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[VIDEO] Modern Customer Acquisition
The way we all make buying decisions has changed forever.
The impact this has had on the traditional sales process has been profound, with buyers no longer dependant on a sales person to provide the information they need to make their buying decision.
What is Inbound Selling ?
Once they are aware they have a challenge, problem or opportunity, today’s
B2B buyer does all their own research online. They’re visiting websites, reading blog posts, asking questions on social media and watching videos to answer their queries.
Some of the key questions B2B buyers could be asking include:
• What is included in your product, service or solution?
• What does it cost?
• How does it compare to your competitors' offerings?
• Who else is using your product, service or solution?
• Do they like it?
We all expect a personal buying experience
Buyers also expect a far more personalised buying experience - one that is human, holistic and helpful. This places their needs and goals at the heart of the process that is ‘buyer-centric’, not sales-centric.
This is where Inbound Sales excels. Modern B2B sales team recognise that they must transform their entire sales process to focus on helping the buyer, and align how they sell with how the modern buyer researches and buys.
Remember, with Inbound Sales you’re not trying to sell to a buyer but are instead helping the buyer to buy.
Traditional Sales vs Inbound Sales
Sales teams have traditionally relied on a broadcast mentality and pressure sales techniques. These simply don't work in the modern digital age.
Traditional sales approaches include the following characteristics:
• Failure to identify active buyers and where they are in their buying journey.
• Cold calling outreach with generic qualification processes.
• A sales-centric approach that kicks into presentation mode as soon as a prospect shows any interest.
• Delivers the same presentation over and over.
• Always price led – offering discounts to try to secure a sale rather than building value.
The modern sales team adopt a very different approach that:
• Focuses on active buyers and understanding exactly where they are in the buying journey.
• Provides personalised insights and content to help the buyer make the right buying decision for them.
• Builds trust and authority through “thought-leadership” and sharing helpful advice.
• Moves into exploratory and discovery mode when a buyer shows any interest.
• Personalises the presentation to each individual buyer and adjust the sales process to fit the buyer’s timeline, not sales team's.
• Defines the value in their solution to ensure that price is not a driving factor in the buying decision.
The inbound mentality to sales is all about attracting the right people, then connecting, engaging and helping them to make a decision.
Be a magnet not a megaphone. Attract and help buyers to make the right decision for them.
The Inbound Sales Methodology
The Inbound Sales methodology is built around the goal of turning a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL), who has expressed interest and intent, into a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) who presents the opportunity to naturally close into a customer.
The Inbound selling process is focused on the four key stages of Identify, Connect, Explore and Advise.
The biggest mistake most sales organisations make is that they fail to execute a process for identifying “good fit” prospects.
A criteria for who may be a good fit for your business could include:
• Size Of Business
• Buyer Personas
• Geographic Location
Once you’ve identified your good fit prospects, connect and engage with them. Your sales team should make an initial ‘connect’ call to identify goals, challenges, gaps and timescales. As Dan Tyre discusses in this blog post from HubSpot, Always Be Closing Is Dead: How To Always Be Helping, your objective here is to help your buyer understand where they are, where they want to be and that it is possible to get there.
Next, arrange a longer ‘exploratory’ meeting with your prospect to identify the help they require and position your solution as one of the options they consider. Dig into specifics at this stage to ensure you fully understand their needs and are able to clearly establish your product or service can help them.
Finally, once you have all the specific information and have helped the buyer to move along to the decision/selection stage, you deliver a well-informed solution presentation advising them on their various options, costs and timescales.
The entire process is aligned with the stages of the buyer’s journey. This ensures that your process remains contextual with where the buyer is on their journey and you are always being helpful and offering value to the buyer.
The Buyer’s Journey Revisited
In The Ultimate Guide To Inbound Marketing we discussed the importance of understanding your buyer’s journey. You can see in the Inbound Selling methodology we’ve explored so far, the way you sell today needs to align with how modern buyers are buying.
As the first step to moving to an Inbound Selling approach to your sales, let's quickly revisit the buyer’s journey to understand the way your customers buy your product or service.
The buyer’s journey is simply the active research process that someone goes through leading up to a purchase.
Buyer’s want to be helped, educated, supported and guided through their buying process.
