You may have heard or thought this before - worry about what to do with your inbound leads after they are coming through the door. By then, you'll have intel on their behaviors, and can make better bets on how to distribute them into the sales pipeline. This is the best way to improve sales performance for the company utilizing the inbound methodology.
Makes sense, right?
Unfortunately, there may be much bigger problems to tackle related to your sales infrastructure, which, if left unresolved, will actually diminish the value and impact of the leads you generate through inbound. More importantly, these problems are not inbound-specific, which means you have other investments at risk.
Addressing your sales infrastructure first enables quicker, cheaper wins, and a much better launch to your inbound lead gen program when you do decide to go there.
What is the number one problem you are experiencing in trying to grow your business?
Out with it.
Is it leads? Your website? Marketing collateral? Sales pitch? Service offerings?
How do you know?
How, specifically, do you know? What data are you using to derive that opinion?
How confident are you in the integrity of that data?
How scientific is this data? Is there a way to validate the impact of one thing vs another in a manner that is objective and goal-specific? How do you extrapolate and reconcile and prove that your blogging has generated X amount of revenue for your business? Or social media? Or trade-shows? Or sponsorships? Or cold-calling? Or happy hour networking events?
How do you determine that putting more leads into the pipeline is going to resolve your challenges when there's little to no clarity on what those challenges actually are?
Without data telling the whole story, is it possible that opportunities today are slipping through the cracks?
If you don't know or if any of these questions made you sweat a little, you have a much easier problem to solve than you think. It's a bigger problem, sure, but it's much easier, cheaper, and quicker to resolve.
Known vs the Unknown
Inbound lead gen is an unknown to you. It's a newer investment, so you don't have any contextual benchmarks to tell you what a good result is or a bad result. Even if you had some information related to traffic and leads, you still can't provide a scientific calculation that proves the value of one lead-source vs another.
THAT is your biggest, most cheaply solvable problem.
And you're about to complicate things more by adding another source of leads!
Additionally, your inbound program is going to be built with virtually no data to support any of the planning that goes into it.
MORE LIKE THIS: Don't Invest in Inbound Until You Fix Your Data Integrity
Investing More after Failure
The more common reason I hear business owners, marketing leaders, and sales leaders say they want to start with inbound, and worry about coaching, process, alignment later, is that they may be able to handle the inflow of leads and not necessarily need help building new processes around inbound leads.
They're being budget-conscious, which is understandable.
But it's inherently flawed, because what you're saying is that after your inbound leads don't generate sales (ie FAILS), you'll put more into the program. But 6 months in, if you're not seeing any closed deals with inbound leads, but you're spending thousands on your inbound program every month, do you really think you'll be ready to double-down?
The Unknown Opportunity
Not only is the vastness of the unknown your biggest, most cheaply solvable problem, it provides the quickest win opportunities out there. WAY quicker than inbound, particularly when you're kicking off inbound with no pre-established plans or accountability standards for what comes next.
The inbound timeline:
- Launch: 2 - 4 months (some agencies put 1 - 2 months into strategy, THEN 1 - 2 months into the launch)
- Learn Mode: 1 - 3 months if using paid ads; 6 - 12 if not
So, you may end up investing more than a year of your time and $ into inbound before it starts to pay off.
Why are there more quick-win opportunities by making the unknown known? Because viable opportunities exist in your lead-pool today... and we can stop them from slipping through the cracks.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush... because we don't have to hunt new birds to get a win.
It's not JUST about Inbound
Many of you, particularly my accounting firms and staffing agencies, are attending trade-shows, hosting educational events, and networking like crazy. So, you're already investing energy and time into lead generation, just a different form of it.
But there is no follow-up or support from your system to keep hot opportunities elevated and colder ones nurtured. Is there?
There's no way to objectively know how many event leads you need to close a deal... or which event is more meaningful... or which salesperson does better in which environment.
There's no way to measure ROI.
That should make you sweat a little.
Sales Infrastructure Should Be at the Top of Your List
Sales infrastructure includes a lot of the same planning that goes into an inbound lead generation program. We build out personas, which requires a decent amount of energy researching online buying behaviors. We research the competition, build marketing funnels, and implement technology to help analyze outcomes.
We use this knowledge to cleanse existing contacts databases, and reprogram the CRM to provide more intuitive experiences for sales reps through automation and elevation of important insights when and where they are needed the most.
It drastically improves the integrity of your sales data, giving management clearer insights into their sales challenges and opportunities.
And it's GOLD for inbound marketing, because it reveals who the most important personas are, the strengths and weaknesses of sales and marketing collateral (and the ability to A/B test the shit out of it), and hard revenue attribution (not estimates).
Check out this introductory guide to Growth Planning to ensure you roll out your plan in the right order: