As B2B marketers, we know the value of implementing inbound marketing tactics in order to provide high quality leads to our sales teams. However, if those sales teams are operating under the “traditional” sales process and not an inbound sales methodology, your high quality leads can quickly become someone else’s.
What is inbound sales you ask? Simply put, inbound sales transforms the sales process to match the way people actually buy in today’s world.
These are the two philosophies that drive inbound selling:
- Inbound salespeople 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 are fundamentally different from the way sales has worked in the past. Due to the buyer’s ability to gain access to important company and product information on the internet, salespeople no longer hold the power in the buying/selling process. This is the age of the empowered buyer.
By taking a buyer-centric approach to the sales process and by personalizing the experience to the buyer’s specific needs, you will create an experience that buyers will love rather than loathe. You will quickly gain their trust and find yourself sitting on the “same side of the table” rather than at odds with your potential sale.
The 4 Stages of the Inbound Sales Methodology
The Identify stage is about researching and identifying leads that are active in the buyer’s journey. Here, it is imperative to leverage resources and clues that are available to gain valuable information about prospects. These clues could be found in blog posts, LinkedIn groups, tweets and many other social channels. Committing time to monitoring and engaging these channels will help you find active and prospective buyers.
Here are some important actions to make a habit of during the Identify stage:
- Regularly read blogs from the industries you are targeting and don’t be afraid to become a participant. Be sure to comment on new articles or blogs that you feel contain important information on those specific subjects.
- Join LinkedIn groups related to your industry. Look for conversations about your niche and provide comments that add value to the conversation.
- Follow the thought leaders of your industry on Twitter and other popular social channels. Share and retweet interesting commentary.
- Submit guest articles to company blogs or industry publications.
The Connect stage of the inbound sales methodology focuses on starting conversations around the buyer’s pain points, plans, goals and challenges. Leading with a message personalized to the buyer’s industry, role, interest or common connections is a great way to gain trust right of the bat. Trust is developed with buyers by identifying interests and priorities, and then demonstrating a genuine interest in helping them solve these issues. If the prospect has a problem you can assist with and they want your help, then the lead becomes qualified.
Here are the three steps to set up a connect strategy:
Here are some best practices for defining your outreach content:
- Define your buyer personas. It is important to ask yourself: What are the different segments of companies I want to target? And, who in the company is involved in buying our services?
- Define the sequences for each individual. You must 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 considering it a lost cause?
- Define the outreach content for each sequence. To continue personalizing the process for the buyer, you should be thinking about the type of organization the buyer is from, who the buyer is within the organization, and what stage the buyer is at in their journey.
- Take an inventory of your existing content. Remember, useful content DOES NOT have to be directly from your company. It is just as valuable to buyers if you can point them to high quality content from third parties that informs their decision.
- Keep your outreach communications 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 critical. Make sure it is enticing, brief and a natural lead-in to the email content itself.
- Offer a free consultation that is within the buyer’s area of interest.
By continuing to provide value at this stage, you will gain insightful information from your lead and be able to transition a qualified lead to the Explore stage.
The Explore stage is the time where you discover how you can best help your prospects. This stage allows you to continue to craft a buyer’s experience and strengthen your position as a valuable resource that can potentially solve their problem.
When a buyer expresses interest, it is time to transition into exploratory mode where you can 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. Inbound sales professionals are able to determine if they are in a position to help the buyer more efficiently and thoroughly than a prospect could be on their own, while helping guide prospects to the right conclusions. By not transitioning into generic presentation mode like traditional salespeople are accustomed to, you will show your prospect that you are more interested in solving their problem then making the sale. At the end of the Explore stage, you will know if the prospect should or shouldn’t buy from you. And you should willing to walk away if it is clear there isn’t a good fit.
The Advise stage is where you should tailor content—often in the form of a presentation–to the buyer’s context by leveraging the information gathered during the Explore stage. The empowered buyer must understand how your services help solve their challenges. In addition, you need to make the necessary transformation to position yourself as a trusted advisor. Your role here is to develop trust by creating a plan based on the buyer’s timeline and when they need to achieve their goals.
Here are some steps you would take during the Advise 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 the Advise stage is to provide specific, customized advice that shows you care. Much like in the Explore stage, stay away from the generic presentations or pitches at this point. You have gained enough information from your buyer during your conversations that you can customize your pitch to the buyer’s pain points and goals. If the buyer is slow to pull the trigger, be flexible enough to adjust your timeline to the buyer. Come off too pushy and the buyer will back out and seek another qualified company who is willing to work with them on their timeline.
The inbound sales methodology motivates buyers to provide you with the information needed, so you don’t have to make assumptions that are incorrect. Gone are the days of the “used car salesmen” approach and shady tactics that have given salespeople everywhere a bad rap. Inbound sales methodology helps you build a sales process that supports the buyer throughout their journey. As a result, the salesperson and the buyer feel like they are aligned, rather than at odds, with one another through the buying and selling process, leading to a much more pleasant experience for all.
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Jason Antonucci is Account Manager at Lauchlan. You can email Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org.