Inbound has changed everything.
It wasn't that long ago when I was still "pounding the pavement" and "dialing for dollars..." and turning over every stone I possibly could to find the few prospects that would be willing to hear my pitch. Finding qualified leads was one thing. Finding interested and engaged qualified leads was something else entirely.
If you're investing in inbound leads, however, the expectation is that your website will generate that interest, and that sales shouldn't have to do nearly as much to close a deal.
Unfortunately, since you're not applying an inbound sales process to handle your inbound leads, your expectations are probably not being met.
1. Your pipeline
Before you set your sales peoples' sights on closing more deals, let's take a look at how you manage prospects through your b2b sales process today, and talk about how to update your system.
The following is best practices for inbound sales stages:
Connect > Discovery > Demo > Propose > Close
- The Connect Call: Looking for high-level fits (this is less about qualifying, and more about engaging)
- Discovery: Learn about their goals, plans, and challenges, and qualify for BANT (what is that?)
- Demo: Present the program that fits the prospect's needs
- Propose: For some, this is a two-step process... formal proposal being step 2 after main SOW
- Close: Win or lose, after a proposal, there is no in between
With the right sales tools, you can also add "entrance requirements" to each of these stages. Meaning, your sales people will be forced to enter critical data between steps, so you can track outcomes and identify bottlenecks in your sales cycle.
2. Contextual positioning
Your sales folks spend a lot of time and energy into perfecting their elevator pitches? Your stars think of every objection, twist, turn, and nuance, and even have them down to 30 seconds or less.
However, in the case of inbound leads, when somebody hands your company their contact information, they are doing two things: 1 - they're giving you permission to market and sell to them, and 2 - they're making it a LOT easier to understand who they are and how to market and sell to them!
One of the biggest mistakes your sales people can make is forgoing all of that great data, and falling back on their broad elevator pitch that completely ignores what your marketing intelligence has gathered on them.
Old tricks won't work with inbound leads.
They just won't.
They require a consultative approach, which requires building a database of knowledge about them before picking up the phone.
I suggest researching. You can warm up the coldest leads out there with contextual positioning... with inbound leads, you immediately cool them off by NOT using contextual positioning.
My standard inbound selling research protocol exists of:
- Find them on Linkedin... look at their profile picture, run a Crystal Knows report, etc
- Review their website... what is their mission statement? How can my services help?
- Look at their browsing history on your website
- Look at what they downloaded
By looking at what they have posted on LinkedIn, sales can get a real taste of what to expect when they pick up the phone. "Crystal Knows" provides key phrases to use to pique their interest
3. Call at the right time
Your leads are expecting to hear from you, but WHEN you call is just as important as WHETHER you call at all.
When are you most receptive to hearing a sales pitch? Is it as you're digging into that PowerPoint presentation you have to get together for tomorrow's call with an important prospect, or when you're on the website clicking through content offers and blog posts?
Studies show that the BEST time to call is within five minutes of receiving the inbound lead - by a long shot.
This is when having the right tools is going to play a major role in your success as an inbound sales specialist. My agency uses Hubspot for our marketing and CRM, and we have Sidekick integrated throughout. Any time a lead that is assigned to me visits our website, opens an email, or downloads a piece of premium content, I get a handy little pop-up the moment it happens. That's some pretty powerful intel when you use it to your advantage!
When that exploratory call starts going sideways or when you need leverage for making your point about certain pains they are experiencing, you can use intel like which pages they visited or what content they downloaded to your advantage. You can also use it to ask better questions.
4. Always be Educating
What is the best way to get your prospects on board with your service or product offering?
You have to educate your audience as to why they need you, and then you have to educate them on what you're selling.
With the inbound sales methodology, they likely came to you through a blog post, which was educational in nature (never salesy), and they either downloaded a piece of educational content, or they went straight to the "request consultation" or "contact us" form. Either way, they're asking you for answers, and you are already positioned as somebody with the right ones.
An educative sales approach with asking questions - "How can I help?" - this is a great way to understand what a prospect's pain points are, so your sales team can educate appropriately.
5. Proper cadence and messaging
Not every inbound lead is going to raise their hand and request a meeting. In fact, most of them won't - even if they're great prospects for your products and services.
Most won't even respond to the first call.
But the calls shouldn't be repetitive or rely on old outbound pitches. There should be a purpose and unique attribute to each one.
So, it's all about cadence and messaging:
- Call 1: within 5-minutes of website engagement - "how can I help?" (followed by email)
- Call 2: 2 days later - "value proposition 1" (followed by email)
- Call 3: 2 days later - "let's meet" (followed by email)
- Call 4: following week - "check out this article" (followed by email)
- Call 5: 3 days later - "value proposition 2" (followed by email)
- Call 6: following week - "results from another client" (followed by email)
- Call 7: following week - "value proposition 3" (followed by email)
- Call 8: following week - "breaking up"
Your cadence and messaging may differ from this, but this is a good starting point for those of you without structure to your inbound sales cycle.
You will not derive the full value out of your inbound lead generation investments if your sales process and culture remain the same as when you were 100% inbound.
By reframing your pipeline, providing protocol for contextual engagement, helping your inbound sales teams with alerts that close the gap between engagement and contact, creating a consultative approach, and following cadence and messaging best practices, you can turn your inbound lead investment into a well-oiled sales machine.
Need help through this new sales methodology? Check out our inbound sales coaching services: