What are inbound sales?
Inbound sales is a methodology of allowing the customer to find you. You need to provide all the right support, information or tools to attract them and give them confidence in choosing you over your competition.
Thanks to the internet, marketing and sales have transformed from models based around direct selling to softer, more conversational and consumer-led interactions.
The buying behaviour of B2B consumers, in particular, has changed to reflect this. With the close rates on 14.6% on inbound sales, compared to a measly 1.7% of closed leads from outbound sales.
With the growing library of information available online, businesses who have not yet adopted an inbound sales strategy are shooting themselves in the foot and missing out on huge opportunities to make themselves available and approachable for potential customers.
Inbound sales vs outbound
Quite simply, the difference between an outbound sale and inbound sale is to look at who initiates the sale.
Inbound sales are a slower but more educational, informative and nurturing process. Guiding customers to make an informed decision that’s right for them.
Unlike inbound sales, outbound sales are more focussed on closing a sale as a priority.
Outbound sales are regarded more as an ‘old school’ sales approach, highlighted famously in movies like The Wolf of Wall Streets “Always Be Closing” or Alec Baldwin’s famous ‘coffee is for closers’ in Glengarry Glen Ross.
Although outbound techniques are mainly through cold calling, sales reps also use trade shows, company advertisements and outbound marketing to get prospects interested.
But plunging into the deep doesn’t come without its negatives.
For outbound sales to be successful, sales reps need to be initiating contact with a large list of potential prospects. This is why the sale conversion rate highlighted above is so low for outbound sales. You will contact a lot of uninterested people using the outbound sales approach.
How many outbound calls per day depends on your market and how big the potential prospect pool is. Successful sales reps will usually follow a script for outbound sales calls.
People can view outbound sales as annoying and pushy, especially if you’re on the unwanted, receiving end of it.
Now with the general data protection regulation (GDPR the new EU protection for consumers), it is now more difficult for companies to carry out traditional outbound sales without first getting permission from prospects to be contacted. If you do not ask permission to contact prospects in the EU you are breaking the law.
However, you can still use outbound techniques combined with inbound sales to effectively maximise your sales. We’ll talk about this later in the post once we’ve covered the steps for an effective inbound sales strategy.
How to create an effective inbound sales strategy
Create content that your audience desire
If you have not yet created your content strategy this is the first step to begin. Luckily, for you, we have already created an entire blog post series on creating a marketing content strategy and calendar that will allow you to deliver on the ideal content for your buyers.
Put your audience’s needs first
Instead of the ‘Always be Closing’ mantra, inbound marketing is more about ‘Always Be Helping’.
The essence of inbound sales and marketing is to provide as much knowledge to your audience as possible.
Everybody wins when an effective inbound sales strategy is in place. The downside- it just takes a long time to build up to be a reputable and trustworthy resource in the eyes of your customers.
It’s playing the long game but will eventually become an all-round winner for both you and your customers. Customers will choose you early on in their decision-making process due to you prioritising their needs before your own.
The inbound sales process
Below we have outlined an easy step-by-step process on how to complete an inbound sale.
As the inbound sales strategy is all about allowing the customer to come to you, it’s imperative that you make a personal connection with your prospect at the right time.
Step 1: Identify
Understand your buyer. To do this properly you need to know what challenges and problems your customers are dealing with. We recommend reading the following blog post on identifying your buyer’s persona here.
Once you know what they are looking for it’s time for you to create content around providing solutions for their struggles. But don’t just plug your product as the solution every time. Use a wide range of connecting topics to your niche to generate larger interest and show you’re not just a one-trick pony.
This is where you put out all your insider expertise and knowledge for your potential buyers to see. This is all about helping customers understand their problem by providing ample information.
Step 2: Connect
Connecting with your customers is an important step. This is where you can demonstrate your expertise by interacting to help customers gain more knowledge. Remember, Always Be Helping. This is the stage where you gain trust.
You can connect with your audience via Q&A sessions on social media, answer online queries, or even address the biggest questions consumers have in your niche in blogs or vlogs.
Providing opportunities to connect
You can inform and help your audiences with a blog, YouTube channel or social media page, but don’t be foolish by missing out on ways to capture the interest of your prospects.
Throughout your website make it clear where people can contact you. Make sure your website and social media is approachable for your prospects. Fill your website, emails and social media pages with CTA’s (call to actions).
This way, you are giving ample opportunity for people to contact you. They want to be kept in the loop by giving you their details, so do not waste this chance to make a connection.
It’s important to note here that in the connect stage, buyers often aren’t ready to listen to a whole sales pitch. They are just looking for more information with a knowledgeable person, so don’t go in too hard on first contact.
Step 3: Explore
After you’ve made a connection, you then need to explore with your audience to find out what it really is they need. Uncover their goals through a casual conversation. This stage you are gaining trust and digging deeper with the customer to find out what their problem is using information gathered from the identify and connect stages.
Step 4: Advise
If your prospect is giving you problems you can solve, then this is your opportunity to strike. If you see your solution as the best course of action to help the customer, then, by all means, advise them all of the best-fit solutions your product can provide.
It’s important in this stage to not take your customer for a fool. If for any reason your product cannot do what it is they are looking for, it is important, to be honest, and explain why your product may not be the best fit. But, you can always showroom for compromise and a method for working to make it fit. If you realistically have the ability to tweak your solution to fit the customer needs, then take the opportunity to explore these options.
Being honest about what you can and cannot offer your prospects is one of the most important things you can do. Even if your product does not fit their needs, they will gain an understanding that you are honest, professional and best of all- trustworthy. So if it doesn’t fit this time around, you can be sure if they need professional advice again, they will be coming to you.
How to effectively combine outbound and inbound sales?
The best-sellers are ones who can convince people they need to buy their product. Just like Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wallstreet, his sales skills are admirable. That’s because convincing people you have the solution to their problems is tough!
For you to maximise your sales you need to be using the soft, welcoming techniques of the inbound strategy. Then when the moment is right, to use the ‘gift of the gab’ to close a sale.
How to use outbound techniques within an inbound strategy
As initiating the first contact is now against the law in the EU, it can be difficult to properly build an outbound sales prospecting list. However, you can initiate calls or emails to prospects who have agreed to be contacted.
You will have seen this time and time again. You’re on a website and 5 seconds later there’s a pop up asking if you’d like to sign up for their email subscriptions for the blog, e-book, or free download for some kind of PDF.
But remember to keep the customer in mind, why would they give you their email address? Would you give yours out in a similar situation? Creating an enticing proposition takes careful thought and planning.
For websites which are of value to you, I bet you’ve plugged in your email address, giving consent to receive marketing and promotional material.
By having many opportunities for customers to give permission to be contacted you can strengthen your inbound sales with some direct outbound sales techniques.
Good luck on getting started with your inbound sales journey. Don’t forget to subscribe to our mailing list as we will soon be writing a post on how to increase inbound sales.