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How Inbound Sales is Transforming the Way You Sell

Every month, I get at least three to four calls from our internal consultants. They say to me, “Mark, I’ve got this great customer who is really on board with using inbound marketing. Traffic has tripled, leads have tripled… but there’s one problem. The customer’s sales team isn’t engaging with leads, and the marketing team doesn’t know what to do.” Salespeople are still talking at their prospects… and it’s not working.
What’s wrong here?


Traditionally, sales and marketing have been disjointed. Marketing sat on one side of the office, doing — as salespeople put it — “arts and crafts.” Creating content and visuals, planning for tradeshows, and making pitch decks. The sales team was on the other side, cold-calling and banging on the phones. This is old school sales and marketing at its core: buying lists, calling the C-suite, and hoping that out of the thousands of leads in the database a few would shake out and turn into customers. The problem is, this approach doesn’t work anymore. The buyer has control. In many companies, marketing has started to transform to remain relevant with this shift in buyer behavior. But sales has not. 
What’s the solution? Inbound sales.
Sales and marketing need to transform together to remain relevant in today’s buyer context. Here are four areas to focus on.
1) Transform the Way You Target Accounts
In outbound sales, the top of your sales funnel was filled with purchased lists of supposedly good-fit leads. Sales and marketing would blast that list with cold calls, direct mail, and SPAM email until 1% or so admitted they have the problem your company solves. Inbound marketing flips this Fit/Pain model on its head. Only people who are experiencing the pain you solve enter the top of the funnel. They wouldn’t have downloaded your ebook, read that blog post, or conducted the Google search if they did not have the pain.  
The issue is, not all these leads are good fits. Yes, some are mid-sized tech firms in the US. Perfect! But some might be Ph.D. students doing research, and your ebook turned out to be a good resource. They will never be a buyer. The key here is to filter the leads before you pass them to sales. If you generate 1000 inbound leads per month, 200 of which are a good fit, and pass all 1,000 leads to sales, they will be very frustrated. However, if you only pass the 200 good fit leads, sales will think you are the best marketing team in the world. They will ask your CEO to invest more in you. 
2) Transform the Way You Prospect Accounts
About 99% of the time, I get the same voicemail, every single time, from a company. That is pretty difficult to listen to. By the time that lead has gotten contacted from sales, he or she is already 57% of the way through the sales process, but a salesperson is calling as if the lead has never heard of your company before. When starting the prospecting process, sales needs to leverage the buyer’s context, who they are and what stage in the buying process they are at. 
There are three things you need to do to transform your sales organization’s prospecting:
Research your lead effectively – most companies are good at looking up the basics such as company website and press releases. However, this information does not tell us much about their context with your company. Research your inbound lead contact in social media to learn about who they are. What is their role? How long have they been at the company? Did they come up through marketing or sales or product? Who is their boss? Do they know anyone at my company. More importantly, equip your sales people with the intelligence about the lead. What phrase did they search on in Google to find you? Which blog articles have they read? Which emails did they receive and which ones did they open? 
Monitor the lead’s engagement with your prospecting — Whenever we announce big news about our company, I get loads of cold calls congratulating me on the news and pitching their product. However, when I visit that company’s website, open the email they sent me, or mention them in social media, crickets. If a sales person is about to invest weeks or even months in engaging with a prospect, they need to have the tools to know when the prospect is engaging with them. This includes knowing when a lead is opening your emails, visiting your website, or talking about you, your competition, or your industry in social media. If this type of engagement occurs, your team should reach out and ask how they can help. 
When it’s time to make the call, lead with the buyer’s context, not the elevator pitch – here’s an example: “Hey Anna, it’s Mark from HubSpot. I noticed you downloaded our ebook to get more leads from Facebook. I looked at your company’s Facebook profile and have a few tips on how you can make it more lead-generation-friendly. I’ll email you these tips. Give me a call if you’d like to walk through them.”
3) Transform the Way You Connect With Accounts
Old school salespeople are trained to call high with an elevator pitch. Obviously, they focus their pitches on the problems the C-Suite cares about – decreasing cost, increasing growth and profit margin. However, the direct contact in inbound leads is not always the decision maker. In fact, it usually is not. The decision maker delegates the research to someone on their team. When an outbound trained sales person calls the influencer with a pitch designed for the C-Suite, nothing resonates and the sales person thinks “this lead sucks.” 
In this situation, it is OK to still call the decision maker. However, the influencer can be used more effectively to get to the decision maker. If you do get the influencer on the phone, lead with their context. “Hi, Mary. I noticed you downloaded our eBook on lead generation through Facebook. What specific questions did you have?” Listen to their questions, help them, build trust. Once you have their trust, weave in questions about their company context. “Who asked you to conduct this research? Why? What does your VP care about these days? What did your CEO talk about at the last company meeting?”
Help them first and they are more likely to help you by providing more context about their company. You can earn a streamlined path to decision makers through this context and the relationship you have with the influencer. 
4) Transform the Way Your Prospects Perceive Your Salesperson
Make your sales organization human again.
Inbound sales gives you the opportunity to change the way prospects perceive your salespeople. Traditionally, salespeople have interrupted prospects, pitched their product, and closed hard. That doesn’t work anymore. Your prospects can get information about your product, competition, and price right off the website. Sometimes they can even buy the product off of your website. So why do we even need salespeople anymore?
Sales people need to transform to be trusted advisors. They need to help prospects understand how the generic value propositions of your company address the specific issues the prospect’s company faces. Here are two techniques to help sales teams earn that trusted advisor status:
Train your salespeople to experience their prospects’ lives. This helps them put themselves in their prospects’ shoes and know how to speak with them. For example, every HubSpot sales person starts their own blog, build a social following, ranks in Google, and runs an email campaign before they start selling. They really understand the day-to-day life of an inbound marketer.
Help your sales team build up their personal brand as a thought leader in your space. Make it easy for your sales team to participate in your blog, eBooks, and the social media conversations in your space. 
You know you’re successful with this transformation when selling feels more like the relationship between a doctor and a patient and less like a relationship between a salesperson and a prospect. When you go in to see your doctor and she asks you about your symptoms, you tell her the truth — you trust that she can diagnose your problem and prescribe the right medication. When she says, this is what you have, take these pills, you don’t say, “let me think about it” or “can I get 20% off?” — you take the medication! It’s no longer about interrupting, pitching, and closing. It is about listening, diagnosing, and prescribing.
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