In 2017, buyers no longer need salespeople to tell them what to buy. Prospects now use the internet and do their own research into products, and for this reason, the buyer-seller relationship has changed radically.
How does the owner of a business provide his sales team with the ability to connect with buyers who are searching for their products? This blog post provides a basic overview of the inbound sales process and looks at how sales people can develop new business connections in an inbound way.
What role does a salesperson have today, and what does this change mean for traditional sales tactics? It means that if your company hasn’t learnt how to align the new buyer-seller relationship, you are letting leads slip through your fingers.
As a dynamic company, your sales team must move with the market and give customers the experiences they want - and that means moving into inbound sales. Now, rather than trying to sell products to anyone and everyone, inbound is about identifying prospects who you can help, then guiding them with helpful advice rather than trying to “sell” to them.
A personalised sales experience
With inbound sales, your sales team can kiss goodbye to generic cold calls and instead start making warmer, more meaningful contact with leads, creating personalised buyer experiences that your customers will love.
Sales teams should now be generating a unique sales process for each new customer. This means identifying and dropping bad fits more quickly and supporting each warm lead through their journey, empowering them and guiding them towards a solution that will truly relieve their pain.
Unlike legacy sales teams, it’s not about convincing bad fits to buy from you. Instead, inbound sales strategies emphasise the importance of finding buyers who are already facing the problems that your company can help them overcome, making the buyer experience a more honest, more helpful, and smoother process.
The inbound sales process - an overview
Inbound sales has four clear action stages, which define the sales team’s approach and the activities they should be performing.
- Identify - Profiling your target companies and getting a deep understanding of your target buyer persona within the company. For example your direct contact may be a product specifier, engineer, or purchasing manager.
- Connect - An inbound salesperson then makes contact with a lead or prospect. He assists them in deciding whether to prioritise the problem they are facing, and assesses whether his company can help with this problem. If the salesperson can help the lead with his problem, the lead becomes a qualified lead.
- Explore - Next, the inbound salesperson explores the qualified lead’s challenges and aspirations to decide whether the solution they can offer is a good fit. If the solution suits the qualified lead’s situation, then they become an opportunity.
- Advise - At this stage, the salesperson advises the opportunity why their solution is the best fit to address the buyer’s needs. The point of this action stage is to turn the opportunity into a customer.
Your ideal buyer persona
It is important to know whether a prospect is likely to be a great fit for the solution your sales team is offering, so you are going to need to know what your ideal customer looks like. The only way to do this is to have your buyer personas in place, and to know the kind of person and company who is the most suitable fit for your products or solution(s).
To uncover who your ideal buyers are, your sales and marketing teams should work together to develop a deep understanding of your target audience.
Identify: Finding prospects that fit
There isn’t just one route to finding prospects that will be a good fit for your company; the inbound methodology requires a unified set of tactics. There are several lead sources that we would recommend your sales teams to be monitoring to find and prioritise your prospects.
That’s why we have listed below a number of methods that your sales team can use to find closely aligned leads to nurture through the inbound sales process.
1. Inbound leads
If your content effectively targets your buyer personas, then unique visitors who provide you with their contact information are likely to be from companies that are good fits. That makes them extremely valuable leads to have in the system, and these will be ripe for making that first connection.
2. Inbound companies
These are anonymous visitors to your website from a company that matches your ideal buyer profile. A powerful CRM system can identify such companies, giving you a legitimate reason to put in a call and potentially even identify the person who made the original contact.
3. Trigger events
There are many reasons that a potential buyer might demonstrate that they are about to become active in a buyer journey, and therefore a good fit for your solution. These could include a company seeking a new employee; a current contact seeking a new position; a company expanding or relocating; a company announcing that they have had a good or bad quarter; a major industry development; or even something smaller, such as a buyer opening your email. All of these indications - and many more - could suggest a lead becoming potentially active.
4. Connections made on social media
It’s human nature to feel more of a connection to people with each encounter - even if it is only online. There is value to connecting with potential prospects on LinkedIn, retweeting them on Twitter, and following them on Facebook.
Even if they don’t follow you back or become your Facebook friend, there is still much to gain from getting to know their interests and the kinds of posts that they share. The more you know about a prospect, the more ways you can relate to them during future conversations.
For this reason, invest time each week socialising, plus sharing knowledge and content on social media.
5. Common connections
People you are already in connection with via professional contacts, acquaintances, friends, or even family members can make worthwhile prospects. In all likelihood, you will already know whether they are a good fit for your solution.
6. Find your own!
Meeting potential prospects at an event can be an excellent way to start a lasting relationship, as well as to identify good and bad fits.
Networking has always been around, and while inbound marketing now offers us more methods of attracting leads, there is nothing stopping you from attending an expo, coffee meetup or other event to make new connections.
Aim for honest, meaningful, but informal encounters with the people you speak with, and when you find a good fit make sure to exchange business cards. After meeting a prospect who seems to be a good fit, make a note of whatever aspect of the experience stood out most to you - something striking about the conversation, the surroundings, their stall (if you are at an exhibition) or something that you had in common with them.
Be open about what you do, and explain your company’s solutions in a way that may offer value to the prospect. Just make sure to keep things light, and try to find a common ground.
Moving forward with inbound sales
We have covered the first steps of the inbound sales process, but over time we will cover the three other action stages, demonstrating how to Connect, Explore and Advise. Eventually, this will help you take buyers from stranger into customer in four separate stages.