Approximately twice a month, a local number appears on my caller I.D. It’s a number from a company that I don't recognize and it interrupts my work. I rarely answer calls from numbers I don’t recognize, so I just let it ring and ring. I probably should answer the phone and end this sales-cycle roller coaster. No more than a minute later, I will have a new email with the subject line “Voicemail" arrive in my inbox. By now I know the script of this particular salesperson and can tell you that they provide IT services for businesses that use Microsoft.
What I can't tell you is the name of the sales person (let's call him “Bob”) or his company. We are a marketing agency and use only Apple products. Once I heard 'Microsoft' I stopped listening and hit delete. This is an example of legacy sales tactics and as a buyer; they drive me crazy. The last thing I want to do is talk to Bob, feel uncomfortable and waste my time.
Fact: A mere 2% of cold calls result in scheduled appointments.
If Bob had done his homework, he would have realized I am a representative with a marketing agency. He would also learn that we use Apple hardware (like most agencies) and that would disqualify us as a prospect. One easy way to do this research would be to find me on LinkedIn and check to see if we have a mutual connection or group. Bob would find me on any other social channel as well. This type of introduction is on my terms and done in a way that allows me to decide if I want to reply to this person and setup a time for a phone conversation. This method feels more approachable and comfortable (at least to me), and would be the one / two punch that would likely get my attention.
In fact, having an IT resource that works with Macs is a valuable connection. I may not need to do business with Bob right now, but knowing he made it into my network in a softer way could be very helpful in the future. For example, a great strategy if Bob were patient, would be to wait until he knows about a big Apple update and send me a helpful message. Again, I’m not ready to buy yet, but what Bob doesn't know is that we are interested in upgrading our Mac server and setting up remote access at some point in the next couple months. If Bob provides value to me along the way, he will likely be the first call I make.
Fact: Referral leads convert 30% better than leads from other marketing channels.
The unfortunate reality is that Bob is the perfect example of a legacy sales person who completely ignores the buyer’s journey. He’s unaware of which buyers are active in a buying journey and fails to identify buyers that would be a good fit for his offering. Instead he starts calling business owners randomly or based on a pre-determined sales process. This worked a little better pre-internet when sales people held all the information. But buying behaviors have changed dramatically over the years and the power in the buying and selling process has now shifted from the seller to the buyer.
As marketing teams begin to develop more content and use inbound marketing strategies, sales professionals also need to adjust their selling model so that it aligns with their marketing department’s strategies and the buyer’s journey.
Fact: Inbound sales transforms the sales process to match the way people buy.
These are the two philosophies that drive Inbound Selling:
- Inbound sales teams base their entire sales strategy on the buyer rather than the seller.
- Inbound salespeople personalize the entire sales experience to the buyer’s context.
These two concepts will provide a competitive advantage for your company and create an experience your buyers will love. To begin this transition to inbound sales you will want to look at the new inbound sales methodology provided by HubSpot. This methodology will focus on the best practices of inbound selling for the individual salesperson.
View a full overview of each stage of the Inbound Sales Methodology here.
This stage is about researching and identifying leads that are active in the buyer’s journey. It is important to use resources and clues available to gain valuable information. These clues might be found in blog posts, LinkedIn groups or forums, tweets, and more. These activities help sales people identify active buyers and help to position themselves as thought leaders in their industry. By spending time on these channels, a sales person can concentrate on finding active and prospective buyers.
Inbound sales is about basing the entire sales process on the buyer journey and personalizing the sales experience to the buyer’s context.
Here are some key takeaways to start implementing the Identify stage in your sales process each week.
- Regularly read blogs in your target industries and comment on new articles
- Join and monitor LinkedIn groups related to your industry. Look for conversations about your niche and provide comments that add value
- Follow thought leaders in your space on Twitter or other social channels and share interesting comments / posts
- Submit guest articles to company blogs or industry publication
The second stage of the inbound sales process focuses on starting conversations around the buyer’s pain points, plans, goals and challenges. It’s best to lead with a message personalized to the buyer’s industry, role, interest or common connections. Trust is developed with buyers by identifying interests and priorities, and then demonstrating a genuine interest in helping. If the prospect has a need you can assist with and they want your help, then the lead becomes a qualified lead. What they access and request will provide you with what kind of content they may desire to see next.
Here are the three steps to set up a connect strategy:
- Define your personas - focus on the perspectives of each persona at the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey
- Define the sequences for each person - define an outreach strategy based on the medium you will use to reach out to each person, 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 give up?
- Define the outreach content for each sequence - keep the second step in the inbound philosophy in mind. Personalize the entire sales experience to the buyer’s needs
Here are some best practices for defining your outreach content:
- Take an inventory of your existing content
- Keep your outreach communication short
- Reference the buyer at least 2x as much as you mention yourself
- End all emails with a question
- Sound human and helpful
- For emails, the subject line is the most important element
If you set up your connection strategy correctly, it’s important to develop a plan based on the medium the connection was made.
Establishing a buyer’s funnel in alignment with the persona will support lead generation. By continuing to provide value at this stage you will gain insightful information from your lead and will be able to transition a qualified lead to the Explore stage.
The exploratory phase is the part where you truly learn how you can best help your prospects. It is an important stage because it allows you to continue to craft a buyer’s experience and strengthen your position as a valuable resource that can potentially answer their problem.
You transition into exploratory mode when a buyer expresses interest and you leverage it in order to develop additional trust and uncover deep buyer goals through a conversation. Leverage the buyer’s initial interest and use your credibility as a thought leader to uncover the buyer’s specific goals and challenges. As an expert, inbound sales professionals can determine if they are able to help the buyer more efficiently and thoroughly than a prospect could be on their own, while helping guide prospects to the right conclusions.
The modern buyer needs to understand how your services connect directly to their challenges. In addition, sales people need to make the necessary transformation to position themselves as trusted advisors. Their new role is to develop trust by creating a plan based on the buyer’s timeline and when they need to achieve their goals.
Here are a few advising steps you would take during this stage:
- Recap your exploratory call
- Suggest ways the prospect can achieve their goals and overcome challenges
- Confirm budget, decision-making processes, and timeline
- Secure buyer commitment
The most important part of this stage is to provide specific, customized advice that shows you care.
After reviewing the inbound sales methodology, you see that the process is very different than the one I referenced earlier and experienced with salesperson, Bob. It’s about focusing on buyers and their individual needs, pain points, frustrations and overall goals. Inbound sales incorporate tactics that allow you to prioritize the buyer’s needs before your own.
Fact: Inbound sales motivate buyers to provide you with the information needed, so you don’t have to make assumptions that are often incorrect. Smart inbound sales focuses on an approach personalized to the buyer’s interests.