Buyer behaviors are constantly changing, but the invention of the internet shifted the power dynamic entirely. Now, consumers have the ability and resources to seek education on their own, so the traditional method of pressuring them to make a quick decision simply doesn’t work anymore.
The entire sales process, from finding opportunities to qualifying to closing deals, has changed immensely. With this change comes the need to adapt. But some sales representatives are still stuck in the old ways of their profession.
As of 2016, the top areas sales reps struggle with are:
- Prospecting (42 percent)
- Closing (36 percent)
- Qualifying (22 percent)
Fortunately, the inbound methodology has been adopted into the sales world, ushering in a new way of making deals. This is called inbound sales.
What Is Inbound Sales?
The inbound sales methodology prioritizes buyers and focuses on their pain points, goals, needs, and interests first. This shift to the inbound technique is important for many reasons. But first, let’s go over some of the key practices of inbound sales, so you can better understand how it works.
First of all, using an inbound approach encourages you to get in front of buyers in the early stages of their buying journey.
Secondly, you should focus on building trust from the start of the customer relationship, which will foster a strong connection and increase retention rates.
Finally, inbound practices work within the customer’s timeline, creating a more comfortable experience for the client and thus boosting their satisfaction.
When you follow the practices for this methodology, your inbound sales approach will thrive, resulting in more converted leads and satisfied customers.
The Inbound Sales Methodology Explained
To fully understand inbound sales, you first need to know what the inbound methodology is.
Inbound is the method of attracting, engaging, and delighting people to grow a business that provides value and builds trust. It’s focused on building a holistic, personalized experience that is helpful for your prospects.
When it comes to inbound sales, this methodology is applied in combination with a focus on the buyer’s journey. The buyer’s journey consists of the stages of decision making that a prospect goes through when making a purchase. These stages include awareness, consideration, and decision.
Breaking Down the Phases for Inbound Sales
There are four primary stages of the inbound sales methodology – identify, connect, explore, and advise.
As you can see, these four stages perfectly support the stages of the buyer’s journey. However, while the two groups of stages mirror each other, the inbound sales stages are more specifically tailored to help a sales professional nurture relationships and close sales.
The Identify Stage
During the identify stage, you identify leads within a pool of people to find the right opportunities. These leads are often delivered by your marketing team based on a set of sales lead qualifiers. Lead qualifiers help your marketing team determine which leads will make ideal customers for your company, based on your target audience and buyer personas.
Define what would make a customer a good fit for your company, and always focus on active buyers instead of passive ones.
The Connect Stage
During the connect stage, salespeople engage with leads, reaching out to help them identify a top challenge or goal that prospective customer needs to address. The purpose of this phase is ultimately to determine whether the lead has a goal or problem that you can help with.
There are plenty of different ways to connect with a lead, whether through email, outbound phone call (yes, outbound phone calls can still follow the inbound methodology), mutual connection, or even reaching out via platforms like LinkedIn.
Regardless of what method you choose, it’s important to focus on personalized outreach to the lead in order to start nurturing the relationship and build trust. Focus on understanding the buyer’s needs and how you can help.
The Explore Stage
Once you’ve established that the prospect has a goal or problem that you can help with, and they’ve expressed interest in allowing you to assist them, you can move on to the explore stage.
At this point in the inbound sales process, salespeople work with qualified leads to determine how your company can help, and if your company’s products or services is the best fit for the lead’s goals or challenges.
During this stage, you’ll ask more detailed questions to better understand what the lead is struggling with.
The Advise Stage
During this final stage, you’ll become a trusted advisor to the prospect. The ultimate goal here is to convert the lead into a customer. This is accomplished when sales advises the prospective buyer on why the company’s solution aligns in a unique way to address their current needs.
The salesperson will need to express a thorough understanding of the prospect’s problem or goal, using knowledge that will have been collected during the connect and explore stages. This will allow them to better address the issue, and exemplify how their offer can help the prospect with the problem.
Once your team aces this process, you’ll be able to build an inbound selling culture for your entire company, bringing your business forward into the modern age of sales.
6 Reasons Why You Should Be Using Inbound Sales
The inbound methodology is the future of all areas of business. Companies that become a fully inbound organization are prepared for long-term, sustainable growth.
But if you still need a little convincing, here’s a list of both the internal and external advantages to adopting inbound sales.
- Marketing and sales become well aligned, creating a successful smarketing strategy.
- You can systemize an impactful sales process to bring in more active leads and convert more ideal customers, allowing you to better reach your goals.
- You can streamline your sales and marketing process to make it more efficient, receiving a greater ROI in the long run.
- You establish credibility and authority that boosts customer retention, keeping people coming back to you again and again.
- Buyers enter your sales funnel voluntarily, which means you don’t have to deal with outdated, ineffective sales tactics like cold calling.
