In sales management, one of your primary responsibilities, in addition to setting goals for your team, is mentoring and coaching them to success.
As a mentor and coach, one of the best things you can do is provide your team with every tool available and advise them on all available strategies to generate demand, leads, and sales. That means capitalizing on every strategy, like inbound marketing and inbound sales.
John Madden once said, “Coaches have to watch for what they don’t want to see and listen to what they don’t want to hear.” In other words, sometimes you have to abandon preconceived notions and biases, especially when it comes to adopting frameworks that are new to your organization.
It also means sometimes embracing alignment efforts between marketing and sales strategies. The inbound methodology is a framework that both marketing and sales teams can adopt together.
Let’s take a look at how sales management can benefit from inbound.
What Is the Role of a Sales Manager?
The sales manager has several roles within an organization that require:
- General sales knowledge and experience
- An understanding of the sales process within the organization
- Knowledge of existing and ideal customers as well as buyer personas and buyer journeys
- Sales management and oversight of the sales team
- Monitoring, tracking, and reporting on sales goals and performance
As mentioned above, providing the right sales tools to lead your team to success should include all the tools available to all your teams, including marketing. You need good knowledge management in place so all team members can find the information and customer data they need to optimize each touchpoint they have with leads.
For example, marketing spends a good deal of time analyzing buyer personas and journey maps to better understand ideal customers and how a particular organization's sales funnel works to move those individuals along in the process.
Sales managers who leverage inbound tactics and work with their marketing team can effectively leverage their knowledge to improve the sales process and build team success.
What Is Inbound?
When we identify lead qualifications, like defining marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales qualified leads (SQLs), we do so with the idea that understanding where a prospect is can inform the time we dedicate to nurturing that relationship.
But, when it comes to outbound sales, that means a lot of time researching, prospecting, calling, and scheduling. What's more, outbound sales tactics are engaging people who may not even be interested in purchasing from you.
Inbound, in contrast, brings the prospects to you, and it is centered on attracting people who are actually interested in buying your products or services.
The inbound methodology consists of lots of moving parts across marketing and sales. Through a process of building buyer personas followed by needs identification, inbound marketing provides valuable information to your ideal customers, enabling the beginning of a trusted relationship.
For example, let’s say you’ve identified your ideal customer and have then been further able to identify unique challenges faced by his industry, his organization, or his particular role in each. Your marketing team then creates valuable content for your website that addresses that particular challenge and that particular customer. In short, you deliver the right information, at the right time, to the right person.
Inbound marketing then opens the door to start a relationship with this individual, continuing to share valuable resources and information for each stage of their journey. You gradually move them toward your product or service as the solution by adopting inbound sales techniques.
Because you have invested time and effort in cultivating a relationship based on building trust and providing value (from your marketing and sales team), the ideal customer responds to that by selecting your product or service.
Rather than investing time casting a wide net and cold calling, your customers come to you. While outbound tactics play an important role in lead generation, inbound is more cost effective and can shorten the entire sales cycle.
The process by which you identify MQLs and SQLs is managed through your site content, and, with any luck, a CRM that facilitates the entire process.
How Sales Management Can Benefit From Inbound Tactics
Inbound has significant benefits for sales management and your sales team. Perhaps one of the clearest ways to see the value is to look at the ways that inbound addresses common challenges facing sales teams.
1. Inbound Builds Trust Early in the Buying Journey.
Trust has long been the foundation of a solid sales process.The arrival of the internet decreased in-person communication, heralding a period when traditional sales techniques, which at least partially relied upon face-to-face interactions to build relationships, were less effective.
Now, in the face of COVID-19, even fewer opportunities exist, with even more business shifting online. Inbound marketing is designed to build trust. By providing specific, reliable, valuable information to leads, your brand becomes a trusted resource and adviser on the topics, services, and products that fit within your expertise.
This way, when your sales team connects with qualified leads, those leads already feel comfortable engaging with your business. They will view your reps as credible authorities as you continue to help solve problems and find the right solution.
