Inbound Sales 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.
Wait... you're still doing that?
... Even with leads generated by inbound marketing?
In this article, I'm going to illustrate how to structure your sales calls and rearrange your pipeline with an inbound sales process to achieve improved sales outcomes that scale.
An inbound sales process isn't just for inbound leads
It's a transformative methodology that can apply to any type of lead that walks through the door. It's for sales and business leaders who want more control over sales outcomes while providing a more welcoming environment for sales talent.
It certainly helps to have leads coming in through an inbound marketing funnel (click here to learn more), because there are things you simply can't replace, such as individual context and ... but sales can start warming up their calls with an inbound sales approach regardless... and they can take better control of their outcomes with an inbound sales pipeline.
What makes inbound sales "transformative?"
For one, you're shifting the approach from sales to consultation... and not just by saying the words... but actually creating an environment for a consultative sale.
1 - The Chase Sequence
We're after one thing during the chase...
Getting qualified leads to go through your company's sales process.
This is going to occur one of two ways... either they're raising their hands or they're not. Regardless, there's a sequence to follow, and it goes like this:
1. "How can I help?"
When a lead arrives, this simple question can go a LONG way to achieving a consultative approach. In many way's it's disarming because it's so unusual... people are used to being pitched to, and instead, your sales team is calling to help.
2. Value proposition 1
Discovering your inbound value proposition can be a bit of an artform... Remember, we don't pitch with the inbound sales methodology... we help. This is the formula:
"We help XXXX businesses that are investing in XXXX but frustrated by XXXX. Does that sound like you?'
The blanks are going to be contextual to the individual you're trying to help as well as your business and service offering(s). So, if you help startups, staffing agencies, tech companies, and professional services firms, as Orange Pegs does, you're not going to mention ALL of them when speaking to somebody.
If I were to fill in the blanks for my business, it would look something like this:
"We help tech companies / startups / staffing agencies / professional services firms (just the relevant one) in the United States that are investing in growth but frustrated by the overwhelming amount of tactical options out there such as SEO, social media, and lead generation--all of which seem to lack strategic vision that lead to actual growth via sales. Does that sound like you?"
3. Value proposition 2
Same formula, different value...
"We help tech companies / startups / staffing agencies / professional services firms (just the relevant one) in the United States that are trying to match the innovation of their products and services in the way they generate new customers but frustrated by how difficult it is to get sales and marketing rowing in the same direction, often finding the two at odds rather than working toward common goals. Does that sound like you?"
4. About Us
FINALLY! After four attempts, you get to talk about you!!! AT LAST!!!!
Aaaaactually, not exactly.
Being a consultant doesn't mean talking about YOU. It means talking about your customers and prospects...
So, how do you talk about you without talking about you?
How about a testimonial?
Give sales tools to help prospects envision themselves working with your company by providing relevant testimonials that are descriptive of the pain your business solved.
5. Case Study
Just like the "About Us" message this is about helping your prospects envision what it's like working with you, not pitching your services...
6. Break Up
Not every relationship is going to work out... Not every deal is going to materialize... and not every lead is going to call back. At some point it's okay to cut bait, and it's equally okay to articulate that they're no longer pursuing a lead they once thought was hot stuff.
Add your third value proposition for good measure. This is a Hail Mary... and you'd be surprised at how often it works.
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
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.
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?" - is a great way to understand what a prospect's pain points are, so your sales team can educate appropriately.
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 - "value proposition 2" (followed by email)
- Call 4: following week - "about us" (followed by email)
- Call 5: 3 days later - "case study" (followed by email)
- Call 6: following week - "breaking up" (followed by email)
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.
2 - Deal Management
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 last thing you want to do is set the stage as a consultant during the chase sequence only to drop the ball when you have their interest. This is the part of the sales process buyers are most engaged, so don't blow it by reverting back to your outbound ways.
Connect > Discovery > Demo > Propose > Close
- The Connect Call: This call is about looking for high-level fits and is less about qualifying, more about engaging. This is usually a major troublespot for businesses we work with, because outbound sales methodology has the tendency to keep people on the line as long as possible... many will turn the connect call into a discovery call... but that's a HUGE mistake. If you want to know why, ask me in the comments section.
- Discovery: Learn about their goals, plans, and challenges, and qualify for GPC-BANT... Goals, Plans, Challenges, Budget, Authority, Needs, and Timing (learn more)
- 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.
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. You MUST have an inbound sales strategy as well.
By reframing your pipeline, providing a protocol for contextual engagement, helping your inbound sales teams with alerts that close the gap between engagement and contact, creating a consultative approach, and the following cadence and messaging best practices, you can turn your inbound lead investment into a well-oiled sales machine.
Need help implementing the inbound sales methodology? Our Sales Enablement Services provide process, tech, and coaching... Check it out!