5 Ways a CRM Helps Streamline Your Sales Process

5 Ways a CRM Helps Streamline Your Sales Process

5 Ways a CRM Helps Streamline Your Sales Process

Looking to streamline your sales process? It is an integral component of your business’ success. If your sales team has trouble selling efficiently, you’re going to see your company growth drop, which isn’t good for anyone. 

In general, sales reps spend a significant amount of time on admin work — scheduling meetings, setting up reminders, sending emails, and other small tasks that take serious time out of their day that they could be spending closing deals. 

So, how can you streamline your sales process in a way that all of that admin work still gets done, but your sales team has the time they need to close deals? For many companies, a CRM, or Customer Relationship Management software, is the answer. 

Here at Evenbound, we’re big fans of HubSpot, but you might also have heard of other popular options like Pardot and Salesforce. While some options are better than others, the general purpose of a CRM is to make it easier for your sales team to foster positive relationships with all of the leads who come into your sales cycle and eliminate a lot of the busywork that keeps them from closing.

Here are just 5 of the top ways a CRM helps streamline your sales process. 

#1 Streamline Marketing to Sales Handoff Process

For most companies, the handoff from marketing to sales is where leads fall through the cracks. Whether your sales and marketing teams aren’t communicating or your sales team is just too busy to follow up on all the leads marketing sends over, it’s easy, and common for leads to fall out of the sales funnel during the handoff from marketing to sales. 

A CRM can solve the majority of these sales dropoff problems. 

The first fix is to notify your sales team. When the marketing team decides a lead is ready to move up to sales, a CRM can automatically alert your sales team of the move. This is a great way to eliminate lost leads who drop out of the cycle because no one contacts them.

The next fix is to help your sales team see immediately if that lead is actually ready for your sales team or not. A CRM shows your sales team exactly where a lead is in the buying process. The CRM will track every contact marketing has with that lead, giving the sales team a good idea of how warm the lead is, and how ready they are to buy. 

This makes it easy for your sales reps to see at a glance whether a lead is ready for them, or if they’d rather send them back down to marketing. 

And with a quality CRM, transferring that lead back down to marketing is a snap. Your sales rep just reassigns or recategorizes the lead, and they’re back in marketing’s “to nurture” bucket. 

For many companies, a significant percentage of marketing leads do not convert to sales. This is partially handled with sales and marketing alignment, but a CRM is also a very useful tool to make no one is losing track of those leads. 

Implementing a quality CRM not only helps make sure those leads get through the sales process, but it helps bring your sales and marketing teams together, and understand better what both teams need to effectively reach their goals.

#2 CRMs Increase Prospect Visibility in the Sales Funnel

Your sales team is busy. There’s no getting around it. As long as your marketing team is delivering leads, your sales team is busy contacting them all, establishing which of your products or service is the best fit for each and then getting through the actual nurturing and closing process. A CRM streamlines your sales process by offering greater visibility on all of those prospects in the sales funnel. 

CRMs make it easy to see where every prospect is in the sales funnel, at any given time. If your sales team is managing their leads with a post-it note system, a notebook, or any other method, they’re probably letting leads drop out of the sales funnel. And it’s not their fault — we’re all only human! 

But, a CRM can help resolve this problem, and make it easy for your sales team to prioritize the warmest leads above leads who still need a bit of nurturing. 

  • Organize leads by priority. Most quality CRMs allow you to segment leads based on how qualified they are, and where they are in the sales funnel. When your top-priority leads are listed right at the top of the page, your sales team doesn’t even have to think about who to call first. 
  • See at a glance which leads have been contacted, by who, and when. Another key visibility benefit that comes with a quality CRM is that your sales reps can see at a glance who has contacted what lead, and when. They’ll be able to see which of your resources a lead has already received, and what information they might still need to make a final decision. 

Increased visibility thanks to a quality CRM leads to a more effective, efficient sales process. When your leads are automatically organized by industry, job title, interest level, and more, your sales team can spend more time on what they’re best at — closing deals. 

#3 Automated Tasks Help Streamline Your Sales Process

Even though it’s necessary, sending out product catalogs, brochures, and pricing guides is repetitive and time-consuming. Your sales team already knows that they don’t have to reinvent the wheel with every email, but they do have to take the time to copy-paste their text, change the names, attach the documents, and then finally send the email. A CRM can automate these repetitive tasks so your sales team has more time to actually sell. 