A quick recap on the stages of a simple buyer’s journey
Stage 1: Awareness
This is the stage where a buyer first becomes aware of a problem or opportunity, and they ask general questions to give it a name and frame it. Remember, the thing the buyer is becoming aware of at this stage is their problem and not your solution.
Focus on understanding and answering these questions:
• How do buyers describe their goals or challenges?
• How do buyers educate themselves on these goals and challenges?
• What are the consequences of the buyer's inaction?
•Do buyers have misconceptions about addressing the goal or challenge and if so, what are they?
• How do buyers decide whether a goal or challenge should be prioritised?
Stage 2 – Consideration
Once the buyer has framed their pain, challenge or opportunity, they now move on to considering the available solutions.
At this stage the buyer has clearly defined their goal or challenge. They've given a name to it and have committed to addressing it. They've evaluated the different approaches or methods to solve their challenge or capitalise on their opportunity.
Focus on answering these questions:
• What categories of solutions do buyers investigate?
• How do buyers educate themselves on the various categories?
• How do buyers perceive the pros and cons of each category?
• How do buyers decide which category is right for them?
Stage 3 – Decision
At this stage the buyer has already decided on the solution category. They’ve created a list of offerings in their specific category and decided which one best meets their needs. Or they may have chosen the solution they found first.
A key component of an inbound sales strategy is connecting with the buyer before they enter the decision stage.
The buyer’s journey is important for two reasons in inbound sales:
Firstly, it allows sales to prioritise 'active' buyers who are aware they have a problem and need help, rather than 'passive' buyers who may or may not require help. We will discuss the importance of this in the 'Identify' stage later on in this guide.
Secondly, it allows the sales process to always remain relevant to the buyer and by delivering the right content, to the right person at the right time, sales can naturally help the buyer move along their journey.
Focus on sharing advice, help and insights that ignite interest and allow you to explore this further with the prospect, starting a natural sales conversation and establishing trust and authority at the same time.
The key is to identify the buyer’s interests and priorities and offer guidance. Show a genuine interest in helping your prospect to accomplish their goals and overcome their challenges. This approach will build trust and increase the likelihood that the buyer will want to move forward with the solutions that you are offering.
Identifying “Good Fit” Customers
We've briefly touched on the 'Identify' stage and the importance of finding good fit prospects and customers.
A good fit customer is someone who fits your criteria of buyers who are likely to benefit the most from your product, service or solution.
But don’t forget, a good fit customer is also someone who is actively involved in the buying process - they're not a passive buyer. By identifying people who are actively buying, you speak to the very best prospects every day and don’t waste time engaging with people who are not going to buy from you.
The final thing to consider in your ‘good fit matrix’ is identifying people you actually want to work with. So, when you first encounter a ‘prospect’, look out for signs indicating they are not a good fit or aren’t someone you want to work with. Identifying this early can avoid pain further down the line.
Active Buyers vs Passive Buyers
It’s important to separate Active Buyers, who are on their buyer’s journey and intend to purchase, from Passive Buyers, who aren’t buyers yet but may be in the future.
You can find active buyers by:
- Using social media to find groups where your buyers are asking question and then answering them.
- Reading blogs that your buyers are reading and then writing your own articles.
- Engaging with thought leaders in your industry.
These activities help you to identify active buyers whilst positioning yourself as an expert and trusted thought leader.
The experience we want to provide here is that feeling of giving a name to a problem they didn’t know they had. Share an insight or content with the Passive buyer to help them and this will leave them with a great impression.
The Four Stages of Effective Inbound Selling
Let’s look at each of the four stages of an effective Inbound Selling process. We’ll explore how they work together to create a sales approach that aligns with how the modern buyer wants to buy whilst also ensuring your sales team are only working on good fit prospects and buyers.
Stage 1: Identify – Finding Your MQL’s
Spending time on identifying good fit leads, including segmenting active buyers from passive buyers, ensures that your sales team are always creating a predictable funnel of opportunities. These leads are called Marketing Qualified Leads or MQL’s.
Sales teams often waste time on unqualified leads who aren’t a good fit and will never buy from them. It’s vital to discover poor fit leads early in the process and disqualify these to free up more time to work on leads that are a good fit.
An MQL can be defined as those who have visited the website, downloaded content, read blog posts, filled in forms or engaged with an email. It is vital you develop a process or system of identifying these buyers. Using a system such as HubSpot is perfect for notifications of this type of activity from buyers.
