Wouldn’t it be nice if a bunch of interested prospects just fell into your lap? Well, with inbound sales, it could become your reality – kind of.
The leads won’t just fall into your lap. You’ll have to work for them.
But after putting in the effort, your inbound sales machine can turn into a kind of factory for lead generation.
So what exactly is inbound sales – and how can you use it in your organization?
Table of Contents
- Inbound vs. Outbound Sales: What Is Inbound Sales?
- The Customer Journey in Inbound Sales
- The Advantages of Inbound Sales
- Synergy Between Sales and Marketing
- 7 Tips for Success in Inbound Sales
Inbound vs. Outbound Sales: What Is Inbound Sales?
The easiest way to understand inbound sales is to contrast it with its cousin, outbound sales.
Outbound sales relies on tactics of contacting people directly, often when they’ve never heard of your brand or product before.
You can call them, email them, or even initiate contact in person.
The point is, you’ll be going out of your way to start a conversation with someone – and hopefully talk to them about your product.
There are some major advantages to this approach. For starters, you’ll be in control of the conversation at all times. You choose who to reach out to, how to reach out, when to reach out, and so on.
This is also good for getting widespread contact. As long as you have a robust team of salespeople making calls on a daily basis, you should be able to reach thousands of people per month.
So how is inbound sales different?
Inbound sales is all about getting leads to discover your brand and your products on their own.
A person realizes they have a problem, so they research that problem.
They find an eBook you wrote on the topic and they read it, realizing there’s a solution to their problem – your company.
So then they contact your company looking for more information, giving you a critical opportunity to close the sale.
Inbound sales works especially well because most consumers like to do their own research before buying anything. If you can inform and educate a lead before even meeting them, you’ll build trust.
And when the lead reaches out to your brand for more information or for help making a purchasing decision, you can close the deal.
With a strong inbound sales strategy, you can generate a stream of interested prospects reaching out to your company, rather than having all your salespeople reach out to them.
The Customer Journey in Inbound Sales
The customer journey in the inbound sales model generally looks something like this:
A person in your target audience figures out they have a problem. They start to do research.
Once the person understands what the problem is more fully, they start to research solutions.
This is the critical opportunity to call a prospect to take action. With a solid call to action (CTA), you can get prospects to reach out to your salespeople directly.
After talking with a salesperson, eventually your prospect will make a final decision. Hopefully, they’ll buy whatever it is you’re selling.
This is often depicted as a prospect going through stages of a funnel, since along the way, your content and inbound marketing strategies will be filtering out people who don’t fit the mold.
Be sure to check out my guide on sales funnels for more information on that.
The Advantages of Inbound Sales
So why do people choose inbound sales over outbound sales?
First of all, don’t think of this as a binary decision. It’s common and advantageous to use both inbound and outbound sales in an organization.
These are some of the advantages offered by inbound sales:
1. Less wasted time.
Sales reps waste less time with inbound sales. You don’t need to do as much research, since you’re letting prospects come to you rather than attempting to discover new ones.
The leads will be warm, meaning leads will already be familiar with your products and your brand – and your sales reps will have to do less explaining.
And because you’ll often land more sales, you’ll spend less time talking to people who have no interest in buying from you.
2. Less wasted money.
You know what they say – time is money. Sales reps spending less time means you’ll be spending less money on your strategy.
Inbound sales is almost always cheaper than its outbound counterparts.
3. Propensity for growth.
Inbound sales has the potential to scale with extreme efficiency. If you want to bolster an outbound sales strategy, you’re probably going to need to hire more salespeople.
But you can improve an inbound sales strategy by investing more in your marketing and advertising approach.
Plus, many of the assets you’ll develop in your inbound sales strategy will be permanent, meaning they’ll continue to provide value to your brand as it grows.
4. Genuine customer interest.
Here’s one of the best benefits: your leads will actually care about what you have to say.
When you call someone up randomly, even if you’ve researched them and know them to be part of your target audience, you’ll be inconveniencing them. It’s a tough sell to say “I have something you need” if they’ve never considered this need before.
