The behavior of buyers has changed dramatically. Marketing and methodologies of sales teams have to also adapt to stay ahead and meet the needs or risk being replaced by another professional who is taking an innovative and aggressive approach. How do you succeed in inbound sales? What is inbound sales model? these are explained well in this article.
In recent years, sales have undergone a metamorphosis and bear little resemblance to the techniques used in the past. Inbound sales are a methodology that puts the particular interests, needs, goals, and challenges of individual buyers first and foremost. It’s no longer about ‘closing’ the sale, but about meeting needs and offering guidance during the decision-making process.
The noticeable shift in buyer behavior has inspired a strong push for greater customer-centric marketing and inbound sales, which dramatically improve the likelihood that your sales team ends up having the right conversations at every step of the sales funnel.
Previously, buyers were often halfway through the buyer’s journey before they ever spoke with a sales rep. In such an instance, your sales team loses precious ground that is difficult or impossible to make up. In addition, it also lets a potentially hungry initiative-taking salesperson swoop in and steal the deal.
“By the time an actual salesperson gets involved, up to 90% of the selling process could be over and done with” (Forrester)
Acting in a speedy fashion while taking the extra time and care to help your prospects will dramatically increase your likelihood of making a successful conversion and gaining a long-term customer.
What is Inbound Sales?
Inbound sales take a very personalized approach that is both helpful and informative. The tactic focuses on the prospect’s pain point. The salesperson serves the useful purpose of being a trusted consultant. They will adapt their sales process to meet the needs of the buyer on their journey.
The start of inbound sales begins by attracting leads using inbound marketing techniques like blogging, social media, and video marketing to pique the interest of the audience. The illustration below outlines the importance of aligning your buying process with your sales process
The inbound salesperson will connect with the lead to learn more about their particular problems and any potential challenge. You’ll be able to determine if your service or product will meet their needs and be a good fit. At that point, you can work the lead to explore areas of potential opportunity and explain your solutions to better help them meet their goals.
Taking the approach helps you deepen your relationship with the prospect showing an interest in their concerns and then helping to solve the issues. You’ll be able to turn qualified prospects into loyal, long-term clients/customers.
The remarkable thing about inbound marketing is that you don’t waste your time trying to reach people who have no interest in your products or services.
Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing
Inbound works by using a scalable sales strategy that attracts prospects and further builds a long-term relationship with the customer. Outbound sales tactics are about engagement of potential buyers who may not be interested in your products.
- Inbound: An inbound approach not only attracts interested customers but also gives them value.
- Outbound: An outbound approach relies on a sales funnel to reach as many potential prospects as possible which might end up wasting your efforts because you’ll be exhausting yourself trying to engage in individuals who have no interest in your brand or products.
The success of inbound sales is impressive. LinkedIn reports that 62% of B2B customers respond in a positive way to salespeople who connect with them through content sharing that they find relative.
Another 76% of buyers are willing to have sales conversations via social media.
Outbound sales are harder to implement, requiring a salesperson to conduct a cold outreach which may fall flat if the person is not interested in your services or product. However, on occasion outbound sales are effective. If the sales prospect simply has no previous knowledge of your services or products then enlightening them can hold great promise and create a new opportunity.
In certain cases, outbound sales can become an effective way to tap into new markets. Sometimes, qualified leads simply have never heard of your company or are not familiar with your products.
Inbound and outbound sales work together to effectively reach their sales targets.
How Easy are Inbound and Outbound Sales?
Undoubtedly, outbound sales are more difficult and challenging. Outbound sales require research to effectively identify pain points and then cold calling to make a pitch - which may or may not fall flat. The entire process of outbound selling takes time. You’ll make countless calls without ever connecting with a buyer. Even if you do reach a buyer, then you’ll need to present a convincing pitch on why your services or product are the best choice or fit for their particular need.
Inbound selling is a breeze compared to outbound sales. The first step is to create a foundation by building a website with a strong SEO ranking, producing high quality/converting blog posts, and then fostering your social media presence to grab the attention of new audiences. With a solid foundation, your sales team can easily pitch leads to individuals who are already interested.
The inbound selling strategy is time-consuming. It must align with the buyer’s journey. It does take time, dedication, skill, and effort to hone. It’s not something that happens overnight but it is highly effective.
Even though inbound sales might require more work, it is an easier approach after creating a stable inbound selling strategy.
Nurturing Leads Along the Buyer’s Journey
Every milestone of the buyer’s journey is important and should not be overlooked. Each step in the process holds promise and potential. If your sales team overlooks it then they are missing out!
When a customer sends an email, fills out a form to download a white paper or eBook, requests additional information via a phone call, or takes the time to fill out your company’s contact form are all opportunities! The actions are often called “warming up scenarios", which refers to a time when a lead should be nurtured with content that is relevant to the buying cycle. In essence, your sales team will walk and accompany each lead through the buyer’s journey.
Businesses in the Los Angeles area who want to boost their sales should hire reputable inbound marketing agencies that have the necessary HubSpot COS certification and experience implementing profitable inbound sales strategies to boost profits.
Inbound marketing agencies in Los Angeles will work with your business to upgrade and create improved company sales processes, innovative strategies and a cutting-edge skills set that will better align with your marketing and branding efforts.
Close more inbound sales and better analyze inbound sales data by:
- Spending time on only sales qualified leads.
- Manage consistent and effective sales and marketing.
- Ensure full integration and effectiveness of your CRM system with your inbound sales process.
Have you been in B2B sales for years or are you aspiring and seeking ways to improve your inbound sales pipeline? Either way, you might be surprised to learn that the same actions are required to grow your business.
One of the biggest mistakes made is becoming lax because you can rest assured that another up and coming, ambitious sales professional is going to pull the rug out from under you by snagging up your existing customers.
It is imperative that you service your existing clients while also focusing on acquiring new business. If you sacrifice current clients in a quest to bring in new ones, then your business will quickly become dead in the water without any significant growth potential.
Meeting the needs of your current clients while developing strategies to bring in new conversions takes time. You might wonder how you can possibly achieve all of the necessary tasks in a twenty-four-hour day while still operating a functioning business. The answer is that it’s not easy and it does take dedication.
The best way to increase revenue for your company is to pay close attention to income producing activities. It’s okay to push the rest of the busy work to the side while you shift focus for a while.
Reasons to Leverage Inbound Sales
Let’s examine a few tips that just might give you the edge you need to keep your inbound sales funnel brimming with qualified leads. With the leads, your skilled sales agents can take a proactive approach to start to close and boost sales.
Tip: 89% of marketers are either increasing or maintaining their inbound budgets.
Learn the Difference Between a Buyer Persona & an Ideal Buyer Profile
Drafting a successful inbound sales method involves identification skills. You must identify those to whom you are selling. Clearly, this is crucial not just for companies, but also individuals.
The challenge that exists is that salespeople often start to focus on buyers’ personas, the fictional depiction of the perfect customer, or niche pain points. They really have no clear idea of a genuine ideal buyer profile. Sure, all of the personas might sound similar, but they are each hugely different with what might be considered subtle differences.
Buyer personas considerations include the following:
- Who are they?
- How do they buy and how do they think?
- Where do they buy?
- Why do they make the following buying decisions?
- When do they decide to buy?
- What goals drive their buying behavior and what are they trying to achieve?
It is imperative that you understand the various buyer personas and their buying patterns within your company’s buyer profile. Remember, your company’s ideal buyer persona is the key individual that you’re targeting. They are your market and your prospects.
Connecting During the Buyer’s Journey
The aim of inbound sales is to refine the sales process, so it better accommodates the buyer’s natural purchasing behavior. The method is completely buyer-focused instead of being seller-focused. Traditional sales processes were developed based on the belief that the product or solution must be sold at all costs without any clear or realistic understanding of the buyer’s genuine needs at any point along the buyer journey.
