Inbound sales techniques have transformed the buying process, putting the power in the customer’s hands. Old school sales tactics like mass cold call campaigns and door-knocking are not as effective in many industries. But don’t think that makes life more difficult for sales teams. Quite the opposite, in fact.
With the abundance of marketing materials online, customers no longer need a salesperson to provide the info and guide their purchasing decisions. Customers can—and expect to—do their own research and make up their minds when they’re ready.
The modern sales team can now find success by focusing on building great relationships with their target market. With an inbound sales approach, brands can prioritize customer needs and meet customers at the right time.
This article will delve into the inbound sales methodology to discover why it’s so important and how you can implement it effectively to boost your bottom line.
Let’s jump in.
What is Inbound Sales?
Inbound sales is a modern sales methodology that personalizes the buying experience for each customer based on their individual interests, needs, and challenges. This approach makes your customer feel like they are in the driving seat, which helps brands foster trust with prospects.
Instead of pushing certain products onto people, inbound sales focuses on guiding your prospect through the three stages of the buying cycle—awareness, consideration, and decision. Each stage requires unique forms of communication and sales strategies.
The inbound sales process seeks to support the buyer’s journey with useful information in emails, social media posts, white papers, and more. These digital assets and an empathetic mindset when speaking with prospects help to position your salespeople as trusted advisors.
However, the inbound sales process is by no means a passive strategy. You are not merely waiting around in the hope that someone eventually finds you and decides to buy. Instead, you are optimizing the customer journey to ensure prospects can get the right information they need at the right time.
Inbound vs. Outbound Sales
So, what’s the difference between inbound and outbound sales?
Inbound sales is a strategy that begins when a prospect, who has already expressed interest in your products or services, gets in touch with your sales team. Outbound sales begin when your sales team initiates contact through a cold call or outreach strategy to somebody that hasn’t expressed any interest in your products or services.
Cold calling like this is a central component of outbound sales techniques, much to the chagrin of sales reps, with 63% claiming cold calls are the worst part of their job.
Inbound sales is the polar opposite of outbound sales in that it focuses on crafting a customized message at each stage of the sales process. It leverages data from on-site behaviors, social media, and previous customer conversations to tailor the communications and recommendations in a way that suits the budget, goals, and time each prospect needs.
Instead of “smiling and dialing,” an inbound sales team will often wait until the data indicates that someone has an interest (e.g., by interacting with an email, initiating a live chat conversation, downloading a PDF, etc.). With this approach, you only work with warm leads.
As such, inbound sales help to build great relationships with your market over time, earning greater trust with customers.
Why Inbound Sales is Important
Inbound sales are essential for many reasons. First of all, keep in mind that modern consumers don’t like to be sold to, but they do love to buy. With inbound sales, you consider customer preferences by allowing them to proceed through the buying journey at their own pace.
Secondly, inbounds sales leverage the internet, automation, and other digital tools to be not just customizable but scalable. Instead of wasting your sales team’s time on unqualified leads, you maximize efficiency by only spending time on the right leads at the right point in the process.
Apart from offering a more efficient, scalable sales model to foster goodwill with your market, inbound sales techniques also establish your brand.
No business exists in a vacuum. Instead, you compete for attention across the globe, and so, you must consistently create content that attracts, engages, and interests your potential customers. Otherwise, you will lack the attention and trust that you need to win sales from today’s buyers.
Inbound Sales Has Evolved
The inbound sales methodology has gone through some major changes in recent times. You may remember conducting business before the internet went mainstream, where prospects learned about a product or service through traditional offline channels, such as a billboard, newspaper, or direct mail.
If someone really wanted to learn about your product, they had to wait for a salesperson to come to them or else go to a salesperson and deal with all of the hassle involved. The internet changed this dynamic, and people eventually stopped responding to old-school sales techniques.
Since then, sales have transformed yet again with the advent of real-time chat technologies. Messaging apps and chatbots allow you to personalize your sales approach. You can set up automated triggers to proactively chat with website visitors based on browsing behavior:
Image: Configuring chat triggers in JivoChat.
Chat technologies also help you shorten the time to get answers, which is important because one of the potential downsides of inbound sales is that it takes too long for someone to get answers or speak to a real person. According to Business Insider, almost 40% of global internet users prefer interacting with chatbots instead of virtual agents.