Quality CRMs offer tools like automated workflows, follow-up emails, chatbots, and more, so your leads still get the quality service they need to feel nurtured and supported through the sales process, but your sales team is freed up to use their time for more important tasks. 

And for tasks that CRMs can’t automate, they can send automated reminders. Your sales reps have to talk to any contact multiple times before they close a deal. Your CRM can automatically remind sales reps when to make those calls so that no leads fall through the cracks. 

#4 Easy Reporting

No one likes to make reports. What if they didn’t have to? 

Quality CRMs can generate sales reports at the click of a button, so your team can easily see what’s working, and what’s not.

One of the greatest benefits of a CRM for any sales team is the data it has to offer. In addition to supporting your sales team, your CRM is constantly collecting data. Data about your clients, how long they take to close, what content offer brings in the leads most likely to close, and what sales tools are most effective at closing those sales.

All of that data, combined and compiled for you by the CRM, helps you interpret your sales team’s success, and further streamline your sales process for even better results. 

#5 Sales Leaderboards and Productivity Reports

We’re a big proponent of teamwork. As a growth agency, we’ve seen that companies who encourage their sales reps to work together tend to do significantly better than companies with sales reps who are all using different sales tactics, and even different sales processes. 

Advanced CRMs, like HubSpot, are designed to give you and your sales team all of the data you need to optimize and streamline your sales process as a team. Sales leaderboards and productivity reports are one great way to do that.

They show you which of your team members are doing great, and which might be struggling with your new sales process or CRM. You can use these stats to bring your whole team up, by asking those at the top of the leaderboard to share what they’re doing to close so many deals. 

Generating a sales leaderboard and a productivity report also helps give you a better picture of where your reps are spending their time.

Maybe one rep has been spending a ton of time in your CRM, and is super productive, but is low on the leaderboard. This might be an opportunity to show them some more of those automation tools, so they can get out of their inbox, and back on the phone with clients. 

A CRM is designed to organize and store all of your sales team’s information and data in one easy-to-access location. In addition to providing exceptional visibility, a CRM helps streamline your sales process by handling the repetitive tasks that take time out of your team’s day of selling. The goal is to enable your sales team with all the tools they need to be able to sell better, and more efficiently, and when implemented properly, that’s exactly what a CRM does. 

If you’re thinking about a CRM, but aren’t sure how to get started, or are afraid of a lengthy learning curve, get in touch with the Evenbound team. We have team members dedicated to onboarding and training sales reps and marketing teams on how to use the HubSpot CRM effectively, and we’re confident we can help you too. Just take a look at the results we provided for this company in the case study below!

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MQL vs. SQL: What’s the Difference?

MQL vs. SQL: What’s the Difference?

MQL vs. SQL: What’s the Difference?

An MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) is a reasonably qualified lead who has downloaded a content offer or interacted with your marketing team, but who hasn’t yet entered into your sales funnel. An SQL (Sales Qualified Lead) is a lead your sales team has qualified as a potential customer. SQLs are in your sales funnel, and your team is actively working to move them closer to a deal.

Leads. Everybody wants ’em, but not everyone knows what to do with them once they have them.

That’s where the inbound methodology comes in. Designed to help both marketing and sales teams nurture leads all the way through to a sale in the world of the modern, digital consumer,  the inbound sales process puts a huge focus on MQLs and SQLs.

But what are they, how are they different, and how do you deal with both MQLs and SQLs to boost the ROI of your inbound sales process?

Here’s a breakdown of the MQL vs. SQL question, complete with tips on how to define them and how to use those definitions to optimize your sales and marketing process to close more reliably and more efficiently. Let’s start with the basics.

What’s an MQL?

A marketing qualified lead (MQL) is a site visitor that your marketing team has deemed likely to eventually turn into a sale. MQLs are qualified prospects: they fit your buyer persona.

That said, they’re missing a few qualifications that would make them the perfect fit for your sales team.

Maybe they’re working on a seriously long buyer’s journey. Or, they’re in the right industry, and they have the decision making power, but they don’t have the right budget, or realistic budget expectations yet.

In short, an MQL is a reasonably qualified lead who matches one or more of your buyer personas, but who isn’t quite ready to buy yet.