- Buyers feel more understood thanks to a more personalized buying experience customized to their needs.
Inbound Sales Vs. Outbound Sales
In our increasingly digital world, most outbound sales processes are proving to be dead within the realm of marketing. In order to stay relevant and keep up with your competition, legacy salespeople need to embrace inbound practices.
These traditional salespeople are still stuck within the outbound sales mindset, and it’s seriously impacting their ability to convert leads into customers.
But you might be asking, what’s the difference between outbound sales and inbound sales?
The outbound sales mindset is disruptive and focused on pushing messaging on the consumer.
The goal of outbound sales is to make a quick sale to anyone and everyone, primarily using information about the product or service to attract consumers, without first trying to understand their challenges or pain points.
If you’ve ever come across a salesperson and been annoyed by how pushy they are, then you know what it’s like to be a victim of outbound sales practices.
Outbound sales tactics include:
- Cold calling
- Product-focused messaging
- Borderline deal setting
- Trade shows
Inbound sales is the process of pulling in prospects who are interested in you and your products and services. The goal is to attract leads organically rather than going out and hunting for them aggressively.
Inbound sales is focused on understanding a person’s challenges and how your company can provide a helpful solution. It’s centralized around personalized buyer experiences for each and every customer.
Inbound sales tactics include:
- Discovery calls
- Warm outreach
- Active listening
- Live chat tools
- Personalized presentations
Using Outbound Sales Tactics With an Inbound Twist
The bottom line of the inbound methodology is to create a positive sales experience for your customer.
HubSpot conducted a survey of buyers, and the report revealed some of the best ways to create a positive sales experience:
- Listen to buyer needs (69 percent).
- Don’t be pushy (61 percent).
- Provide relevant information (61 percent).
- Respond in a timely manner (51 percent).
So what’s the best way to create a positive sales experience while generating desired results? Adopting inbound sales processes is obviously the first step, but you can actually leverage some outbound sales tactics by applying the inbound twist.
Conduct Prospecting via Social Media
Going out and searching for leads is a traditional outbound sales practice. However, you can still actively hunt for sales leads while simultaneously applying the inbound methodology. Social media is a great place to create connections and build relationships with potential customers.
In fact, four in 10 reps have recently closed two to five deals due to social media.
As a professional social platform, LinkedIn is one of the best hubs for building network connections and scoring leads. Tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator help you identify ideal leads based on your sales qualifiers and buyer personas and make it easier for you to connect with them.
Map All Leads on Your Buyer’s Journey
Regardless of how you achieved your leads, you can still follow inbound practices by mapping where the prospect is along their buyer’s journey. Salespeople can do this by using data and context based on information gathered by their marketing team.
This informs the sales’ approach during the connect stage of the inbound sales methodology. For example, if there’s already information about the buyer’s unique challenges within your CRM, then you know they’re probably somewhere in the consideration stage of their journey and are trying to find the right solution to fit their needs.
However, if there’s not a lot of information about the lead, then they may still be in the awareness stage. In this scenario, the sales team will know that they need to help the prospect better understand the problem they’re facing before moving forward.
Mapping your leads along the buyer’s journey will help you nurture stronger relationships with each one and build a more attentive, personalized experience for them.
Team Up With Marketing to Send Impactful Content
Supplying helpful, informational resources to your leads is a great way to educate and engage them in a positive way without being pushy. It allows you to nurture relationships and display how you can provide a solution for their challenges and goals. But where does the sales team get this content from?
Enter: marketing team.
Your marketing and sales team can work together to determine what kind of content and resources your target audience and prospects are looking for. Consider creating content specifically tailored to help prospects within each individual stage of the buyer’s journey. This will ensure that the material is directly relevant to them.
Once the marketing team creates this content (whether it be blog posts, ebooks, whitepages, templates, etc.), the sales team can then start passing it on to prospects moving through the buyer’s journey.
Network at Events
Believe or not, networking at events still works. In fact, it’s a pretty great strategy!
Meeting people in person allows you to create human connections and follow up for further engagement and exploration with your new contact throughout their buyer journey.
Just remember – in order to meet people at events, you’ll need to channel a bit of outbound thinking, get out of your shell to be bold, and introduce yourself!
Can You Afford to Hold Off on Inbound Sales?
It's easy to tell when your sales process isn't working – you're not meeting quarterly sales goals, you're wasting time on low quality leads, your conversion rate is suffering, and your customer retention is way down.
If you're struggling with any of these issues, then you need to conduct an audit of your current sales process and analyze the results. Are you still engaging in outdated outbound practices? It's time to fix that.
Adopting the inbound sales methodology will not only help you meet your sales goals; it will allow you to develop a sustainable plan for long term company growth that propels your business into a successful future.