Inbound Marketing came about due to a change in how people were buying. Rather than rely on companies’ sales teams’ words as law, consumers began taking the initiative to do their own research, to determine exactly which solutions they best felt would alleviate their problems before speaking to a salesperson.
So now that consumers buy differently, wouldn’t it make sense for sales teams to sell differently? It would. And as your company’s sales team focuses on its long-term goal of writing and implementing its sales plan, it should be sure that the sales practices it contains relate to how the customers of today buy.
The Rise of Inbound Selling
Inbound selling has emerged. And unfortunately for many traditional salespeople, it’s quite different from the traditional sales model. HubSpot’s inbound sales model, as seen below, works hand in hand with the inbound buyer’s journey, transitioning prospects through the stages of awareness, consideration, and decision, all the while working to support the buyer rather than the seller.
In building a sales process around the buyer’s journey, actions, and decisions, the selling company ensures that the buyer feels supported, but not trapped, at every step from awareness to decision. And in developing a sales team that is able to carry out these supportive actions at the appropriate times, the sales team actually helps the buyer and can assume the position as a trusted resource and advisor.
Traditional Salespeople vs. Inbound Salespeople
The greatest difference between traditional salespeople and inbound salespeople comes from their approaches to making the sale. Traditional sales teams tend to be sales-centric, focusing less on the specific needs of the buyer. In decades past, companies’ sales teams tended to focus on the products and services they sold, insisting that their products or services were best, end of story. Inbound salespeople, on the other hand, want to be sure they are selling the right product or service to the right prospect at the right time.
Think of inbound selling in terms of the four actions of the inbound sales methodology:
Rather than focusing on any prospect at all, your inbound salespeople should focus on those who will be helped by your SaaS, and those who are actively looking. Inbound sales is all about making contact with the right person at the right time, so be sure that your team is paying attention to where prospects are in their buyer’s journey.
Develop a relationship with the prospect. As opposed to the traditional salespeople who entered situations with the explicit goal of making a sale, your sales team should work to build a relationship. Engage with the prospects. Provide advice to the prospects. Pay attention to their interests. For as relationships are developed, so will be loyalty to your brand.
Don’t assume that an interested prospect is ready for a hard sale. In fact, don’t ever bring out a standard presentation deck. Leverage a prospect’s interest as an opportunity to start a discussion. You want your software to benefit them, after all, but how can it benefit them if you don’t yet understand their challenges? Take this opportunity to get to know them and their business and aim to truly understand if this sale would benefit all parties involved.
By this point, not only should your prospects consider your salespeople experts in their field, but they should also be viewed as respected and trusted advisors. Keep this relationship strong. When a prospect is ready to buy, don’t let this relationship go to waste. Rather, use the information that you have gained from what is most likely months of relationship-building, make your presentation resonate, and adapt your sales process to their buying timeline.
The Shift to an Inbound Sales Mentality
Let’s set the expectation straight right now: Shifting the mentality of an entire team of your company will not be either a simple or overnight change; in fact, this change could take far longer than you’d like it to. If it didn’t, do you think the traditional used-car sales sharks would still be in business? Probably not, but there they are.
But is it a worthwhile investment of time and resources?
Most definitely. Buyers have taken back the awareness and consideration stages of their buyers’ journeys by force, and, if anything, they are continuing to become more skeptical about the “free” resources that many companies provide. That being said, a legacy salesperson is not held with the same regard as they once were.
People no longer want to be sold to. They want a knowledgeable educator and a trusted advisor who is capable of adding value to their search. Using the inbound methodology may require your sales team to familiarize itself with new skills, technologies, and processes, but as the cultures of both buying and selling continue to shift, the ability to adapt is necessary for success, and this adaptiveness should be reflected in all of your sales team’s practices, from its long-term goal of establishing a sales process to its more short-term quick wins.