Inbound Sales: Top Strategies, Technology, and Tips to Boost Your Sales Process
In today’s economy the balance of power has shifted from seller to buyer, often leaving sales teams at the mercy of forces beyond their control.
This is true for several reasons.
First, the way people buy has changed. Consumers used to shop for products at a few locations in their area. With the shift to online shopping, buyers have a lot more options to choose from—meaning more competition for each sale.
Second, there’s almost always enough of a product or service to go around—which also gives buyers more options than they had in the past. Sellers must prove why they, among all the competing voices and choices, are the ideal solution.
Enter inbound sales.
Inbound marketing is foundational for any successful sales strategy. As opposed to outbound strategies such as cold calling, email, or the sales pitch, inbound marketing relies on putting content out there and waiting for prospects to come to you. Hence, IN-bound.
In this post, we will discuss how inbound sales works, the core strategies to know, and the top tools and technologies needed for success. We will also discuss how inbound salespeople can up the effectiveness of inbound vs outbound sales (and how they work together).
Looking to drive growth? Discover the impact of challenger selling strategies.
What is Inbound Sales?
Inbound marketing should provide an experience that feels personalized to your prospects, but is manageable on a mass scale. This is accomplished through the use of the right technologies and the creation of the right content, on a foundation of modern sales technology and sales tactics.
The process begins with attracting qualified leads through various marketing methods: blog posts, whitepapers, social media, videos, webinars, and other types of content. Once you’ve snagged the prospect’s attention with your ability to solve their problem, they will reach out.
At that point, you can route them into your typical sales funnel. You can qualify them as a lead and later a prospect, reach out with warm calls and emails, and nurture them toward closing a deal.
Inbound Sales vs. Outbound Sales
The main difference between an inbound and outbound sales technique is who is making the first point of contact. With inbound sales, the prospect reaches out to you. With outbound, you are reaching out to them.
As stated above, once you get a prospect onto the buying journey, you can treat potential customers the same, regardless of how they were initially brought into the sales funnel.
Some other differences include:
|Inbound Sales||Outbound Sales|
|Building Trust||Occurs through quality content like blog posts, webinars, videos, and social media.||Occurs through traditional sales techniques like cold calling.
|Collecting Contact Information||Earned in exchange for free downloads, webinars, etc.||Collected manually via prospecting research (i.e., searching LinkedIn).|
|Awareness||Interested prospects are aware of your product/service and highly responsive, making qualifying them easier.||Outbound leads are usually unaware of you, not very responsive, and may be unappreciative of your call.|
|Content Creation||You’ll need to generate a few different pieces of quality content to start attracting inbound leads.||You should develop several
cold calling scripts
for various situations, like gatekeepers and follow-ups.
|Collecting Campaign Feedback||It can take a month or longer to collect enough feedback to determine your campaign’s effectiveness.||You’ll receive immediate feedback on your sales approach while cold calling, making quick adjustments easy.|
How to Build a Successful Inbound Sales Strategy
So you’re sold on the idea of an inbound sales methodology. Here’s how to create and use an inbound sales strategy successfully:
Define the Buyer Journey
Whether you’re relying more heavily on blog posts or social, cold emails or LinkedIn outreach, you need to know where you’re going with all this. That’s where a well-defined buyer journey comes in. Make a plan that will capture the lead’s initial interest, nurture that interest, and finally encourage them to make contact.
Identify Buyer Personas
The journey may look different for different products, services, or leads. By creating personas, your marketing and inbound sales teams know how to communicate to communicate with different customer segments. Personas describe your target audiences’ problems, needs, and goals—which then informs how to speak to each type of buyer in a way that resonates.
Develop Inbound Sales Processes
Once you’ve got a journey and the personas to match it, what forms of sales activity will you prioritize? For instance, if you make physical sales calls, that will look different than if you operate remotely.
Either way, your sales processes should support your buyer journey and keep those leads moving along through the funnel.
Use Scripts that Focus on the Buyer’s Needs
Remember when we mentioned target audiences and buyer personas? That’s going to come into play here. One easy way to make sure you’re always prioritizing the buyer’s needs is to draft sales scripts that speak to their pain points. When writing them make sure that you truly focus on the prospect, not on your own desire for a sale.
If you’re not quite sure what this looks like and how it factors into inbound sales, take the time to educate yourself. Write scripts that matter, then pass them out to those who need them.
Create a Clear Sales Guide
When onboarding new sales representatives, give them straightforward instructions on how to speak about your product. Review each of your target audiences, and discuss the main pain points for each one. Then introduce all of the tools your product provides and how they solve customers’ problems.
Providing a sales guide like this enables every salesperson to help their prospects along through their buying process, and makes the purchasing decision easier for your potential customers.
Mistakes Professionals Still Make (And How to Avoid Them)
We’re all human. Mistakes will get made.
