Want to be successful in inbound sales?
Inbound sales takes the old, interruptive sales process and turns it on its head. Instead of blasting your message to as many people as possible and hoping for the best, you have the chance to make a genuine connection with prospects – creating true “win-win” outcomes.
One of the main reasons inbound marketing is so powerful is that it’s permission-based: Early in the relationship, prospects signal they are willing to hear from you. But once you have that permission, what do you do?
That’s where inbound sales techniques come in.
Outbound sales are a lecture, while inbound sales are a conversation. There still needs to be direct contact between your prospects and sales team, but the route to get there is very different: Lead nurturing happens at every step.
As a result, prospects are more likely to lean in and listen when the sales call comes.
But – precisely because nurturing is so important – the closing call is not the most important part of inbound sales. In fact, sales and marketing pros need to work together to ensure the relationship is building toward a sale from the start.
Let’s look at seven top inbound sales techniques:
1. Develop Your Buyer Journey in Detail
Using inbound effectively means you need to talk to your prospect at every step of their path from awareness to consideration to decision. But: A prospect will probably only contact you late in the process. Your website, automated emails, and other collateral must do the rest.
How can you make these tools effective, not intrusive?
The answer is simpler than it looks. Map out the buyer journeys your customers may have. What individual pain points could lead them through your sales funnel? Which products should your communication focus on for each one?
Only by refining your understanding of the buying process can you make sure the automated tools you use are a real extension of your value – instead of pull-string toys that blurt out useless, pre-recorded messages.
2. Do Your Research Before Connecting
With buyer journeys in hand, it becomes easier to track your prospects’ interactions with your site and understand their thinking. Someone who looks at a flyer about public speaking anxiety is in a different place – with different needs – than someone who reads about a master seminar for executives who want to give better presentations.
With granular insight into prospect activities, sales teams have the chance to open a conversation based on what they’ve seen a prospect do – rather than what they’d like the user to do to “qualify better” or “move through the funnel.”
3. Figure Out What to Ask and Teach in Sales Calls
For you, the ultimate goal of a sales call is – not surprisingly – to make a sale. This goal and the tension it causes can sabotage a call fast! To move forward, take the prospect’s perspective: What do they want to learn from your call? How can you help them?
In the inbound methodology, sales pros need to get more comfortable with the role of mentor and adviser: It’s “consultative selling” turned up to the next level. Acknowledge in your mind that some prospects simply aren’t right for your brand – focus first on answering questions, not objections.
4. Open a Two-Way Dialogue to Understand the Prospect
The more comfortable a prospect gets, the more likely he or she is to make a purchase. How do you make someone comfortable? The same way you would with anyone else – the way Dale Carnegie advocated for decades: Take a genuine interest in the other person.
Over the phone, a lot of the little physical cues that can make people comfortable disappear. The best way to spark rapport is to ask questions: Not about what prospects think of you or plans to buy, but what brought them to this point, what they’ve tried, and what they need.
5. As the Conversation Develops, Let Them Sell Themselves
For generations, “ask for the sale” has been one of the cardinal rules of traditional selling. As an inbound sales dynamo, you can still do this in your own way – but it’s often much better to let prospects ask themselves.
In the 17th century, philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote at length about this idea: People are much more attached to ideas they’ve had themselves than ideas others have given them. Your role in inbound sales is to give the prospect enough information to justify their own decision.
6. Focus on Thought Leadership
We know, we know: Thought leadership is probably one of the most overused terms in sales and marketing today. Everyone and their dog wants to be a “thought leader,” but many brands have little understanding of what that means – and how it impacts their sales process.
To make a long story short, thought leadership doesn’t stop at telling others your way is better: It focuses on why and what difference it makes. By spreading truly innovative and thought-provoking content, you capture more leads who are interested in what you have to say.
This has a dramatic effect on the sales process as a whole, since it means people who connect with your brand already have an interest in what you have to say – and recognize that your competitors may not offer the same value you do.
7. Practice Active Listening
If there’s one thing that ties all aspects of inbound sales together, it’s listening.
Today’s extended sales process starts with Web designers and marketing pros developing new ways to “listen” to customers long before they make the first contact. Using clear buyer journeys, effective calls to action, and good analytics, the whole team can make inferences about what leads are thinking.
It’s up to sales pros to take that and run with it in direct interactions.
Where old-fashioned outbound selling was all about “us,” the company, inbound methods are all about “you,” the prospect. That requires sales pros to have the poise and balance needed to carefully listen to what prospects have to say once they’re (finally) on the phone.
Every conversation includes opportunities – but you have to listen for them.
Active listening helps people drop their guard because, again, they get the sense that they matter to you. Just by listening, you convey that you value their time and they have your full attention.
That gives them the best possible impression of what they can expect from you once they buy!
Inbound is Here to Stay: Make it Part of Your Sales Strategy
Used correctly, inbound is part of every aspect of an online business:
- Web Design
- Product Development
Sales pros are perhaps most likely to feel like inbound is totally separate from them. After all, many experienced salespeople have worked in enterprises where sales and marketing are seen as separate silos – to say nothing of “technical” areas like design.
How can they succeed in a world that’s increasingly resistant to outbound?
Simply recognize and embrace that a sales conversation is not the first, or even the last, contact with any prospect: It’s the continuation of an ongoing dialogue by different means.