The way prospective customers behave is changing. So why isn’t sales changing with it?
Digital transformation has led to a sea change in how people do product research, especially in B2B. Only inbound sales brings you the tools to align with this dynamic process.
Yet, many organizations (even those with a strong digital presence) are failing to do the work to shift from an outbound mentality to customer-focused inbound sales.
To understand why, let’s review what inbound sales is all about.
Customers Expect Inbound Sales ... Whether They Call It That or Not
Inbound sales refers to sales processes that happen when buyers, not sellers, initiate contact.
In inbound sales, it’s crucial that sales pros put their egos aside. Their goal isn’t to “always be closing,” but to prioritize needs of prospective customers above their own.
This is valuable because people hate being sold to.
And new technology means they don’t have to stand for it anymore.
According to Hubspot’s State of Inbound report, a majority of buyers don’t contact sales teams when they’re ready to learn about a solution. Instead, they start research with a generic online search. With high brand awareness, they may visit a reputable vendor’s site.
Talking to sales is the last step for most decision makers.
That means old fashioned outbound sales techniques run into major resistance in many ways:
- Leads assume you’re only interested in the sale, not in solving their problem.
- Leads assume you won’t provide information they can’t figure out themselves.
- Leads assume you don’t know much about their unique business situation.
In effect, conventional cold calling sets you up as an adversary: Someone who wants something. Inbound selling, on the other hand, is about becoming a trusted adviser who offers useful insight.
Even when outbound sales pros have a genuine interest in leads, they don’t always have time or energy to figure them out. They’re overburdened by the need to verify all the assumptions the outbound selling methodology loads onto their backs.
Successful Sales Pros Know What Happens When You Assume
Old fashioned outbound selling is built on a number of big assumptions:
- That the person you call has an interest in what you’re selling (a need).
- That the person you contact is the right one to make the purchase (has the authority).
- That the enterprise you’ve contacted can make the buy (has the budget).
- That the lead is willing to buy in the near future (has the right timeline).
With inbound selling, you don’t have to make any of these assumptions. All of these details are voluntarily provided to you by your lead.
You might recognize that each one of the assumptions above links to one of the questions you ask under the BANT qualification framework. No matter how you approach your sales, you need this information – and you need all of the answers to be “yes.”
Inbound sales professionals have learned it’s easier to build trust so leads are willing to share information, not have it pried out of them. Outbound, on the other hand, relies on brute force. It’s exhausting for sales teams and for their leads.
Stop Chasing the “Big Score” With Outbound Sales
The real explanation for outbound sales’ longevity has nothing to do with logic.
In inbound sales, you start by recognizing not everyone is the ideal customer – and you’ll need to provide value and follow up multiple times before an agreement.
Outbound sales starts from the assumption everyone is a potential customer. Your role is to push leads hard enough to change their minds: In other words, to “overcome objections.”
The big idea of outbound is enticing: In a single call, you could get a commitment that translates into a major sale. Outbound sellers want a .01% chance of a deal now, not 22% in three months.
In the long run, though, this is an illusion. It’s based on lizard brain thinking. Outbound always results in fewer clients of lower quality than inbound, because inbound looks at the big picture.
Inbound sales doesn’t have a “big score.” It has an organic, ongoing process of building trust and finding a best fit for both parties. That may not be as sexy, but it’s much more effective.
Whether you’re on the inbound side or the outbound side, sales cycles are getting longer – especially in B2B. But only inbound selling really prepares you to run that marathon.
Companies need new information and new tools to make the switch to inbound, no doubt. But the main reason inbound sales is still being overlooked is emotional, not practical.
Data-driven teams need to look for better ways ... and the best available facts bear this out: Embrace inbound and you’ll have a chance to perform better in terms of total deals made and average deal size.
Don’t, and you’ll find yourself always chasing after the next big score.