While some potential buyers may want to take their time reading a dozen blog posts and following your social media content, others could be in a higher state of urgency. Allowing them to chat with a rep or at least a bot means you can serve those prospects who are already further along the buyer journey.
6 Key Steps in the Inbound Sales Process
While the inbound selling philosophy revolves around catering to your ideal customer, that doesn’t mean you don’t structure your process in a way that intelligently converts as many qualified prospects as possible. There are critical stages to the selling process, and skipping any of them could lose customers.
1. Identify Your Ideal Customer
You can’t hit a target if you don’t know what you’re aiming for in the first place. Knowing your audience starts with a well-documented vision of your ideal customer’s characteristics, desires, interests, fears, challenges, and any other information that gives you insights into their needs and purchasing habits.
For instance, you should know the following aspects of your customer avatar at a minimum:
- Income or Budget
- Pain points
- Decision Making Process
- Preferred Communication Channels
When deciding ideal prospects for inbound, you need to go a step further to determine at what point it is worth reaching out to a prospect. For example, this could be once they subscribe to your email list, download your free guide, comment on a blog post, or visit a specific URL.
2. Define the Buyer Journey
Before producing any content or picking up the phone, your sales team must understand the buying journey that your prospects undergo — a critical part of the inbound sales methodology. That way, they can cater their questions and advice for that particular person at that stage of the journey.
In essence, every buying journey can be broken into three main stages:
- Awareness - In this stage, buyers are still accessing their issues and the importance of resolving them. You need to offer them information that reinforces the benefits of solving their issues, such as statistics and case studies.
- Consideration - The prospect is now aware that they have a problem and they want to solve it. They are now ready to compare the different solution categories and the advantages of each one.
- Decision - Your prospect knows they want to proceed with your product category but are unsure which vendor to choose. In this stage, present the core differentiators of your offer and why you are the best fit.
If you present the wrong information at the wrong stage, it could overwhelm your customer or deter them. Be sure to guide them gradually through each stage so that you don’t scare your prospects away.
3. Attract your Audience
Once you know who your ideal customers are and how their buying journey will play out, it’s time to craft the right content to attract them.
- Awareness Content - When targeting those in the awareness stage, it may be best to focus on higher-level concepts that reinforce the urgency of their problems and the importance of solving them. For example, an IT consulting firm can create social media posts or infographics that include industry statistics on the frequency of data breaches or the lost profits resulting from insufficient data storage.
- Consideration Content - For the consideration stage, this same IT firm can present an argument for consulting over hiring in-house and even include customer testimonials.
- Decision Content - In the decision stage, you can publish buyer guides and start displaying forms to schedule a call with a live salesperson.
4. Connect with Visitors
Remember that everyone has a personal preference of how to communicate with vendors. Provide multiple ways for visitors to connect with your brand to avoid alienating any potential clients.
One way to do this is to use an omnichannel business messenger like JivoChat to enable visitors or leads the contact you via multiple channels including phone, email, facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, live chat and more:
Image: JivoChat’s omnichannel business messenger enables businesses to connect with inbound sales leads across multiple channels.
Again, the channels should be informed by the persona research you conducted in step #1.
5. Understand the Problem
You should never assume you know the problem your lead is dealing with. The key is to use the tools and technologies at your disposal to ask the right questions. That way, each prospect feels they are being listened to and served on a personal, one-to-one level.
Live chat technology can analyze site visitors’ behavior to trigger automated responses, such as an invitation to start a chat with a live agent or direct visitors to a menu where they can find specific information about a particular product or query.
All of these allow your agents to understand your lead’s problems on a deeper level.
Additional methods of connecting with prospects include reaching out with email campaigns, calling customers once you’ve collected their information, or providing the option to buy directly from your website without human interaction.
6. Advise on the Best Solution
The main mistake that outbound sales professionals make is that they often work from a generic script, paying little attention to what their prospect needs or wants. While it’s good to have a systematic approach, you must be prepared to tailor your advice so that each presentation is specific to what you have learned about the prospect’s pain points.
That way, when you are presenting your product, you can mention the benefits most likely to encourage your prospect to move forward with a purchase. By leveraging everything you learned during the initial exploratory conversation, inbound sales techniques position your sales team in a way that adds value to the buying experience. Done right, assuming this role of the trusted advisor will yield better results than legacy sales tactics.