What’s an SQL?

A sales qualified lead (SQL) is a lead who your sales team has decided is worth pursuing. They’re at the end of the consideration stage and are moving into the decision-making stage of their buyer’s journey where they’ll appreciate sales-focused content and support.

Typically, a sales qualified lead is confirmed after an initial outreach call with someone on your sales team, who can determine how serious the lead is about your product, and how motivated they are to buy.

An SQL is a lead who has intent to buy and who seems interested in your company as a contender to make that purchase.

MQL vs. SQL: What’s the Difference?

The most important difference between MQLs and SQLs is the intent to buy. While there are other factors that will affect whether a lead is categorized as marketing or sales-ready, the biggest tip-off for marketers when deciding whether or not to pass a lead on to sales is the intent to purchase. That’s a surefire sign that they’re ready to talk to sales and tells you that passing them onto sales is the best way to serve that lead.

Since MQLs and SQLs can look different for every industry, and even individual companies, let’s look at a couple of examples of what qualifies an MQL vs. SQL:

First-Time Site Visitor vs. Returning Visitor

A first time visitor is a good example of a potential MQL. They’re just starting the buyer’s journey, and are working on gathering the information that will ultimately help them make a purchasing decision down the road.

A returning visitor, on the other hand, who has been to your site a few times, and is browsing key pages and downloading bottom-of-funnel content offers, is an SQL. They like the information you’re putting out enough to keep coming back. And if they keep coming back, they’re probably ready to talk to your sales team.

Top of Funnel vs. Bottom of Funnel Content Offers

An MQL is a lead who is downloading and converting on top-of-funnel content offers. They’re interested in information that teaches and educates about the general product you sell.

Let’s say you sell cars. An MQL will be downloading content that offers information like, “How to Know When To Buy A New Car,” “Is it Better to Lease, Buy Used, or Buy New,” and “Safest  Sedans of 2019.”

So, they’re asking those research questions that solve their beginning-of-the-buyer’s-cycle problems. They’re not ready to buy yet, but they’re definitely thinking about it, and they fit your target buyer persona well enough that your marketing team recognizes them as a great potential fit for your company in the future.

An SQL, on the other hand, is going to download bottom-of-the-funnel content offers. With that same car sales example in mind, an SQL will download content that sounds like this: “How to Finance a New Car Purchase,” “5 Steps to Buy A New Car,” and “5 Things to Know Before Purchasing a New Car.”

SQLs are at the bottom of the funnel — they’ve already done the research, they already know they want a car, and they know which car they want. Now, they just have to figure out how to make the purchase.

Just knowing which content offers a lead is downloading can give you great insight into whether they are marketing or sales qualified. And making that distinction is what puts you ahead of the competition in closing new sales efficiently.

Why Differentiating Between MQLs and SQLs is Important

It’s one thing to know the difference between an MQL and an SQL. It’s another thing to know why correctly categorizing each lead is so important.

The difference between an MQL and SQL is crucial in offering up the right content, and the right lead nurturing experience. If a lead has already made up their mind on what product is right for them, you don’t want to be sending them basic content that outlines all of your products — it’s not relevant to their buyer’s journey anymore.

In the same vein, if you have a lead who is still learning what your product does, how it works, and why they might need it, you don’t want to send them on a sales call.

They’re not ready to make a purchasing decision yet, and probably don’t have company approval to make the decision. At this point in their journey, a sales call would seem pushy, and would ultimately be a waste of your sales team’s time.

Correctly identifying whether a lead is marketing or sales qualified has a huge impact on the success of your overall inbound marketing and sales strategy. Knowing whether a lead is an MQL or an SQL tightens up your lead nurturing process to deliver the best possible results with the least amount of work.

When you have a foolproof way to correctly categorize leads, you know exactly what content to deliver, and when. That goes a long way in helping those leads convert, and it saves your marketing and sales teams a lot of wasted time delivering content that wasn’t relevant or reaching out to a lead who wasn’t ready to convert.

Correct qualification of every lead is a great way to increase the ROI of your marketing and sales process and grow your business overall. But to do it, your sales and marketing teams must be aligned. More on that next:

Transitioning a Lead from MQL to SQL

The best way to handle it is first to get both the sales and marketing teams on the same page.

