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Inbound Sales Methodology: Is Your Sales Team Living in the Past?

By June 1, 2016 November 30th, 2017 No Comments

This blog post is part of “The Ultimate Guide to Lead Generation” blog series.

In this Google/Twitter/iPhone/Android web-based world of business, there are still many B2B sales teams that are living in the past. Instead of working with the web to help prospects on their journey to buy, they simply duplicate what the web already offers.

We’ve all heard the acronym formulas to get to know the prospect – FORM – Family, Occupation, Recreation, Money, and used the traditional sales format of AIDA – Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. Those processes are so last century. Because today’s inbound marketing strategies are walking prospects through these steps, today’s prospects want what they need to make a decision, not a time wasting ‘get to know you’ chat.

Instead, sales teams need to know and understand the new Inbound Sales Methodology which will help them begin to rule today’s B2B sales world.

Inbound sales does not equal legacy sales

Legacy salespeople have given a bad rap to the sales industry. They’re notorious for using guile and trickery to sell, well…anything. But as the internet has become a resource for customers, transparency is rapidly increasing. The snake oil salesman has seen his demise, and it’s time to learn from his mistakes.

Inbound sales is based on 2 philosophies:

  • Inbound sales teams base their entire sales strategy on the buyer rather than the seller.
  • Inbound salespeople personalize the entire sales experience to the buyer’s context.

You can see from these philosophical statements that the power in the buying and selling process has shifted from the seller as in legacy sales, to the buyer. With that in mind, inbound sales transforms traditional sales to match the way that people buy today.

The inbound sales methodology supports the buyer’s journey

The buyer’s journey is an important framework for marketing strategy — but what does it look like when it comes to the inbound sales methodology? How are buyers getting from step one (“Do I have a need?”) to a justified decision? And most importantly, how can salespeople harness this knowledge to their advantage? A successful inbound sales teams will build a sales process that supports the buyer through their journey.

The four stages of the inbound sales process are Identify, Connect, Explore, and Advise.

  1. Identify. Identify strangers who have goals or needs we can help with. These strangers become leads
  2. Connect. Connect with these leads to help them decide whether they should prioritize the goal or the challenge. If it is, these leads become Qualified Leads.
  3. Explore. Explore the goals or challenges with the lead to assess whether the offering is a good fit for their needs, their context. If it is, then these leads become Opportunities.
  4. Advise. Advise these opportunities on the ways their offering is uniquely positioned to address the buyer’s context. If the buyer agrees that the offering is the best one for them, they become Customers.

Define the company that is your Ideal Buyer Profile

When you think ideal buyer profile your mind may immediately jump to the buyer persona. But the buyer profile is actually quite different from your buyer personas. Instead of looking at the people you may be connecting with within the company itself, instead, you should be identifying which companies you want to work with in the first place.

Identifying your Ideal Buyer Profile  is typically based on:

  • Industry
  • Number of employees
  • Geography

but may also include other company-level descriptors. These are companies that you can help with your product or service. Companies that are outside of this target should be ignored, as they are not your “best fit” companies.

When defining your Ideal Buyer Profile, ask questions like:

  1. Are there company sizes that are ideal, or not ideal? Do you define size as employees, revenue, customers, or another metric?
  2. Are there industries/verticals that are ideal, or not ideal?
  3. Are there geographic locations that are ideal, or not ideal?
  4. Are there other attributes of your buyer’s customer that make the buyer ideal, or not ideal?

As important as buyer personas are, they should not be confused with your Ideal Buyer Profile.

Create a Connect strategy that your sales team can follow

Your team must also have a process on how they execute the  Connect stage of the methodology.  Here is an example of that process:

  1. Define your buyer personas
  2. Define the sequences for each persona. Sequences are outreach strategies like the medium(s) that you will use to connect, time-of-day for the connection, how many times you’ll try to connect over what period of time, etc.
  3. Define the outreach content for each sequence. The goal is to support and educate them on the awareness journey and to begin to establish trust and thought leadership.
  4. Develop outreach content for these lead sources
    • Inbound leads. Accounting for the buyers’ interests in the connect outreach is the most important and most effective form of personalization.
    • Inbound companies. These are companies that show up in your Prospects report where someone has visited your website (maybe multiple times) and has not yet converted on one of your forms. There is a whole process for connecting with the right person at these companies.
    • Trigger events are things like new hiring, mergers, new products or service offerings, etc. Generally, these might all fall into company press releases.
    • Common connections. These are connections that are your own or are only one-step removed from you. Your own LinkedIn connections would fall into this category, as well as your sales person’s friend who works at another company that might need your product or services.
    • Non-traditional mediums include things like the prospect’s company has a blog, the prospect is active on social media, or conducting a webinar, or is hosting or speaking at an event.

Create the framework for an exploratory conversation

In the “Explore” stage of the Inbound Sales Methodology, you need to guide an exploratory conversation so that you’re in control, but your prospect feels like they are being empowered as well. You can make this process easier by having a framework for the exploratory conversation. This will ensure that you don’t miss details that are important in understanding your buyer’s context. It also provides a structure for communicating your prospect’s story back to them, letting them know that you heard them.

The exploratory call covers:

  • Challenges
  • Goals
  • Plans
  • Timelines
  • Consequences
  • Implications
  • Budget
  • Authority

The Inbound Sales Methodology covers every step of the buyer’s journey traveled on the road from stranger to customer, and each corresponding salesperson action. The new methodology acknowledges that Inbound Sales doesn’t just happen — you do it. And, you do it using tools that help you personalize the sales process to appeal to precisely the right leads, in the right places, at just the right time in their buying journey.

This blog post is part of “The Ultimate Guide to Lead Generation” blog series.

Larry Levenson

Larry Levenson

Larry is passionate about inbound marketing and is a HubSpot Certified Trainer. He's learned the "secrets" of leveraging HubSpot to make marketing hyper-effective and customizes that information to help our clients meet their goals. Larry lives in Prescott, AZ, and when not at work, he is hiking or hanging out with teenagers as a volunteer with Boys to Men USA.