Someone who discovers your brand through their own research will have a much better understanding of who you are and what you do.
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Only after getting a feel for your products and services do they reach out – and at that point, the sale is almost closed.
5. High trust and better relationships.
By the time a prospect starts talking to one of your sales reps, they’re going to have at least some trust in your brand.
Assuming your sales rep is adopting a stance as a consultative expert, they’ll have the potential to build even more trust.
That’s super good for building better customer relationships. Your newest customers will start their relationships with your brand on the right foot, and they’ll be much more likely to stay loyal to your brand indefinitely.
Ultimately, that means better communication, more sales, and higher customer lifetime value.
6. Prep time.
When a prospect reaches out to your brand, you’ll have some time to do some research. You can find out who this person is, where they work, and why they’re interested in your products.
That gives you a critical advantage when you’re having an initial conversation with them and leading them to an eventual sale.
Synergy Between Sales and Marketing
Inbound sales and inbound marketing are two sides of the same coin.
To get a customer through the stages of awareness, you need to have a marketing and advertising strategy in place.
Content marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), pay per click (PPC) advertising, and other tactics are all great for improving your brand’s visibility, educating consumers, and eventually, facilitating momentum for your sales funnel.
For that reason, it’s vital for your sales and marketing departments to be working together.
Both departments need to be exchanging data, providing feedback, and helping the other department get more out of their set of strategies.
7 Tips for Success in Inbound Sales
So what does it take to be successful in the world of inbound sales?
1. Automate the earliest stages of the journey.
Use on a combination of marketing and sales automation during the earliest stages of your customers’ journeys.
Remember, one of the biggest advantages of the inbound sales approach is that it’s mostly hands-off – so work to emphasize that point.
The less manual effort it takes to reach people and stimulate new interest, the better.
2. Use a multi-channel approach.
Different people will tell you different stories about the “best” inbound sales strategy. For example, you might hear that SEO or social media is the best way to generate traffic.
But the reality is, each channel has some unique advantages to offer – and what works for one business may not work as well for another.
Use multiple channels simultaneously and benefit from each. I recommend a combination of the following:
- Content marketing
- Social media marketing
- Influencer marketing
- Paid ads
3. Simplify the message.
Simple messages sell better. Especially in this environment.
Don’t try to bombard your new inbound visitors with a huge list of the benefits of your product. Instead, help them figure out what their problems are.
Help them figure out how to solve those problems. Make it simple – and more people will reach out to you.
4. Establish your expertise and trust.
When prospects trust you, they’ll be much more likely to finalize the sale. That’s why it’s so important to establish trust and expertise as early as possible. In inbound marketing, you do that using a strategic content marketing campaign.
After a website visitor converts to a lead, continue building that authority and trust as you communicate with your prospect. This is your opportunity to further build trust by being a good advisor – and offering value before the sale is even closed.
The more authoritative and the more sincere you are, the more likely you’ll be to close the sale.
5. Test and optimize conversion rates.
The easier and more convenient it is for people to contact you, the more likely they’re going to be to do it. Use strong CTAs to prominently attract attention and use simple, short forms when collecting personal information.
These are basic tenets of a good conversion rate optimization strategy, which should be a top priority for any inbound marketing campaign.
Beyond that, it’s important to connect as fast as possible; make sure your sales reps are reaching out to new leads as fast as possible.
35-50% of sales go to the vendor that responds first, and your chances of closing a sale go up by 700% if you respond in less than 60 minutes.
6. Prove your results.
Want to convince more inbound sales leads? Prove your results.
If you can convince a person that they have a time management problem, then demonstrate that your app can save them 4 hours per week, they’ll be hard-pressed to find a reason not to buy.
It’s even more powerful if you can prove the benefits of your product before your sales reps start talking to them.
7. Be persistent.
One of the perks of an inbound sales strategy is that the leads are warm. These are people who have already researched the problem and gotten to know your brand – and they probably realize that your product could work for them.
However, it’s a mistake to assume that warm leads are done deals. It’s still your responsibility to follow up with those leads, encourage them to build more trust, and ultimately persuade them to finalize the deal.
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Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.