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:
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:
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
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.
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.
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.