buyers want to know how your product and its unique features are going to help them achieve their goals. During the Explore stage and conversation, inbound sales reps are able to learn whether the buyer can be helped, whether they want to be helped, whether they need help or if the buyer is prioritizing specific goals that they believe the sales rep is able to help them with.
A good way to look at it is this: as an inbound sales professional, you are a translator between the generic content and messaging that can be found on your company’s website and the specific needs of your customer. When you take the time to uncover the buyer’s context and create a presentation that is tailored to that context, you can add so much more value to the customer’s journey that expands beyond what they can find online.
Inbound sales reps should implement the following strategies into their Advise stage to help their buyer feel empowered and well-informed to make a decision about purchasing.
Create a recap of what you have learned
At the start of your presentation, you’ll want to restate where your prospect is now, the insights you have gathered from earlier conversations. This might include a challenge your lead is experiencing or a goal they want to accomplish. You’ll want to make it clear that you and your offerings are uniquely suited to assist them.
Suggest ways for them to achieve their goals
Put together a personalized presentation that provides a connection between their goals and challenges, and your product or service. It should convey exactly how they can benefit from your offerings.
Confirm their pain, consequences, budget and timeline
Be sure to confirm all of the important information before drafting a contract. Determine the amount of time it takes to set up the account and put your solution into action and then work backwards to decide at what point they will need to sign your contract. Create a timeline that pertains to the prospect’s deadline.
Tips for Top Inbound Sales Strategies and Sales Enablement
Now that you understand the buyer’s journey and the key inbound sales strategies to implement that will help you to build an effective sales process around that journey, let’s discover specific tips that work for both inbound and outbound sales methodology.
The following tips will help inbound sales agents and representatives to improve their inbound sales strategy and achieve customer satisfaction.
During the inbound sales process, it should be your aim as a sales representative to satisfy all the queries of your customers. You should try to build a relationship that can work for a long time, but you must keep in mind, they are not hiring a friend, they are hiring an expert who can push back when it aligns with the clients' growth goals.
While most sales persons are aligned with principles of transactional-based selling or relationship selling, these days you need a paradigm shift towards solution-based selling, which focuses on identifying the prospects future state and their desired future state. This will help you identify customer pain points that are not just keeping them up at night, but also keeping them from growing faster so you can present a highly pertinent approach.
Use Fancy Guest Manners
An inbound marketing agency will help your company make use of fancy guest manners. It will help in building up the strong relationship with your customer. He or she will feel more comfortable in communication with a salesperson without selling them. Inbound selling focuses around advising to help nurture leads throughout the decision-making process.
Expert in Conversation
Your company should have expertise in conversation. It is a very important strategy for inbound sales. When your company calls first, you have a few questions to ask from your seller. Your company must remember that this process may irritate the seller. A salesperson should be very expert in conversation. Otherwise, he may have to face trouble. A sales representative should talk in a polite manner and use the right words to ask a question.
Pronounce the Name Correctly
Your company needs to pronounce the name correctly of your customers. Sometimes, sales professionals are not able to pronounce the name correctly. It may irritate the customers. So, confirm the exact name of the customer, and then only call him or her.
Pre-write your Sales Pitch
First write about the sales pitch. It is a very essential strategy of inbound sales. Working with an inbound sales agency. A sales representative should have prior knowledge about the script. Write on a paper whatever needs to be discussed with the customer.
Then only make the sales call after you have a clear vision of how you want the call to go and what is the ideal outcome for that particular call, in context of moving the prospect towards the next phase in your sales cycle.
Search Engine Optimization
The primary way that inbound marketing works is within Search Engine Optimization. SEO is a method to get your website to gain a high position in search engines for particular keywords ofr the purpose of increasing organic website traffic from search engines. When a potential customer does a web search, they are actively searching for a product or service.
If your company were a marketing firm and your target audience types in "Marketing in Los Angeles" and your website is listed on page one of a search engine you'll be likely to receive better leads.
Content marketing is creating valuable information and strategically placing it on your website, social media, or other major publications to increase consumer awareness and interest. Frequently your company will attract consumers by delivering a blog which offers relevant content making their company a trusted and beneficial source. This type of thought leadership can attract qualified leads to your website.
Your company could provide ebooks, instructional videos, whitepapers or step by step instructions to help consumers solve an issue or to educate. But don't forget to provide a call to action in your content to convert sales.
Instead of relying on the old-fashioned cold email blasts, have visitors forwarded to an opt-in on your website for newsletters or bulletins. These persona-driven emails should be surgical and include helpful information to nurture the visitor's interest. This is a time to help, not sell, to educate and build trust by providing them content pertinent to their specific stage of the buyer's journey.
With that said, your time will be wasted if you do not have the correct email addresses. This is where email validation is critical, to ensuring maximum email deliverability for your sales team. Leveraging sales email templates, they look like a person took the time to type-up an email and even has that sales reps signature block in the bottom of the mail.
These sales email templates come from that individual sales rep's email address, not some marketing email subscription. The opt-in opportunities are best when placed on a landing page, above the homepage fold, or on sidebars of your website.
Social Media Marketing
Using sites such as Twitter and Facebook to build interest in a product or service are good ways to use inbound sales strategies.
Provide regular content that's engaging on your social media account to attract potential customers. Don't merely self-promote, provide your audience with useful details and engage with your leads online.
One of the most effective ways to express info is through videos. Individuals often visit popular video channels such as YouTube or Vimeo to get info to solve problems or learn about a service or product. Get in front of your market by being visible on these video channels. Also be sure to provide a website link or contact number in the video description to guarantee they'll find your business.
Inbound Sales Takeaways
Inbound sales is fast becoming a backbone of today's business in terms of effectively adapting to buyer behavior. Implementing inbound sales strategies into your inbound sales playbook can greatly impact the effectiveness of your sales reps to increase revenue over time.
Traditional outbound sales strategies that focus on delivering the same, generic presentation and implementing stale sales tactics are no longer effective in this day and age. Inbound sales methodology allows you to align your sales process with the way the customer wants to engage with you and your business.
With so much information out there, customers are able to practically walk themselves through each phase of the sales journey. And they also enter the sales process much more informed than they used to. With inbound sales strategies, you can discover what your customer is looking for and present the solution in the best way possible.
Needless to say, it is important that your sales agents take care of your customers who want to place an order from your company. Pay attention and Listen up!