2. Inbound Closes the Sales and Marketing Divide.
In more traditional setups, like outbound sales, sales and marketing teams exist separately, often siloed off from one another. As a result of that separation, leads can be lost or left to languish.
Inbound strategies, on the other hand, can tie both departments closely through a shared system that gathers customer data and centralizes the necessary information for sales team members to reach out to prospects and leads.
Further, a shared CRM can also help sales management keep a close eye on where there is friction and how responsive teams are to prospects. In short, it can facilitate oversight.
3. Inbound Simplifies Prospecting.
Let’s be honest, sales prospecting is one of the hardest parts of the job and probably one of the hardest things to train or teach (especially B2B prospecting). It can be a long and exhausting process that, in part, relies on instinct and experience.
In other words, your sales reps kind of have to train themselves and then there’s the rest of the process too. Just because they find prospects doesn’t mean they’ll close. While other traditional prospecting can and should still be done, inbound marketing brings prospects to your reps, saving everyone time and effort.
Further, outbound sales relies on contacting and connecting with as many people as possible and hoping a good number of them are qualified leads. In contrast, inbound marketing may deliver fewer prospects, but the quality of those prospects is better.
4. Inbound Makes the Closing Process Easier.
For non-sales team members, closing seems like a natural (and easy?) next step for a customer. You have a customer who has a need, and your product or service fills it. It seems pretty simple.
As a sales manager, you know that there are any number of reasons why a customer doesn’t buy and some of them might be quite nuanced. More importantly for you, if they’re not buying, you’re not hitting your sales goals.
The modern customer/consumer doesn’t like the hard sell. In fact, they’d often prefer to do the research themselves, whether that’s researching the problem, the solution, their options, your company, or your sales rep. So how does inbound solve this problem?
Inbound marketing requires time spent on the front end (understanding your customers, their needs and challenges) then delivering the content and information they need to make an informed decision.
In doing their research, they’ve hopefully come across your business organically (e.g., through organic search, social media channels), and they see that you have a very keen understanding of their needs, challenges or pain points, and goals.
In turn, the closing process gets easier because they found you and expressed interest in talking to your sales team on their own, as opposed to your sales reps being disruptive. Your company's inbound strategies are what attract them and make them feel compelled to connect with your sales team.
5. Inbound Increases Your Lead Generation.
As a sales manager, you understand that getting to the key decision maker is essential and the lead you have may not even be an influencer, let alone a decision maker.
That’s where your inbound marketing content comes in. Your blog may attract a wide audience, but content offers such as ebooks and whitepapers can reframe the pain points or look at the issue from a C-suite point of view. These downloadable content offers are designed to be shared and target decision makers, expanding your reach within an organization.
6. Inbound Demonstrates Your Value.
Obviously one of the goals of sales management is to drive sales to increase revenue. We mentioned above the myriad reasons a customer won’t close, and one of those reasons is price. Sometimes there is actually a better price out there, and sometimes it’s just perceived value.
In response, one standard tactic to push a sale is to offer a discount. Obviously, discounted pricing impacts revenue.
Inbound marketing, however, has already helped to establish your value. Through content offers, as mentioned above, your customers already understand that your goal is to assist them, to provide guidance, insight, and expertise to help them solve problems and reach their goals. As a result, there’s less resistance to pricing and no need to offer discounts.
7. Inbound Supports Increased Sales.
As noted above, inbound marketing brings in higher quality leads, which means leads are more likely to convert to sales. Via campaign tracking and monitoring, your marketing team can identify what’s working in terms of messaging and content and adapt or scale that to additional services and products.
As a result, across the board, you can bring in more quality leads that result in both more time to follow-up on those leads and hand them off to the sales team. For sales management, increasing sales is one of the primary goals, and building a fully inbound organization can help support that objective.
Leverage Inbound Tactics for Marketing and Sales
The sales world is hyper competitive, and your customers and clients are changing too. It’s time, then, to revise your sales strategies and prepare your sales representatives to meet the market that’s out there.
If you can harness the inbound methodology, you can drive the market to your team, ensuring better qualified leads, providing more time for your representatives to close on accounts, and increasing your sales.