You have to have clear definitions that specify exactly what an MQL is and what an SQL is, and those definitions have to be the same across departments. For more information on defining your MQLs and SQLs, check out this blog on sales and marketing alignment.

Consistent definitions will make the MQL to SQL handoff a little easier, but there’s still a little work that goes into it. Here are 5 general steps to guide you through the handoff process.

  1. Once your marketing department identifies an MQL, they should be entered into a few lead nurturing campaigns, whether that’s through targeted email marketing campaigns or a casual, helpful marketing outreach campaign.
  2. Ideally, that MQL will continue making qualifying actions — they will download more content offers, they might ask your marketing team a few questions, and they might subscribe for your newsletter.
  3. Once that MQL has taken enough actions that qualify them as an SQL, the marketing team should pass all of the information they have on that lead to the sales team. (A CRM makes this part easy. If you don’t have a CRM yet, this blog can help you figure out what to look for.)
  4. From there, the sales team can reach out, ideally within 24 hours of the lead’s last conversion action, to connect and qualify that lead as an SQL.
  5. It is possible that on their qualifying call, the sales team find the lead is not quite ready for the decision-making stage. At this point, your marketing team should have a set of steps in place to kick that lead back down to an MQL and continue nurturing them until they’re ready to convert again back up to an SQL.

With these five steps, and clear, identifiable definitions of MQLs and SQLs that both sales and marketing agree on, your handoff process should start to go a little more smoothly. It’s a tough process, no matter how you look at it, and the best way to make sure your handoffs are successful is to have regular meetings with both sales and marketing teams to identify any problem areas and implement solutions that fix those issues.

No Matter Your Industry, You Need MQLs and SQLs

It’s easy to get stuck in an MQL vs. SQL mindset. It’s easy to say, “oh, I’m not dealing with that lead, they’re for sales” and vice versa for marketing. And it’s true that for the most part, you want your sales team interacting with the sales leads, and your marketing team interacting with those marketing leads.

But the bottom line is, for any company both MQLS and SQLs are an integral part of the sales pipeline. You can’t have one without the other, so it’s important that your marketing and sales teams work together to develop content and lead nurturing strategies that benefit both MQLs and SQLs.

MQLs, when nurtured properly, become SQLs, who become customers and promoters of your brand.

So, when done right, all of the work you’ve done to develop a quality inbound marketing and sales plan comes full circle to help you close more sales and grow your company.

Identifying MQLs and SQLs isn’t always as easy as it sounds. If you’re struggling to nurture leads through the buyer’s journey, Evenbound can help. Inbound marketing and sales is what we do every day, and we’d love to help you troubleshoot your lead nurturing process to help grow your company. Get in touch to see how we can help, or click the link below to schedule time to chat about your challenges with our president, John Heritage.

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What is Inbound Sales?

What is Inbound Sales?

As an inbound marketing firm, we’ve explained inbound marketing to death. And for good reason — we’ve seen firsthand the exceptional ROI and growth that a quality inbound marketing strategy can deliver. That said, something we haven’t touched on quite as much, but that’s equally as important is the concept of inbound sales.

Inbound sales functions on the same general methodology of inbound marketing.

 

What is Inbound Sales?

In its best form, inbound sales is the process of solving the pain points of qualified leads who are actively seeking out your company’s product or services. An inbound salesperson’s task is to arm prospects with all the information they need to make an educated, thoughtful decision on what they’ll buy in the end.

Inbound sales professionals offer helpful, personalized service based on each prospect’s unique needs. They adapt their sales process to fit the buyer’s journey, and to solve each prospect’s individual pain points.

What Inbound Sales Is Not:

At its core, inbound sales should always be helpful to your prospects. Click To TweetWhen done properly, your prospects will close because they feel that your product or service truly solves their challenges and because they’ve had a great experience with your company. Inbound sales is not:

  • Pushy cold calls
  • Generic sales pitches
  • Sketchy sales tactics that force prospects to “buy right now, or lose out!”
  • Scheduling a demo whether your prospect is ready for it or not, just to fill a quota
  • Selling to purchased contact lists
  • Anything you would consider to be spammy

Inbound sales aims to be the opposite of all things spammy. Inbound sales is personalized, specific, and focuses on building trust and solving prospect pain points. Click To Tweet