Inbound Selling Mistakes You Need to Avoid
Just because inbound selling can be more effective and efficient doesn’t mean it is easy. These are some common mistakes that you need to avoid, or else you may lose sales unnecessarily:
Not Properly Qualifying Inbound Leads
Even if someone responds to an email, fills out a form, or otherwise indicates interest in your solution, that doesn’t mean they are qualified yet.
Before actually presenting your sales message, demo, or presentation, you need to qualify your prospect in the following areas:
- They have a problem
- They want to solve that problem
- They are open to your product to solve that problem
- They have the budget to pay for your product
- There is a specific timeline in which they need to solve the problem
If you don’t get these agreements with your prospect by properly qualifying, then they may not be ready to hear about specific features or benefits on a detailed level yet.
Many of these qualifying questions can be asked on inbound forms:
Not Personalizing the Sales Experience
People have a knack for knowing when they are receiving a canned pitch. It turns them off, and in the end, they trust you less. Instead, incorporate specific phrases, pain points, and goals that your prospect has relayed to you during your presentation. They will trust you more, and your presentation will be more powerful.
Not Following Up Fast Enough
Too many businesses overlook the power of follow-up. In fact, 44% of reps give up after one follow up attempt. In many cases, you won’t make a sale on the first visit to your website. Use tracking to know who has visited before (and what pages they visited), then automate follow-up with email, phone calls, and even chat technologies to re-engage people who return to the website.
Not Providing an Omnichannel Experience
People don’t follow a linear path to purchase now, with just one visit to a website. Instead, they jump around from sites to social media to blogs, gathering their research as they move through the customer journey.
Using technology like JivoChat makes it possible to adopt an omnichannel approach so that you can engage your visitors across various channels such as your website, Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, and more. Not providing access to these various touchpoints is leaving money on the table.
Talking Too Much
Let’s say you finally have your prospect on a live phone or video call. You’re so excited to talk about your company and your product that you blab on and on. While you obviously need to speak when providing the sales presentation,
it’s essential to find balance, as you risk boring your prospect or frustrating them by not allowing them to talk enough. Essentially, you can “talk past the sale” because they may already be ready to do business, but your constant chat turns them off.
Trying to Close Too Early
The old-school or legacy sales approach was to close early and often. These pushy sales tactics simply don’t work like they used to. Instead, you need to be smarter about how and when you ask for the close.
A great way to gauge how ready or committed your prospect is (without risking pushing them away) is to perform a “trial close.” This approach is a question that does not ask for the sale but instead clarifies your prospect’s opinions.
For instance, you can say, “how are you feeling about our product so far?” before asking for the sale to ensure you don’t pull the trigger too early.
Inbound Sales Metrics to Track
If you aren’t tracking your metrics, you won’t know how to increase conversions over time. Here are the most important inbound sales metrics to understand and improve:
Number of Qualified Leads
A lead could be anyone who takes action, such as interacting with your website or chatbot. However, a qualified lead will prove that they have the interest and budget appropriate to merit reaching out to a sales agent.
Average Cost Per Lead
Your average cost per lead adds up all the expenses for marketing and lead generation, then divides it by the total number of leads generated. If this number is too high, you risk losing money even though you have more in the pipeline.
Lead Response Time
The lead response time is how quickly you reach out to a lead once they are generated. The faster, the better, as your lead is less likely to switch to a competitor.
Conversion Rate by Lead Response Time
This metric calculates the conversion rate divided by how long your lead response time was for that lead. For instance, you may find that you have a 25% conversion rate for leads with response times of 4 hours versus a 10% response conversion rate for leads with response times of 24 hours.
Number of Closed Sales
This is all of the sales your company has closed. You can view this metric by sales quarters, months, weeks, and days to see if you’re hitting your granular business targets.
The difference between inbound and outbound sales is stark, and in the modern marketing era, there’s a clear winner—for both businesses and customers.
When it comes to your company’s sales process, you need to ensure it takes your customers’ needs into account first. The modern consumer simply won’t tolerate anything less. Therefore, an inbound sales process is an excellent fit for many organizations because it is built with the buyer’s journey in mind.
If you find your sales team struggling to win the trust and earn new clients, it may lack a proper inbound sales strategy. Review the advice in this guide, and identify the main areas where you can improve. That way, your revenue will continue to grow, along with your brand’s reputation for excellent service.