Marketing used to be all about cold calls, trade shows, email list buying and other activities that people would deem spam-worthy in today’s day and age. However, today we have access to inbound marketing, which is better catered to the individual buyer than the mass marketing methodology that we once considered a best practice.
Fortunately, digital sales methodology is moving in the same direction as well! Thanks to this, sales and marketing departments might already be more aligned than you think. According to HubSpot’s 2014 State of Inbound survey, marketers indicate an interest in helping sales make better use of the leads being generated - citing bottom-of-the-funnel (BOFU) conversions as their biggest priority behind net new lead gen.
What is Inbound Sales Methodology?
Let’s think about it this way: when salesmen are cold calling a lead, is it because a lead has expressed that they need your product or are your salesmen making an assumption? The core concept of inbound sales methodology is that it encourages buyers to give that information to you, so you don’t have to make assumptions or persuade them.
By puzzling out the buyer’s actions during the inbound marketing process, smart inbound salesmen craft a sales approach personalized to the buyer’s interests.
To define the sales philosophy in a single sentence - inbound sales transforms the sales process to match the way people buy, not the way that a product is sold.
The two philosophies that drive inbound sales methodology are:
1. Inbound salespeople base their entire sales strategy on the buyer rather than the seller
2. Inbound salespeople personalize the entire sales experience to the buyer’s context
These two concepts can create a competitive advantage for your company and are enough in order to create an experience that your buyers will love.
In order to help your company begin the transition to inbound sales, here we present the new inbound sales methodology provided by HubSpot. The main four stages of the inbound sales methodology are:
Below we will go deeper into each of them.
In this stage, the process of researching and identifying those leads that are active in the buyer’s journey begins. Here, salespeople need to make use of all of the resources and clues available in order to get valuable information. These clues might be found in blog posts, forums, tweets, LinkedIn groups, etc. Such activities help salespeople identify the active buyers and make it easier for them to position themselves as leaders in their industry. Check out this useful guide by HubSpot that makes it easier to identify active buyers over passive buyers.
Inbound sales methodology is all about basing the entire sales process on the buyer’s journey and personalizing the sales experience to suit the buyer’s context. Here are some tips to start implementing the ‘identify’ stage of inbound sales methodology:
- Make sure to constantly read blogs in your target industries and comment on new articles
- Monitor and join LinkedIn groups of your industry. Look for conversations about your niche and provide comments that would add value for your prospects
- Follow thought leaders of your industry on Twitter and other social media channels, share interesting comments, posts, etc.
- Submit guest articles to company blogs or industry publications
The second stage of inbound sales methodology is all about starting conversations around the buyer’s pain points, plans, goals and challenges. The best way is to lead with a message that is personalized to the buyer’s industry, professional role, interests or common connections. In this stage, inbound salesmen need to build trust with buyers by identifying their interests and priorities, and then demonstrating a genuine interest in helping them. Here is an awesome article that will help in finding customer’s pain points.
If your salespeople can assist and help your prospects in solving their problems, then they will become qualified leads. What your prospects access and request will help your salespeople understand what kind of content they need to provide them.
There are three definitive steps for setting up the ‘connect’ strategy:
1. Define your personas - focus on the perspectives of each persona at the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey
2. Define the sequences for each person - define an outreach strategy based on the methods you will use to reach out to each persona, what time will you do this, and if you don’t connect the first time, how many times will you continue to reach out before giving up?
3. Define the outreach content for each sequence - keep the second step of the inbound philosophy in mind. Personalize the entire sales experience to the buyer’s needs.
Below are some best practices for defining your outreach content:
- Make use of your existing content
- Keep the outreach communication short but sweet
- Mention the buyer at least twice as much as you mention yourself
- Pay attention to email subject lines, that they get right to the heart of the buyer’s pain points
- End your emails with questions that you plan to answer with your product/service
- Show a helpful and humanistic approach
By providing value during the ‘connect’ stage, insightful information from the lead will be received and your salespeople will be able to transition a qualified lead to the ‘explore’ stage.
This is the stage where your salesmen start to truly understand how they are going to help your prospects. It is a vital stage of inbound sales because it allows you to continue to craft a buyer’s experience and strengthen your position as a valuable resource that can potentially solve their problems.
The ‘explore’ stage begins when the buyer expresses interest, which gives you the chance to develop additional trust and uncover deep buyer goals through a conversation. You need to leverage the buyer’s initial interest and use your credibility as a thought leader to uncover the buyer’s specific goals and challenges.
As a professional company, your inbound salesmen need to show buyers that they are able to help them more efficiently and thoroughly than they could on their own, without your company’s product.
A modern buyer needs to understand how your products/services connect directly to their challenges and how they can help them. On the other hand, salespeople need to make the necessary transformation to position themselves as trusted advisors. Here are some tips for salespeople who want to become trusted advisors for their prospects.
The new role of inbound sales people is to develop trust by creating a plan based on the buyer’s timeline and their objectives/goals.
Here are the basic steps your company needs to take during the ‘advise’ stage:
- Suggest ways the prospect can achieve his/her goals and overcome the main challenges that he/she faces
- Recap your exploratory call
- Confirm budget, decision-making processes and timeline
- Secure buyer commitment
The most important part of this stage is to provide specific, customized advice to the prospects in order to show that you really care about them.
How Inbound Marketing And Inbound Sales Work Together
Both inbound marketing and sales share a common thread: instead of interrupting and trying to convince potential customers, these methodologies advise and educate prospects until they are ready to buy whatever the company sells.
Inbound marketing starts the process. Inbound marketing ensures that your business is found when potential customers are looking for similar products and services. It does not matter whether it is via search engines, social media, relevant websites, mobile devices or referrals. When people express interest in what you are offering, you need to be there for them with personalized assistance for their persona.
This help takes the form of educational content that is created specifically for your buyers. The content is used to convert an anonymous searcher into an identified contact. Once a person expresses any level of interest in your business, it becomes possible to use nurturing tactics, like email marketing and social media, to continue the conversation.
If this is done properly, your contacts will reach out to you and ask for even more information, converting themselves from an unqualified contact into a prospect. We commonly refer to these prospects as marketing-qualified leads. This is where your inbound sales efforts need to kick into high gear.
Now, when your salespeople have the lead, you need to do everything in order to keep them. So, instead of just selling and convincing, your salespeople need to continue the educational experience. Make it a personal, one-to-one experience. Successful inbound sales teams are able to get to know prospects quickly by asking them smart, qualifying and relevant questions. These questions continue to make the prospect feel safe, but they also help you understand exactly what they need in order to make a buying decision.
Effective inbound techniques include a well-defined process that flows and continues the educational experience from the marketing efforts and helps the sales team to better understand their prospects and solve their problems.
Are you already using inbound sales methodology? Or is there anything else about inbound sales methodology that you would like to add? Please share your thoughts and experience with us in the comments below. We would be happy to hear from you.