If you’re new to the idea of inbound sales, or you’re exploring how it works, here’s some insight into the methodology:

The Inbound Sales Methodology

The inbound sales methodology functions on the same basic buyer’s journey that inbound marketing bases its actions on. Here’s how HubSpot visualizes the inbound sales buyer’s journey:

hubspot-inbound-sales-methodology

Just like inbound marketing, inbound sales focuses on three key stages of the buyer’s journey: awareness, consideration, and the decision-making stage. Inbound sales actions correspond with each of these stages, just as inbound marketing actions do. If you’re curious about implementing inbound sales tactics to improve conversion rates and overall company growth for your company, here’s how each stage of the inbound sales buyer’s journey works, and what actions you should take during each of the four stages:

#1 Identify

If you’re doing inbound marketing right, your website is getting all kinds of leads every month. The first step in the inbound sales process is identifying which of those leads seem like the best fits for your company. You’ll need to look to see which leads are active in the buying cycle: active leads are downloading your content, interacting with your chatbot, and requesting quotes or demos.

When you’ve identified the leads that seem like the best fit for your company, do your research. Personalization is a cornerstone of the inbound methodology, and it's what makes inbound sales so effective. Click To Tweet The more you know about your prospect’s previous experiences with your company and the pain points they’re looking to solve, the more effective you’ll be as an inbound salesperson.

The identify stage is a good place to implement triggered events technology so you can immediately see which prospects are diving further into your site and available content, and who seem to have an active interest in what you’re offering. The more quickly you can reach out — even while a prospect is actively surfing your site — the more positive response you’re likely to see.

Inbound Sales Actions to Take During the Identify Stage:

  • Identify qualified prospects
  • Define those qualified prospects according to their buyer personas
  • Research prospect companies, and familiarize yourself with your specific prospect’s role in that company.
  • Implement triggered technology to alert you every time a qualified prospect takes an action on your website

#2 Connect

Now that you know a little about your prospect, it’s time to get in touch. Remember that the point of inbound isn’t to push products, but rather to offer assistance. To offer the best assistance, you have to know who you’re talking to.

If you didn’t do it in the Identify stage, now is the time to define your prospect according to your buyer personas. When you understand what persona your prospect fits into, as well as where they are in the buyer’s journey, you can easily determine which content to send that prospect and through which medium.

For example, if a prospect has downloaded a few content offers that speak to awareness-stage concerns, you know that to keep them moving through the buyer’s journey, you’ll need to send them something that’s related to the consideration stage. When you also know that the prospect falls into a younger, millennial-age buyer persona, you’ll know that they’ll respond best to an email or chat message.

Every persona is different — some prefer email, some prefer phone calls, and still others prefer to interface via video or even chatbot. To get the best response rate, you need to know who you’re talking to, so you can decide how best to talk to them.

Inbound Sales Actions to Take During the Connect Stage:

  • Understand the prospect’s place in the buyer’s journey
  • Determine the best content for that prospect
  • Double-check their buyer persona to make sure you connect through the right medium
  • Connect by sending over relevant content, and asking specific questions that speak to that prospect’s challenges, interests, and goals.

#3 Explore

Once you’ve made contact with a prospect, it’s time to explore their goals for working with your company. In most cases, people aren’t motivated to make a change unless something isn’t working well, or they’d like to improve some aspect of their business or personal life. The explore stage is your time to talk through that situation with your prospect.

Start by asking what challenges they’re having. You might even ask what drew them to your product or service in particular. When you have a clear picture of what their challenges are, and how those challenges are keeping their company from reaching their goals, you can offer up information they might be interested in that helps solve some of those challenges.

This is also the time to talk about budget and timeline. Be sure to offer up plans that respect that budget, and that can meet their timeline.

At this point in the buyer’s journey (the consideration stage), your prospect has likely narrowed their options down to two or three companies. Specificity and personalization are what will set you apart.  

Make sure you’re impressing the key points that make your company stand out, in a way that relates to your prospect’s specific challenges. You shouldn’t bad-mouth competitors, but do take time to emphasize the key aspects of your company that put you above the rest, especially if those key aspects go a long way in solving that prospect’s unique challenges.

Inbound Sales Actions to Take During the Explore Stage:

  • Explore any challenges the prospect is experiencing
  • Determine how those challenges affect the prospect’s goals
  • Discuss budget
  • Offer plans and solutions that fit the prospect’s specific challenges and goals.

