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Inbound Sales – The What, Why and How

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Phani Madhav Chegu,

January 14, 2024

Inbound Sales – The What, Why and How

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The job of a salesperson is getting increasingly harder – a report published by Salesforce reveals nearly 70% of salespeople feel they’re facing a lot of challenges in meeting their quotas. Many leaders of sales organizations believe their teams are taking fewer risks than before and this isn’t helping resolve the problem.

So, how can companies remedy the situation? They need to make their selling process more customer-focused, and the best way to do this is to demonstrate the value they can create in an effective manner. Over the last few years, several organizations are adopting a novel approach known as inbound sales to showcase how their solutions empower the client to meet his goals.

Today, let’s see what inbound sales is all about and how it differs from the traditional sales approach. Then, we’ll also look at the benefits of inbound selling and various challenges in formulating a robust inbound sales strategy. Thereafter, we’ll examine a few key aspects that you must focus on to make the best use of the novel sales paradigm. Let’s begin.

Inbound Sales –  What Is It and How Does It Work?

As its name suggests, inbound selling advocates ‘pulling customers’ to a business. Prospective clients may reach out to a company after learning about how its solutions benefit them. The prospects may learn about the solutions by going through a piece of online content, attending an event (virtual or physical) or having been told by an existing customer – whatever be the case, a firm will not chase the customer but rather he’ll approach the firm seeking a solution. In most cases, prospective clientele fill up a form or ring up a representative to explain their requirements.

Many tend to confuse inbound sales with inbound marketing as both focus on demonstration of value to prospects . However, it must be remembered that not every lead acquired through inbound selling comes through a marketing initiative. In several instances, prospective customers may directly get in touch with an organization even when they’re not targeted by its marketing team – for instance, the prospects may find the organization while searching the web.

Let’s now move on to understand the differences between inbound and the traditional selling approach.

Differences Between Inbound Sales and the Conventional (‘Outbound’) Selling Approach

Both inbound and outbound sales aim to produce leads. However, the two differ fundamentally in the way they work – as we’ve seen earlier, inbound selling is primarily driven by prospects, who contact a business after learning about its solutions. On the other hand, outbound selling involves contacting potential customers through cold calling or e-mail. In some cases, sales reps meet prospective clientele using video conferencing tools.

Most inbound selling initiatives generate leads of better quality than outbound sales. This is because inbound sales help find leads who have a genuine intention to purchase your product – the leads have pre-qualified themselves by reaching out to your organization. Leads generated through inbound selling are usually well-informed about your solutions because they’ve already performed their research.

We’ll now proceed to look at the benefits of inbound selling.

Key Advantages of Inbound Selling

The major advantage of adopting the inbound selling approach is you don’t have to put in considerable efforts to find the prospective customer. Using a robust lead management tool and an automated lead routing process, you can access all information about the lead – e-mail ID, telephone number and the stage of the sales process he’s in. Most inbound leads are warm and have good knowledge about the solutions you offer, increasing the chances of successful closures significantly. 

An inbound lead convinced of your ability to help may try to explain the worth your solution brings to people of his company. If you receive a request for a demo or further information, it’s a positive sign indicating the company is genuinely interested in your solution. A few weeks ago, our sales team sent a detailed e-mail to an inbound lead explaining how we can provide the perfect solution to his specific needs. He was very impressed with its content and forwarded the e-mail to his CEO who telephoned our Director (Solutions), leaving us pleasantly surprised.

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Let’s now examine a couple of challenges you may encounter in using inbound sales.

Two Major Problems in Using the Inbound Selling Approach with High Efficacy

Considerable Investment of Time and Money

You can develop a solid inbound sales strategy only when you understand the needs of your customer thoroughly – this means you must perform extensive research on the requirements and create content frequently based on your findings (search engines rank websites that come up with informative content at regular intervals; if you don’t churn out interesting write-ups and videos, there’s a good chance potential clients may miss you.) This is where you’ll incur a lot of expenditure. You must remember even researching potential clients can take a lot of time and money. Many companies are outsourcing these activities to get around these problems but still need to commit financial resources and time to get the desired results.