Historically, sales teams focused on their own needs and not what their buyers required. Legacy salespeople would follow a game plan laid out by their sales manager where they would check the box during the sales process which often caused the seller and buyer to become completely out of synchronization. It resulted in a complete breakdown of communication and understanding. The process was self-serving and provided the buyer with only minimal value.
Think about it, if a salesperson provides no value beyond the basic information that is already available to a potential buyer, then why would they waste their time having any form of discourse with the salesperson?
Focusing on the buyer’s journey helps the inbound sales team avoid problems and form a relationship. They have to show a willingness to utterly understand the buyer’s needs, thoughts, and emotions.
You want to qualify and connect with your targeted prospect by generating a small win, starting a two-way dialogue to gain adequate information to convert a simple lead to a qualified lead. In order to achieve this, you have to connect with the prospect along their buyer’s journey
To connect during the buyer’s journey, you must understand the buyer’s persona. The buyer’s journey looks vastly different depending on the sector. A B2C buyer will spend extraordinarily little time considering things, but a B2B buyer requires a great deal of one-on-one attention before making a choice.
There are three stages of the buyer’s journey: Awareness, Consideration, Decision.
With inbound sales, it's about making connections and that takes understanding coupled with preparation. You must prepare for every stage so you can emphasize what the buyer needs and better understand the stage they are in. Such critical knowledge helps you gain a higher retention rate and achieve greater promoters of your products or services because you have helped to guarantee a satisfactory buyer’s journey.
Buyer’s Journey Framework
To build a successful framework for the buyer’s journey, you’ll need to have a firm understanding of each stage. You should also have an arsenal of content, research, and statistics at your disposal to make your case.
On your website, make sure you have content that fits each stage. The content needs to be relevant, knowledgeable, and useful. It will become a valuable resource that you can use to make a connection and help the buyer in their decision process.
A good framework for the buyer's journey should include the following:
A buyer becomes aware of a particular challenge or goal that they may want to conquer or pursue. At this point, they decide if it’s a priority or not.
The awareness stage is the first stage of the buyer’s journey. It is the point where the customer starts to become aware they have a problem, and they need to resolve it. They often come to this awareness after reading a piece of content that outlines a particular problem.
During the awareness stage, the buyer will conduct research to further define their problem or need. They often use terms like trouble shoot, issue, or optimize. Basically, they are a buyer, and they are aware that they have a problem.
You have to work to understand the buyer’s awareness stage by asking:
- How would the buyer describe their goals or challenges?
- How can you learn more about those goals and challenges?
- How can you better understand exactly how a buyer decides on if the goal or challenge is a priority?
To better grasp this stage of the buyer’s journey, ask the following questions and fill in the blanks:
- I need to improve (blank).
- I need to prevent (blank).
- I need to start (blank).
- I need to stop (blank).
- I need to optimize (blank).
- I need to solve (blank).
- I need to learn more about (blank).
The words you insert into the blanks defines the awareness stage and helps you start devising an inbound sales strategy to help the buyer.
At the consideration stage the buyer has effectively defined their own goals, problems, and challenges and they are ready to address it. They are probably evaluating various methods and approaches needed to help solve or meet their goals and challenges. At this stage, they typically carry out research that focuses on workable solutions that can fix the problem or show how best to fill their need. A buyer will normally start to create a list of products or companies that provide them with the best solution.
The consideration stage is the critical point. It becomes the final limit. The buyer has identified the situation and is searching for solutions. You’ll want to provide solution keywords to help guide the buyer into the decision phase.
To better understand the consideration stage, ask yourself the following:
- What are the solutions or categories the buyers are exploring?
- What are the buyers' pros and cons for each category?
- What differentiates each category for the buyer?
When a buyer reaches the decision stage, they have picked a solution category. They have probably created an extremely specific list of vendors with products or services that meet their needs. Now they have to whittle down the choices and make an educated decision.