#4 Advise

Now you know exactly what your prospect needs. Hopefully, you also have a clear picture of how your product is uniquely situated to solve their pain points better than anything else on the market.

At this point, as a salesperson, this is when you want to close. But what you want and what your prospect wants aren’t always the same thing. If they’re ready to buy, they’ll let you know. If they’re not, here’s where you can go.

Start by recapping your history with them. This helps them realize that you’re still hearing them. You’re listening to their challenges and searching for customized solutions that will help them move past those challenges, and towards their goals.

Offer solutions that fit their budget and their timeline. Inbound sales is focused on providing the perfect, personalized solution to every prospect. Hiding costs or agreeing to a timeline you know your team can’t meet doesn’t deliver on that perfect solution. Instead, when your prospect gives you their ideal deadline, work backward to establish when you need a signed contract to be able to meet that deadline.

From there, make sure you’ve talked to all of the key decision makers. If you’re still waiting on a final go-ahead, and you feel like this prospect is really quite promising, ask them what you can do to help them move towards a final decision.

And finally, when in doubt, consult your buyer personas. Those should give you an idea of how much contact you should be making. You don’t want to seem pushy, but you also don’t want to forgo a follow-up if it could make the difference between a win and a loss.

Inbound Sales Actions to Take During the Advise Stage

  • Summarize your history with the prospect. Talk about what you’ve learned about their company, what their challenges are, and how those challenges are holding the company back from achieving their goals.
  • Offer customized solutions. Personalization is at the heart of successful inbound sales. How will your product help this person or this company achieve their unique goals?
  • Confirm budget, contacts, and timeline. When you’re on the same page with your prospect, it’s easier to feel out that perfect time to close.

Implementing Inbound Sales

Implementing inbound sales does ask for a big shift from the traditional, “always be closing” mentality. It’s a new sales methodology, for a new age of consumers. Today’s consumers don’t want to be sold to, demoed, or pushed to make a decision. If instead, you offer them the information they need to make an educated decision and provide your assistance as a trusted advisor, you’re likely to win their business based on the personalized, quality customer service that you’re delivering.

How Inbound Sales Helps You Sell Better

If you’re having trouble imagining how inbound sales tactics can help you sell better, look at it this way: when you use the inbound sales methodology of identifying, connecting, exploring, and advising, you’re spending much less time selling to prospects who are unlikely to convert in the first place.

By first identifying the prospects that are most qualified for your product or service, you’re making your job much easier. You only need to connect with the prospects who make a good fit for what you offer. That saves you a lot of time and effort pitching to prospects who weren’t good fits in the first place. By implementing the inbound sales methodology, you and your sales team can sell more effectively, and with a much better close rate than traditional “always be closing” outbound sales tactics.

Why You Need Inbound Marketing And Inbound Sales

Inbound marketing can get you a long way. Done properly, it delivers serious leads who are highly qualified and motivated to purchase your product. But, if leads have an awesome experience with your company for the entire marketing cycle, and then are immediately hit with old-school pushy sales tactics, you’re going to lose prospects.

Implementing inbound sales is just one of many ways you can help align your marketing and sales teams to provide a seamless, customer-focused experience for your potential clients. The smoother and more enjoyable their buyer’s journey, the more likely they are to buy from and stick with you.

TLDR: What is Inbound Sales, and How Can You Implement it?

Inbound sales is a sales methodology that addressed new consumer purchasing trends by offering quality assistance, information, and personalized solutions over pushy, traditional “always be closing” sales methods.

The best way to implement inbound sales is to look at how you can best help your prospects at every stage of the buyer’s journey. From awareness to consideration to the decision-making stage, the more meaningful, personalized assistance you offer, the more likely a prospect is to close with you. For more information on inbound sales, be sure to check out HubSpot’s breakdown of the Inbound Sales Methodology, or get in touch with us, a HubSpot Gold Certified Agency Partner, for hands-on help implementing inbound sales tactics.

Inbound is kind of our thing. If you’re new to any aspect of inbound, from marketing to sales, to HubSpot, we’re happy to help. Schedule time for a chat with John, or check out our Smartass Guide to Inbound Marketing for fun-loving intro that just might teach you something.

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