What Is Inbound Sales?
Inbound Sales is a methodology rooted in helping guide buyers through the sales process by understanding their unique challenges and needs. Inbound sales is meant to work in tandem with inbound marketing, and focuses on educating and supporting the prospect as they move through the sales funnel.
The typical inbound sales funnel consists of three stages:
- Awareness: The prospect becomes aware that they have a problem they need to solve.
- Consideration: The prospect considers multiple solutions to their problem.
- Decision: The prospect decides which product or service to purchase.
Contrast inbound sales with traditional sales, a discipline consisting of using outbound-focused tactics, such as cold calling and responding to RFPs, in order to win business.
Why Use Inbound Sales?
A company might opt to adopt an inbound sales process for the same reasons it uses inbound marketing. Not only are leads better qualified, there is a greater opportunity to capture the interest of prospects, and thus ensure that when they’re ready to buy, they’ll come to you.
One of the goals of inbound sales is to build relationships between your company and potential customers. If someone downloads a content offer or signs up for your newsletter, wait a few days before emailing them to see if there’s anything you can help with.
A 2014 study from InsideSales found that up to half of all sales go to whichever company was the first to follow up with a prospect, so perform due diligence to ensure that company is yours.
Creating Buyer Personas
One of the primary concepts in inbound sales is the buyer persona. A buyer persona is the name for a profile detailing your ideal customer’s decision-making process, the challenges they may face, and what their average day may be like.
Buyer personas are a combination of collected data and insights from interviewed customers and industry research, and are meant to help companies determine how to help the prospect address their needs.
As a purchase decision is often not limited to a single employee, establishing multiple buyer personas (one for each person in the chain of approval) is common.
Buyer personas are also very valuable outside of sales. They can help departments across your company better understand the problems that potential customers are facing, giving your company the chance to better serve them.
Ultimately, buyer personas provide a way to earn the trust of potential customers.
Finding What Works
If the inbound sales methodology has a weakness, it’s that it can take a lot of time to fully implement. Customers may be more qualified and willing to buy in six months, but that doesn’t address the revenue needs of your company today.
Outbound sales tactics may have a dramatically lower close rate, but those same tactics (like advertising and trade show attendance) are instrumental in getting the name of your company out into the world.
As inbound sales is predicated on customers coming to you, it’s likely that you’ll still need to engage in prospecting and other methods of lead generation before you reach the level of awareness necessary for all of your customers to come to you.
In order to discover the best process for your company, you’ll need to experiment and iterate. This may mean incorporating elements from both inbound and traditional sales processes. As the idiom goes, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” so don’t be afraid to be diverse in your approach for reaching prospects.