Good Inbound Sales teams will also develop target account lists based on buyer personas and ideal buyer profiles, through research on social media platforms such as LinkedIn and by asking for referrals from existing customers.
Four Signs a lead may not be a good fit at the Identify stage:
- Company Size: Define what your typical customer company size is and use this to disqualify companies if they are too small or too large.
- Company Revenue: As with company size, define what size of revenue represents a good or bad fit. If higher or lower, then disqualify.
- Industry/Vertical: Does the company fit your Ideal Company Profile target market?
- Location: Are your best fit customers in a certain geographic location?
Stage 2: Connect – Turning Your MQL’s into SQL’s
Once you have identified these good fit leads, now is time to reach out with a personalised connect call that offers value and focuses on the prospect’s goals, challenges and pain points.
Remember your goal here is to turn a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) into a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) , which is when the buyer decides to prioritise the goal or challenge they are facing.
In the 'Connect' stage you introduce yourself to the prospective buyer for the first time. The experience you provide here should make it clear that you understand their context.
This could be understanding their industry, role, interests, common connection or more. In this opening outreach, make an offer in-line with the ‘Awareness’ stage of the buyer’s journey or whichever stage the buyer is in at that moment.
The key is to identify the buyer’s interests and priorities and offer guidance. Show a genuine interest in helping your prospect accomplish their goals and overcome their challenges.
This approach will build trust and increase the likelihood that the buyer will want to move forward with the solutions that you suggest.
Remember, this is your first contact with a prospect or lead so again, look out for signs they may not be a good fit.
Four signs a lead may not be a good fit at the connect stage
- They're rude or discourteous: This should be a huge red warning sign, as it will make communication difficult later on.
- Emotional response: If the lead appears to respond on emotions rather than facts this can be a big indicator that they do not have the authority or know enough about the company goals to make a decision.
- Unresponsive: If the lead is not answering any questions then this is another sign they are unengaged in the process.
- Uncompromising: If the prospect is wanting to control everything and not willing to compromise on anything, this can be a warning.
Stage 3: Explore – Converting SQL’s into Opportunities
The purpose of the ‘Connect’ stage is to confirm that the prospect has a problem that you can help with and to book a time when you can explore that problem in depth. The ‘Explore’ phase is the most important phase of Inbound Sales. It’s here that you find out if your prospects need your help and whether they want it.
You’ll explore the unique challenges that your qualified leads are experiencing to decide whether your services are the best fit for their context. If it is a 'good fit' you will convert these leads into opportunities.
It’s important at this stage to establish yourself as an expert and assume a consultative role. Leverage the buyer’s initial interest and this position as an authority to probe deeper into the buyer’s specific goals and challenges. You are the expert and you can assess whether you can help the buyer more efficiently and thoroughly than they can help themselves on their own.
4 signs a lead may not be a good fit at the explore stage
- Conflicting: The prospect makes statements which don't appear to be truthful or add up.
- Competitive: The prospect doesn't appear to want to work with you to create a plan of action but is acting in a competitive manner.
- Lack of Resources: The prospect doesn't have the time, money or staff to execute the strategy you are discussing with them.
- Lack of Priority: Although you have identified a need for your product, service or solution, it doesn't appear to be a priority of the prospect or their company.
Stage 4: Advise – Close Opportunities into Customer
In the final ‘Advise’ stage, your goal is to give your prospect guidance on the ways your product, service or solution is uniquely positioned to address their goals and challenges. If they decide your solution is right for them, they will become a customer.
This is the grand finale of the experience you have provided. At this phase you prepare a personalised solution presentation, showing why you are uniquely positioned to help.
This presentation should include:
• A slide deck presentation emphasising the value propositions aligned with the buyer’s needs and using the buyer’s terminology.
• A product or service demonstration illustrating only the features important to the buyer, in order of importance to the buyer. Also include case studies and testimonials.
• An Return on Investment Analysis customised to the buyer’s metrics and business.
• A proposal, contract or agreement that spells out the client’s goals, agreed upon scope of work, and metrics that indicate success.
By uncovering the buyer’s context and tailoring the presentation accordingly, you will add tremendous value to the buyers journey, beyond the information available to them online.