By identifying the most common ones and working to alleviate them, however, you can improve the inbound sales process significantly. Start here:
Spending Too Much Time on the Wrong Target Market
Clear buyer personas and journeys will help you avoid cultivating markets that don’t ultimately convert to sales. They’ll help you spot warning signals earlier on in your conversations so that you don’t spend too much time chasing down someone who doesn’t have the need, interest, funding, or authority to convert. They also help you create content that attracts the right leads.
Focusing on Prospects That Aren’t Decision-Makers
Part of qualifying leads and prospects is ensuring that they actually have the power to say yes. Make sure you find this out upfront, even if it requires a straightforward (and somewhat awkward) question.
Rushing Potential Buyers and Being Pushy
Yes, you need to ask questions. Yes, you need to ask for the sale, even. But when someone tells you they need more time, respect that. Otherwise, you’ll lose even motivated buyers because they won’t trust you have their best interests at heart.
Not Planning the Exact Next Steps in the Sales Process
Being planful helps you target your ideal customers and influence their buying decisions most effectively. With thoughtful templates and scripts, as well as a clear journey in mind, you can increase your sales success and cultivate more active buyers more often.
Part of achieving this requires intentionally aligning inbound sales and marketing, so that each supports the other rather than colliding.
6 Essential Inbound Sales Tools and Technology
Of course, the best sales strategy in the world isn’t worth much if you don’t have the right tools. Here are six of the most important to incorporate into your repertoire today.
1. A Cutting-Edge CRM
First and foremost, if you want a well-honed sales funnel, you need a customer resource management system, or CRM. This is the best way to see results from inbound sales.
Your CRM, such as the one offered by Close, needs to store and track contact information for every prospect, as well as enable your ability to follow up quickly, seamlessly, and in an automated fashion. If it can’t dial, call, email, and text prospects from one central space, you’ll spend your lead generation hours scrambling and disorganized.
There are other options with their own benefits and drawbacks. Popular choices include HubSpot, Salesforce or Zoho, among others. Make sure to choose a CRM that offers decent pricing, comprehensive tools, and an impressive industry standing.
2. Email Marketing
Email marketing is a critical form of outreach for generating and nurturing sales leads. That goes for both inbound and outbound marketing.
Once you’ve got someone’s email address, you need to put it to good use. We’re talking continuous, regular outreach that keeps you top of mind and poses you as the solution they’ve been seeking all this time. We’re also talking list segmentation, so that you can send the right emails to the right people.
Naturally, it’s way too difficult and time-consuming to write all these emails fresh every time you prospect. If you’re smart, you’ll find a CRM that enables email workflows and puts the entire process on autopilot.
3. SMS Technology
Text messaging is another crucial prong of sales management. In today’s world, we’re always looking at our phones. If you can pop up there, you’ll have a much better chance of staying in that coveted top-of-mind spot.
Again, this is where a CRM that enables such technology comes in. Find a system that provides SMS marketing.
4. Social Media
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this is another form of sales enablement in which to invest! Social media allows you to build a brand, let the world know who you are, and even reach new leads you may not have realized were possible. The thing is, managing social media profiles and engaging in online conversations is easily a full-time job. That’s why automations matters here too, so seek out apps (such as Hootsuite) that help you build a reliable social media plan stat.
5. Content Marketing
As the meat and potatoes of inbound, content marketing is imperative. No matter what type of sales organization and industry you’re in, you must create and distribute good content. The form can vary, including:
- Blog posts and articles
- Whitepapers and ebooks
- Videos and webinars
- Social media short posts and microblogs
- Podcasts and interviews
… and so forth. If it helps educate your prospects on who you are and what you do, it’s worth making and marketing it.
Ready to supercharge your content marketing process? Explore our AI-focused article.
6. Follow-Up Phone Calls
Follow-up phone calls are still one of the most important forms of outreach for inbound and outbound leads alike. Follow-up calls put your prospect on the spot and forces them to consider whether they are truly interested in your product.
If so, you have the option to talk more right then and there. If not, you can strike them from your list.
And if they fall somewhere in between, you can get more information about their pain points, helping you segment them more effectively for future outreach.
Inbound sales—the process of bringing leads and prospects to you via paid and unpaid channels—is a critical component of your sales process. It is literally one-half of your marketing toolkit (the other being outbound), and as such, you cannot afford to ignore it.
Nor can you afford to carry out an inbound marketing campaign manually. The time, energy, and resources required to create these materials from scratch each time are simply too great. What you need is a reliable system that will put your sales process on autopilot.
Here at Close, that’s our raison d'être. We provide the calling, emailing, SMS, social media, and sales training services you require to get everyone on your team up to speed and overperforming in no time. Want to see how it works? Check out our free demo today, or sign up for a 14-day trial, no payment needed!