During the decision phase, they will examine:
- Pros and cons
Pretend you are a buyer trying to decide on a product or service. Fill in the blanks for each sentence so you have a better understanding of the decision stage:
- I need (blank).
- I need (blank) product specifics.
- I need proof (blank) works.
- I need prices for (blank).
- I need evidence about (blank).
- I need assurance about (blank).
The decision phase is important, so you’ll want to fully understand the process. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What things do buyers evaluate?
- What criteria do buyers follow when examining products or services?
- What makes your products or services stand out in the buyer’s eyes?
- Who participates in the final decision and how does each buyer’s perspective differ?
Connecting during every stage is critical. Think about ways you can help buyers at each pivotal moment of the process. During the awareness phase, you might want to provide them with a useful blog post or free eBook so they can better frame their decisions and solutions. The type of content that your company shares depends on the prospects but should always be top-quality and provide answers to shared questions.
During the consideration stage, you could provide a free and helpful consultation or online seminar to provide with the specific needs of the buyer.
Every milestone of the buyer’s journey is a valuable tool that you can use to reach the buyer and build a long-lasting repertoire. You’ll have the opportunity to frame your company’s values while supporting the buying process.
Barriers and Sales Objections
With inbound sales, lowering sales barriers is the new way to succeed. Objection handling has undergone a metamorphosis. Simply accepting a ‘no’ and leaving your business card in case the potential buyer changes their mind is no longer a viable tactic. Now, it is imperative that you discover their true objection.
When a customer gives an objection, all hope is not lost! In fact, any time a potential buyer gives you an objection it means they are interested in buying and they have some barrier that is holding them back or they would simply give you a firm ‘no.’
You must lower the barriers to win the sale.
Whenever a customer feels there is some risk acting as a roadblock then it is your responsibility to make the risk go away so the buyer buys!
The number one objection that you’ll run into is, “I can find it cheaper online.” Nowadays, most refer to the cheaper online as “prime it.”
Prime it means that a would-be buyer checks the price online and then thinks deeply about whether or not they can wait two days to have the desired item shipped to them or if they want to pay a higher price to gain immediate possession.
Price on the internet has become a huge barrier to buyers moving forward and it is their number one objection. Without a doubt Amazon has become the biggest competitor.
Amazon’s success is truly mind boggling. Look at Amazon’s monopoly on the worldwide book business – they control an astonishing 70 percent of the global book business.
When you receive an objection, you might immediately feel disheartened but don’t! An objection means that the buyer is actually interested. All you have to do is discover the true objection and overcome it.
With objections, things are not always black and white. An objection means that the buyer is actually interested. Overcome the barrier to overcome the objection.
If the objection is price (which remains the number one objection) then you must bring value to the product or service to push the sale.
You might wonder about what the perceived value is - you’ll need to figure it out!
So, overcoming the objection requires these crucial steps:
- Lower the barrier to get the sale.
- Understand why the barrier exists.
- Discover what caused the barrier.
The biggest objections that are throwing up a roadblock to the sale include:
- Price too high.
- Product quality is poor.
- Reputation of your brand is bad.
- Poor reviews/testimonials.
- They dislike you.
Lowering the Barrier
Provide proof that the product or service is worthy of the price such as social media proof. YouTube video, content, or testimonials that clearly justify and show the value. Perhaps they are having a tough time justifying the additional cost, so you need to offer reasons why the service or product is worthy of the price tag.
Typically, people are followers. If you show them reviews and testimonials, then they will listen to other people and weigh their opinions. Don’t be afraid to show them the helpful reviews and the bad reviews. Hopefully, the good outweighs the bad or you have a fundamental problem.
Tenacity is the key to overcoming the barriers. Don’t take no for an answer. Continue to dig deeper. Never leave your business cards and just walk away. You want to continue to try to find out the reason and motive behind their ‘no.’ If you know the reason and motive, then you can overcome it.
Preparation is a Necessity
If you want to bring the barriers down and overcome the objection, then you need a strategy beforehand. Preparation is the key. You have to be ready to overcome any objection before it's ever presented.
Study the brand’s barriers.
Common barriers include:
- Slow delivery
- Bad reputation
- High price
If you are not prepared for every single barrier or objection, then you will lose or postpone the sale. Whenever the buyer says, let me think about it, then it translates into the fact they are not sold yet, and the answer is a resounding “No.”
How would you overcome skepticism if the buyer has had a bad prior experience? If you are not prepared then you might freeze up, but with advance preparation you can overcome skepticism by using what is referred to as “the voice of the customer.” At this point, you should be ready to deploy the testimonials to win the buyer.
Always have access to reviews and testimonials and videos of happy clients and customers who are strong advocates for your brand. Be ready to provide evidence that shows that customers are happy with your brand, services, or products.
Employing a third-party voice to win a sale is a wonderfully effective tool that is often overlooked. If you have 500 thrilled customers, then you have 500 salespeople on your side who can speak with far more authority than you do. Use reviews and testimonials to your advantage to break down the barriers and overcome the objections. Yes, it takes advance planning, but it is definitely worth the effort.
Flatlining the Would-be Buyer
Sometimes the only way to overcome a barrier or objection is to flatline the would-be buyer for the truth. You must push for an answer. If you are direct, then you will create and build trust. Your direct attitude and blunt questions will put the buyer on their heels, and they will eventually give you their true objection.
In many cases, they are simply not the real decision maker. In fact, it is the spouse or a partner who is calling the shots. They have to ask their spouse or partner before giving you an answer. In such a situation, you need to push to get the deciding party involved in a three-way conversation. Offer a meet and greet, phone call, or zoom meeting to discuss things with the true deciding party.
You have to pull out the real and true issue to get past the perceived issue. The objection is usually beyond the perceived or stated one. Often its value versus price. Usually, the unspoken risk is the problem that the buyer won’t tell you about.
Strive to deepen your relationship with your previous customers by encouraging them to leave reviews, speak out online via social media, and record video testimonials outlining their positive experience with your brand. You can then promote the testimonials on your social media channels and YouTube. They become gold as an effective sales tool!
As a salesperson, you might be surprised to learn that sometimes you have to provide social proof of yourself versus the company or the product. Yes, the customer might want to know who you are. Many might even Google you. It’s important that you Google yourself to see what the client or customer sees.
Inbound sales require making a personal connection so you have to prove yourself and you should be happy when a potential client or customer is curious about you.
As a sales professional, you might want to social proof yourself by ensuring that what a customer sees is positive when they Google you. Consider posting a website of yourself, your philosophy and how you treat your customers.
When a potential client or customer searches online for you then they will be able to read your website to know a little about who you are and what you believe. You should also use social media to your advantage. You can share every time you post to LinkedIn or when a customer leaves a glowing review of your performance. Provide fun snippets about yourself such as where you grew up.
Making yourself socially relevant and developing your own personal resume online helps substantially with sales goals. You will gain value with social proof. It lets the customer perceive you as someone who cares and who can truly help.
Dual Roles: Inbound Sales Rep and Advisors
B2B companies and SaaS platforms consider sales and marketing alignment a top priority that extend customer lifetime value. Previously, being “helpful” was sufficient for a sales rep but not today. Now you have to go the extra mile because technology is fast replacing the help aspect of a salesperson's job. Most buyers can quickly learn about a product online or using their mobile device.
Being helpful is far less of a differentiator in the entire sales process. Now a salesperson must take on the role of advisor to effectively help B2B companies navigate the complex buying process which helps reduce the sales cycle.
What does being an advisor in an inbound sales role mean to you?
- You’ll need to ask insightful, even uncomfortable questions, to encourage the prospect to think deeply about what they truly need.
- Teach prospects various strategies and tactics that they can utilize to achieve their own objectives.
- Show prospects how a product or solution will work to save them money, increase profitability and avoid risk.
Sales Actions that Increase Revenue
Let’s take a moment to examine how to increase revenue for your company by focusing on income producing activities.
