The way buyers make decisions to purchase products and services has changed dramatically in the past few years—people are more educated than ever, and they’re typically turned off by traditional sales tactics.
The role of the salesperson has been transformed from product information gatekeeper to educator and advisor. Most people have answered all of their basic questions by doing their own research, so when they finally engage with a salesperson they want them to add value. They’re looking for experienced advice, deep industry and product knowledge, and personalized guidance from someone they can trust.
If you haven’t realized it by now, it’s officially time to change the way you sell and match your approach to the way people buy today.
Do You Have a Legacy Sales Team or an Inbound Sales Team?
Sales teams who refuse to acknowledge this shift in buyer behavior will quickly become known as legacy sales teams. These teams stick to processes and tactics that produced results in the past—even when their prospects are no longer responding and their close rates are falling.
Legacy sales teams:
- Cover up their lack of product knowledge or industry experience with a spectacular ability to BS
- Focus on features and benefits without regard for the customer’s unique challenges
- View sales as a numbers game, and try to jam as many people as possible through a generic sales process in the hope that a few will fall out the other end
- Follow scripts and playbooks designed around salespeople who don’t listen or can’t adapt their tactics on the fly
- Are comfortable with a low close rate—relying on volume to drive sales numbers
In contrast, inbound sales teams are highly focused on the buyer’s experience and context, and would prefer to engage in a more in-depth sales process with a select group of qualified customers to experience a higher close rate.
The 4 Stages of the Inbound Sales Methodology
Inbound sales teams follow a smart methodology to:
- Identify qualified prospects
- Connect with them authentically
- Explore their challenges
- Advise them on their decision
Legacy sales teams use a variety of methods to identify customers who generally fit their ideal customer profile, then begin randomly calling and hope they’ll talk to the right person on the right day when they’re experiencing pain about the problem they might be able to help them solve.
Inbound sales teams prioritize the prospects who are already in the buying process, and use intelligent tools to uncover clues about their challenges and interests. They work closely with their marketing team to understand their buyer personas and the buyer’s journey, and then design content that will help them identify prospects who are in the Awareness stage. Using a tool like HubSpot, they receive automatic notices when prospects are interacting with this online content, and they focus their efforts on people who are more likely to respond to their outreach.
Legacy sales teams work their cold calling lists using unscientific methods like, “Sort the list of companies in alphabetical order, and start with A.” They leave scripted voicemails with a generic pitch, and offer next steps without an understanding of the prospect’s pain or level of interest. If they do connect with a prospect, they try to quickly qualify for budget and authority, and spend little time listening or understanding the prospect’s plans and challenges.
In contrast, inbound sales teams only reach out to companies and prospects who have indicated a level of interest or awareness through their online engagement and interaction. They carefully research their prospects online using smart tools like HubSpot Sales, and develop trust by offering educational content that’s personalized to the buyer’s interests. They approach the connection stage with a “help first” attitude, and they view their sales process and templates as a framework to be customized instead of a rigid structure to follow at all costs.
Legacy sales teams typically launch right into presentation or demo mode as soon as they detect a tiny bit of interest in their product or service. They start pitching without understanding the buyer’s context, and follow a script that may or may not address the buyer’s pains or concerns. They’re committed to making the sale at all costs, and feel that they’ll minimize the chance of buyer’s remorse if they pressure the prospect into buying as quickly as possible.
Inbound sales teams view themselves as advisors—they’ll spend time exploring the prospect’s specific situation, are educated about how their company can help, and are committed to being brutally honest about their ability to help the prospect. They’d rather figure out why a prospect should and shouldn’t buy from them, and are willing to walk away if the prospect isn’t a good fit. They’re also willing to be patient, listen carefully, slow things down, and make sure the prospect is comfortable before continuing to the next stage.
Legacy sales teams use promotions and incentives to force a quick decision, and often try to close the deal before the prospect has demonstrated a willingness or commitment to solve their problems in the near future.
In contrast, inbound sales teams view long-term customer delight as the top priority, so they’ll spend time painting a vision of success for the prospect, and will help define a realistic timeline and budget for addressing their challenges. An inbound salesperson will help the buyer consider the pros and cons, weigh the available options, and guide them to make the right decision for their specific situation.
How to Get Started with Inbound Sales
Throughout the sales process, the inbound sales methodology is designed to continually add value, build trust, confirm the buyer’s commitment, and close the gap between the buyer’s current situation and their vision of success. It’s a powerful model that can help you sell more successfully to today’s buyers, but it’s not easy.
Transitioning to an inbound sales model requires a fundamental shift in your sales culture, processes, and tools. Seasoned salespeople will typically need to be trained and coached to embrace this new model, and sales managers need to identify new metrics and methods to measure success.
There are a lot of great resources out there to explore, including a new online training and certification from HubSpot. Here are a few ways to get started:
- Complete HubSpot’s Inbound Sales Training course and certification
- Read The Sales Acceleration Formula by Mark Roberge
- Talk to a Whole Brainiac about transforming your sales team into an inbound sales machine