Four signs a lead may not be a good fit at the 'Advise' stage
Now you’ve reached the point of presenting a solution to your prospect, it may seem that this is not the time to abandon a deal. But there are signs to look out for here too:
- Silver Bullet Syndrome: Beware of prospects who think that executing your strategy or implementing your product will generate instant results or not take hard work.
- Repeated Meeting Cancellations: Beware of prospects who cancel with short notice, no notice or repeatedly. Something is not right.
- Inability to follow simple instructions: If you ask your prospect to read a piece of content or do some work to teach them something and they fail to do it, this could be a sign of a deeper problem.
- Lack of Understanding: You have to go over the same material more than three times before your client actually understands it. Again this could indicate that the client will be difficult to work with.
6 Essential Inbound Selling Tools – Your Tech Stack
One of the secrets to effective inbound selling is the alignment between marketing, sales enablement, sales and service. The key to this alignment is in developing a tech stack of tools which enables a focused single view of each contact, be it a lead, prospect or customer.
Here are six tools that will make this alignment easier and ensure that your business maintains a buyer-centric view:
1. Customer Relationship Management Software (CRM)
A central database of contacts and companies that the business engages with, recording each touch point and conversation with a lead, prospect or customer to provide a central system for all departments to use and update.
At Sigital Media Edge, our weapon of choice for world domination is the Free HubSpot CRM
After using HubSpot both for ourselves and for our clients' projects, it is clear that it is far more than a simple CRM. It also offers Marketing, Sales and Service tools plus world-class analytics and reporting tools. We regard it as the go-to B2B business growth platform.
2. Marketing Automation for Lead Nurturing
Lead nurturing is all about providing the right information to the right person at the right time. By using automated work flows, sequences, Calls-To-Action (CTA’s), landing pages and email marketing plus effective social media management to publish to the right channels, you can achieve this and provide a very personal experience to the user.
Leveraging Marketing Automation tools such as HubSpot’s Marketing Hub can make lead nurturing human, holistic and helpful rather than feeling impersonal and robotic.
3. Sales Automation & Sales Enablement Tools
Once leads and prospects are in your CRM and engaging with you regularly, you need to be able to see where they are in your sales pipeline.
When you align this with their own buyer’s journey, you can provide valuable, relevant content and insights to help move them towards making an informed buying decision.
Sales tools for planning meetings and using email follow-up sequences, for example, can help you to maintain a level of engagement with every prospect as they move along their journey. This allows your sales team to effectively explore, advise and present their solution to the right people at the right time.
Again, at DME we use the HubSpot Sales Hub to measure every stage of the sales process and progress prospects along. The hub even allows you to upload documents - guides, whitepapers, reports etc - and receive notifications whenever a prospect dowloads or engages with these.
4. Personalised Video Prospecting and Follow Up Tools
Every buyer demands highly relevant personalised outreach and there is little that is more personalised than a video created just for them. Emails still work, but reading a long text email from someone is not very personal or engaging.
With tools like Vidyard or Wistia Soapbox, however, you can create short engaging videos that cut through the online noise, talk directly to a prospect or customer and instantly connect. At DME, we have seen open rates and engagement increase by 56% since we started using video prospecting in our own sales process.
5. Live Chat and Chat Bots
When did you last complete a form on a website ? Be honest – forms are dead.
Buyer’s simply will not complete a form and wait 24 hours for you to get back to them - they want answers now! Using Live Chat, Messenger and Chat Bots for communication and conversations is by far the most effective tool to achieve this.
HubSpot CRM provides a free Chat Bot tool or other apps such as Drift can be used as conversion tools and to shorten the sales cycle. You can set up URL specific Chat Bots that deliver relevant information about the page that a visitor is visiting. For example, on your Pricing Page set up a Chat Bot to say “We see you are looking at pricing – can we help ?”
6. Support and Service Tools – Customer Nurturing
Your customers are your greatest asset and also your greatest source of feedback and new business.
Using tools such as HubSpot Service Hub, Survey Monkey and Trustpilot to support and nurture customer relationships, cross-sell, upsell, ask for referrals, survey opinions and gather reviews, testimonials and case studies will allow the service department to constantly develop content, insights and leads for your Inbound Selling efforts.
10 Key Metrics To Measure Inbound Selling Success
The availability of analytics tools and software means that every element and stage of your Inbound Selling process can be measured from end to end. So, where do you get started with sales metrics and reporting on your Inbound Selling success?