Below are seven crucial B2B sales actions that have the potential to dramatically increase revenue:
1. The Follow Up
Such a simple thing: the follow up. However, for many it is a struggle. Your desk is probably littered with leads and your in-box might contain numerous unread emails. The main reason why sales professionals fail to follow up is they become overwhelmed and mired in the day-to-day business. You probably don’t even know where to start with a follow up.
Follow ups are a necessity.
There are an average of six to eight touches needed to make a sale.
Not every prospect will become a conversion, but you can make many converts with a simple follow up. If you fail to follow up, then they are likely to end up taking their business elsewhere when some other sales professional reaches.
The easiest people to sell are your buyers. They already know you, your product, how you do business, and they probably like you. People do business with people they know, like and trust, so if you already have that part in the bag, inbound selling applied to client engagement or simply upselling your customers usually won’t take as much time as converting a new lead.
2. Upselling Current Customers
Inbound sales are the backbone strategy of any business. Working with one or more inbound marketing agencies improves your company’s customer-focused selling and builds your internal fundamentals.
You can dramatically develop the ability of your sales team to better boost customer retention rates. Pay close attention when inbound marketing agencies propose ways to improve and expand your company’s inbound sales funnel.
Any time a qualified inbound sales prospect shows even an inkling of interest, then traditional salespeople jump at the opportunity to pitch, but the approach is a numbers game and has quickly lost effectiveness with most current modern buyers.
Effective B2B marketing strategies give you the tools you need to frame buyer intent and use it as an opportunity to teach each prospect. Explore the channels your prospect faces, examine the goals they need to achieve, determine how they plan to get there, and what is needed to succeed. Then present how your company’s solutions will effectively solve the buyer’s challenges.
Any time you decide to upsell a current customer, you need to make sure you are providing a complimentary service.
3. Qualifying Leads
Your website should generate inbound leads. If it pulls in more leads than you can manage, then you’ll need to qualify leads, so you are focused on contacting the most promising while putting the tire kickers on hold.
When someone wants to do business with you, then you’ll need to ensure they are the right kind of client for your company. The time to qualify leads is at the start of the funnel. Never let unqualified leads reach your sales team or they will end up wasting time contacting individuals who are not the proper fit.
4. Prospect the Warm Market
Even though your inbound marketing is working, you still should not stop prospecting your warm market. Warm marketing (also called warm calling) is different from cold calling because you focus on a more personalized approach. You do not make the call to achieve a sale.
The goal of the call is to lay the foundation for a long-lasting relationship that is mutually beneficial to everyone involved. You’ll want to look for trigger events which alter the prospect’s business situation making your services more relevant and can present a solution to a challenge.
5. Using a Modern CRM
You probably enlist a multitude of ways to effectively keep track of your contacts, but you should consider using a modern CRM. When set up properly you see actions they took with a MQL (marketing qualified lead) vs. a SQL (sales qualified lead), any content they viewed during the buyer’s journey, when they bought and whether you lost a sale or not. Having data that shows how your sales activities have succeeded or failed is imperative to grow your business and increase productivity.
Having a proper onboarding process ensures that everyone understands how everything works. A structured process is an effective tool that should never be overlooked.
- Attract: Blogs, keywords, social publishing.
- Convert: Forms, CTAs, landing pages
- Close: CRM, emails, workflow
- Delight: Surveys, informative content, social monitoring
7. Coordination of Marketing and Sales
Sales and marketing teams should maintain constant communication, but many teams fail to reach out to each other. They are kept separate and don’t have any significant interest in each other’s success. You have to blend sales and marketing team efforts so that they are more effective to improve the company’s overall success.
Inbound sales methods are the backbone strategy of any business who wants to maintain an inbound sales funnel that is filled with impressive, qualified sales leads. Companies that work with a skilled inbound marketing agency can significantly improve their client-driven selling and boost customer retention rates. With effective inbound sales strategy, you can create a strong framework to meet the challenges of modern buyers.