The new way to sell: Why inbound sales, what does inbound sales mean and inbound sales Q&A

This article has been originally posted on Linkedin and written jointly by  Jordi Marca (CEO of Gotoclient, a marketing agency that serves multinational brands in the Southern European markets).

You probably have heard about inbound marketing, or the holistic methodology to attract, convert, close and delight leads. In 2017, however, the big word is inbound sales. What is inbound sales? Inbound sales is the holistic sales approach, part of the holistic inbound marketing methodology.

A few years ago I spent a few days in Dublin with HubSpot’s Dan Tyre, David Weihaus, Catriona O’Flaherty, Sharen Murnaghan, Danny Williams, Neil Clarke, Paul Earnden, Chris Grant, Eric Murphy, Boudewijn Broekhuijse, Jolanda Campalongo, Joy Clarke, Lars Hansend, Mike Garvey, Pau Maspoch and Richard Wood. We had great productive days that are framing what I am thinking right now.

According to State of Inbound 2017, priority number 1 for sales professionals in EMEA is closing more deals, whereas priority number 2 is improving the sales funnel efficiency. Inbound sales provides tools for improving both of them. Please go on reading if you think your sales activities have to shift to a more sustainable growth.

¿Why inbound sales?

We need a new way of selling. For many business, outbound, pitch based sales just don’t work anymore. Prospects pick up the phone less than ever, they don’t return phone calls, and hardly respond back to your emails. They have taken the communication power. Pitch based sales do not work anymore. Traditional sales are dying. Forward we will see the difference between inbound and outbound sales.

So, why pitch based sales do not work anymore? On the one side, for the vast majority of your prospects, the information they are interested in is free and easily accessible. They can access to every single piece of information they need. In most times, the information they cannot obtain just does not exist.

On the other side, salespeople are often less prepared than prospects. Accurate observers have seen this from years now. The reality is that we all know this but have been trying to deny it for years. When we sell products, prospects know more than us on their business, on what they need, sometimes on our competitors, and some other times, even on our proposition. For instance, today, when you buy a car, you can quite easily get to know more about the car than the car dealer salesperson themselves by just spending a couple of evening researching online. The same happens in most B2B product or service sales.

So, if they know what they need better than you do, why should they talk to you? This simple question answer is changing everything.

¿What does inbound sales mean?

Inbound sales is essentially based 3 foundations:

Foundation #1: Don’t pitch. Help your prospect. Nowadays the information is free and easily accessible to everyone, which makes prospects very well informed on our product or service. If you take a helping approach and you visualize yourself in the same side of the table as your prospect, your sales efficiency will dramatically improve.

Foundation #2: Make the prospects want to talk to you. Based on the help approach, your prospects will see value in the conversations they are having with you and therefore they will want to talk to you. Base your conversation on the value that your customer will get from you. For instance, if you’re offering hospitality service, offer a few tips in the conversation so that prospects can get more satisfaction from their attendees in their next event. Another tactic to do this is to ask questions on their business and show your genuine interest in it. This will generate interest on your prospect’s side and represents a great shift from the traditional sales approach.

Foundation #3: Talk to who wants to talk to you and who you want to talk to. If you take the helping approach, what happens to those that do not want to talk to you? Well, if you have taken a help approach and they still do not see the value in talking to you, you’ll probably be wasting your time trying to talk to them. Talk to them only if they are engaged in the process. If they aren’t, you will need to find ways to replace the conversation with the prospect with another prospect in the same company or change your target company. 

The core of the methodology of inbound sales process:

There are 4 differentiated steps in the inbound methodology, which are the 4 key action groups that you will carry, according to the journey your buyer will take. A lot has been written on this (for instance, check Laure Hintz blog article here:

Identify the right business opportunities or the right prospects for you, prioritizing those who are active in their buyer journey 

Connect with them and help them face their challenges

Explore and understand if the prospect is a good fit or nor

Advise on the right solution for their needs

The Inbound methodology of Identify / Connect / Explore / Advise might seem very similar to legacy marketing, but it is not. Let me recap the key differences:

Key difference #1: The identify phase focuses on the right business opportunities, prioritizing the prospects that have already started their buyer journey. This increases sales efficiency dramatically.

Key difference #2: The explore phase. Legacy salespeople usually had low listening capacities, their skills used to be around pitching the product they sold. Inbound salespeople listen more than they speak, ask more than they affirm, help more than they push and understand more than they pitch.

Key difference #3: The way inbound salespeople manage their sales funnel is completely different from legacy salespeople. Inbound sales understand and recognizes the funnel has conversions and work proactively on the quality of the leads rather than focusing only on the quantity.

Key difference #4: (for services) a generic pitch versus a tailored presentation. At the end of the advise phase, inbound salespeople are able to deliver a customized plan to their prospects. This is a plan which is actually done in collaboration with their prospect. Inbound salespeople gather so much information in the explore phase that they are then able to work on it and deliver the best plan to the pitch.

Key difference #5: There has to be a mutual consensus in order to work together. Inbound salespeople do not want their prospect just to ‘accept’ their selling proposition. They want to embrace it. They want to engage their prospect on a longer-term, solid relationship.

Key difference #6: Inbound salespeople envision themselves in the prospect’s side of the table and to work with them. Legacy salespeople have a more aggressive approach coming from the other side of the table.

In other words, while legacy focus on treating all the prospects in the same way, and switching to presentation mode once the prospect express a slight interest, inbound sales focuses on taking the right actions at the right time. It is a completely different mindset. It is focused on helping the prospect facing their challenges, understanding if there is a good fit to work together, then work together, and then engage together.

Key difference #7: Marketing and sales do not live apart together anymore. Inbound salespeople work under the same roof as inbound marketing people. Both have the goal of generating sales, and the integration is done in a much smoother way than traditionally.

The how to implement inbound sales Q&A

Do I need to carry inbound marketing in order to be able to carry inbound sales?

No! Inbound sales makes sense for its own. It synthetizes the new way of selling.

I want to shift my whole organization to inbound sales. Can I just start doing inbound sales on my own, or should I gather external help?

Both are ways to go. You could start shifting to inbound sales on your own. However, getting external help is advisable.

If my prospects do not pick up the phone, why should they bother reacting to other means of communication such as my emails, or reading my blog posts?

Your average prospect behaviour has dramatically changed over the past 10 years. Most information they need is free and accessible to everyone. Salespeople cannot drive the decisions anymore, salespeople can only help your prospects take the best decisions. The power is in your prospects.

How can I start applying inbound sales today to my organization?

My recommendation would be the following: start changing your organization mindset to help your prospects, and, at the same time, shift all your communications to real-value-oriented communications. This couple of things will put you on the right way straight away.

¡Now we invite you to take a look about the State of Inbound 2017!

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