It might sound like a contradiction, but sometimes sales can be too… well, salesy. And, as today’s buyers show such a strong preference for doing their own research independently before engaging with a salesperson, it’s time to flip the old-school approach.
Taking an inbound sales approach is all about fine-tuning the funnel, so that your sales team can focus on warm and hot leads. This is not only much more time efficient than legacy techniques such as cold calling, but will increase your sales conversion rates.
Prospects are warmer with inbound
By creating personas and building your content to answer their pain points, you maximise the likelihood that the right people are being nurtured down your funnel. The inbound sales methodology uses lead scoring – assigning a points value to different factors such as job role and company sector and size, as well as actions performed on your website – to make sure that your prospects are a good fit before they become marketing qualified and then sales-qualified leads.
By the time the SQLs drop into your sales team via your marketing automation system, they’ll have had gone through a number of touches with your organisation in which they’ve been fully in the driving seat, demonstrating their interest. All of that information is visible to your team, such as what pages they've visited, which blogs they've read and what forms they've completed, so there’s no selling blind.
Always be helping
With inbound sales, the focus is always on the buyer and their needs. This soft-sell approach puts your team in a great position to open up conversations where they’re asking questions and showcasing their expertise. The role here is one of adviser and mentor, guiding buyers to find their own solutions – from the start, you’re properly positioned to help.
As you’re seeking to deliver unique value, the ‘explore’ stage of the sales cycle is crucial, as one of the aims is to discover whether your offer is a good fit for the client – another factor that helps to eliminate time wasting, as you can be transparent if you feel that your product or service isn’t right.
Why pre-commitment matters
Every ‘yes’ that you can win from a buyer brings you a little bit closer to closing that sale. By asking the right questions, and enabling your lead to say ‘yes’, you feed their desire to complete the sale. How can you make that easier? Inbound sales gives you the right structure to use pre-commitment as a motivation strategy, so you can employ the question close technique to keep moving forwards, allowing the lead to get involved in countering any objections to the sale.
That leads us nicely into active listening. Whether speaking over the phone or face-to-face, active listening skills are central to the inbound sales philosophy. It’s all about taking a genuine interest in the buyer, and understanding that people are far more attracted to their own ideas than those of others. Bearing in mind that your lead should be talking around 70% of the time, the inbound sales approach is perfect for providing them with that space. The following tactics will help speed a sale along by encouraging buyers to come to their own conclusion:
1. Positive reinforcement
Used sparingly, positive words of encouragement can help your lead to articulate their thoughts. Expanding on why you agree is better than throwing in lots of short ‘yeses’ and exactlys’, which can be irritating!
From demonstrating you’ve retained the name of your lead to relating back their key points, show that you’ve heard and understood.
Ask relevant questions or make statements to clarify your SQL’s perspective – this demonstrates your interest in an authentic way.
"How do you feel about your current supplier?"
"What's the biggest challenge this purchase needs to tackle?"
Paraphrase back a statement to show understanding and help reinforce the message that’s been delivered.
Example: "So what you've told me is that..."
Ask open questions – it’s the best way to make sure that there is no confusion by building out the picture of the buyer’s position.
"So how will that help you?"
"What would happen if you didn't take action?"
Repeat the buyer’s key points in your own words – it helps to organise your thoughts and gives them a chance to correct anything that’s been misinterpreted.
If all that sounds good, you can find a handy guide on active listening here. Find your own way of using active listening skills so that they work for you – above all, you want to sound natural.
We’ve already talked about how inbound sales positions you as an expert. Before you’ve even picked up the phone to your leads, in many cases you’ll have been sharing useful content – inbound marketing's honey pot – with them, either via your website or direct through social media or messaging platforms.
As a ‘voice of the industry’, you’ve primed the leads in your funnel to perceive your organisation, and yourself by default, as trustworthy, thanks to your content. Creating trust early is central to inbound sales, as you won’t speak to a lead until they’re an SQL, and relatively far down the funnel. You’ve made the effort to establish your credibility in their eyes by helping them with their research, which helps to fast-track the relationship.
Transparency is incredibly important in inbound sales. From the moment that you start speaking to a prospect, they need to know that you’re guiding them through a structured framework towards an end goal. Be upfront about your intention to act as a facilitator, and clear about what your solution encompasses, especially when it comes to pricing. You’ll be focusing on the values that your product or service can generate – being upfront and honest about the initial outlay is all part of the process. As a result, last-minute back peddling from a close is much less likely than with a legacy sales approach.
Closing the deal isn’t quite the end – it’s also a perfect opportunity to ask for referrals. Don’t forget that new customers can be fantastic advocates for your business. In the honeymoon period, take advantage of the rosy glow that an inbound sale produces and ask for referrals to get a head start on some new leads. According to Dale Carnegie, while 91% of new customers are prepared to give referrals, only 11% of salespeople ask for them. What a missed opportunity!
Ready to start closing the inbound way? Download our guide Creating the Ultimate Inbound Sales Strategy and get planning!