The sales metrics that are aligned to your company-wide performance and growth goals are at the top of the metrics list. These would include revenue metrics, Lifetime Value of a customer (LTV), Net Promoter Score (NPS), cost of sales etc. If you have to choose just one of these, focus on revenue generated.
Successful Inbound Selling is all about activity. This means being busy, but busy in the right areas. So, measure metrics around activity to identify the star players and weak links in your sales teams. For example, if a sales person is not hitting targets, examining their activity may reveal they are not sending enough emails to generate the number of calls they need to make.
Activity is key to success – so, pick key metrics such as calls made, emails sent, conversations, social media interactions, meetings scheduled, presentations made, referral requests and proposals sent, to get a good overview of activity.
In the bid to chase down new deals, you must ensure that your sales team don’t leave money on the table by missing out on cross-selling, upselling, repeat order and expanded contract opportunities with your existing customer base.
Key metrics here are 'Average Length of Sales Cycle', 'Average Contract Value' (ACV), 'Win Rate' and 'Conversion Rate By Sales Funnel Stage'.
How efficiently are your sales team prospecting? Measure metrics such as how often they are adding new opportunities, 'Average Lead Response Time' and '% of Qualified Leads'. But the big metric here is 'Cost of Customer Acquisition' (COCA).
These can indicate if your Inbound Selling process is healthy or not. Focus on 'Open Rates', 'Response rates', 'Engagement Rates' and '% Of Recipients Who Progress To The Next Stage'.
These are critical because they show how well your team is converting opportunities into business. Focus on '% Of Closed/Won', 'No Decision Made', 'Opportunities Lost To Competitors' and 'Number Of Conversations Per Won And Lost Opportunities'.
A good B2B salesperson will be active every day on social media, primarily LinkedIn and Twitter, connecting and engaging with leads, prospects and clients. So look at the % of LinkedIn connection requests accepted, Inmail response rate, social engagement, number of meetings set through social media and number of qualified opportunities generated through social media.
These focus on how quickly the sales team are hitting their targets. The shorter the time, the more productive they are as a unit. Focus on the % of time they spend on selling activities, % of time on manual data entry, % of time creating content, average number of sales tools used daily and % of high-quality leads followed up.
A leading indicator predicts your results. It shows you which direction you are trending. They are easier to influence than lagging indicators.
- Pipeline Deal Mix
- Pipeline is all early stage ?
- Pipeline is all late stage ?
A lagging indicator reflects your ultimate results. They are reactive with metrics such as your sales team’s target attainment at the end of the month.
Lagging metrics could indicate some of these areas:
- We are losing deals above a certain value ?
- We are losing the majority of deals after the explore stage ?
- We are losing deals to no-decision or no budget ?
- We are losing deals after submitting a proposal ?
- Sales team are hitting their targets but not enough new leads in pipeline ?
- Sales team are missing their targets and not enough leads in pipeline ?
- Prospecting activity is too low ?
- Sales cycles are getting longer ?
- We are losing deals to a certain competitor ?
The key here is to get started with a few Inbound Selling metrics that give you a good overview of your sales effectiveness as a business and also the performance of your team. So, mix it up and then layer more specific metrics on top over time. This will
put you ahead of the game, allow you to analyse progress, hit your goals and increase revenue in a predictable manner.
Lets Get Started On Your Inbound Selling Strategy
As you can see, when it’s broken down into predictable steps, Inbound Selling is all about creating a remarkable user experience and using inbound marketing principles to attract, engage, convert and delight new and existing customers.
Simply focus on identifying those ‘good fit’ target accounts, then use effective inbound marketing tactics to connect, engage and attract them to your business.
At DME we are experts in helping B2B business to grow better, through inbound marketing and sales tactics that work. We can help your business to plan and execute your next Inbound Sales strategy to drive 20 – 30% year-on-year growth in traffic, leads, customers and revenue.
Simply get in touch and let’s talk about your business growth goals.
Let's talk about your business growth
If you own, run or work in a B2B business and are looking to grow your business leads, customers and revenue by 20 – 30% over the next 12 months, then let’s have a 15 minute chat about your goals, challenges, gaps and timescales.
Unlock the true power of Inbound Marketing, Sales and Account-Based Marketing.