Low Quality of Leads Can Sometimes Cause Problems

We’ve seen earlier inbound selling calls for demonstrating how you can resolve a business challenge effectively and this’ll make people who face that challenge approach you for the solution. However, not all people who fill up a form are interested in using the solution. Let me share the experience of one of our customers, a well-known manufacturer of industrial refrigerators. The manufacturing company published an e-book that shared practical tips on using the refrigerators in an energy-efficient manner. The piece of content was an instant hit, and the company could generate several hundred leads in a short time. However, a few leads proved to be completely useless – sales reps found out the e-book was downloaded by people of various organizations in its dealer network; these people used the information in e-book to improve their knowledge. As such, there was no chance of these leads converting into revenue-fetching customers.

Having looked at the twin problems in implementing inbound sales strategies, we’ll now try to understand the 3 components of inbound selling and what it takes to fully harness the immense potential of the novel sales approach to meet your marketing goals.

The 3 Elements of a Successful Inbound Sales Initiative

You must remember the process of inbound selling is made up of 3 major steps viz. attracting leads, nurturing them and converting them into revenue-fetching customers. In this context, it’s not much different from the traditional sales approach.

Let’s now see what it takes to perform each of these steps effectively.

Step 1 – Attract Leads with Good Content

A well-known sales guru once remarked effective content is the fuel that powers the growth of businesses in the digital age, and rightly so. Robust content marketing goes a long way in helping you get inbound leads. Each piece of content you create enables you to pique the interest of potential clientele in your solution. It’s highly advisable to begin your content marketing journey with a thorough analysis to determine the types of content that best suit your audiences, organization and product. Then, chart an appropriate strategy to take the buyer from the top of the funnel (ideally, at this point, you must focus on explaining what your solution is all about) to the bottom of the funnel (here, you should provide comprehensive information about the solution’s features and the likely cost implications in using it.

Most companies use the following types of content to attract leads.

  • Website-based content that includes product overviews, case studies, product demos and downloadable sheets that provide quantitative information about the benefits of using products
  • Blog posts that explain how various business challenges can be resolved and provide useful insights
  • Social media posts containing interesting videos, infographics, polls and other forms of content
  • Webinars that showcase thought leadership and enable prospects to reach out to sales teams; the focus of a webinar can either be a specific product or the key challenge(s) faced by an industry
  • Whitepapers that share comprehensive information to help potential customers make decisions about using a solution
  • Sponsored articles published along with content regularly featured in print or digital media
  • Digital advertisements aimed at specific groups of audiences based on their online activities

Make sure you align your content perfectly with the buyer journey. This can be done only when you have the complete picture of what your customers want. Once you have this, start creating content centered on the sales funnel and catering to each stage of the buyer journey viz. awareness, consideration and decision. Having said this, I must admit it’s often not possible to know everything about a prospective customer and the issues he faces. But you can certainly glean some insights by taking time to look at their LinkedIn profile and website. It’s also advisable to do a little research online to find out what’s being written about the prospect lately. You can also consider using paid services that utilize AI-powered tools to provide a much clearer picture of the potential client.

Step 2 – Engage Leads and Nurture Them Effectively

After you acquire a lead through inbound selling, you must engage him effectively and convert him into a customer. This begins with delivery of content tailored to his unique needs to address any queries or concerns he may have. You can then share product feature sheets, relevant case studies and client testimonials. 

It’s also a good idea to share whitepapers and video-based content to enable the lead to make a decision and provide information to other members of the decision-making team. You must keep in mind that the timing of these actions is extremely critical. While you shouldn’t flood the inbox of the lead, you must ensure your solution is on the top of his mind. Several organizations are using marketing automation tools to target potential clients across various channels such as e-mail, social media, Short Messaging Service (SMS) and so on to remain visible no matter where the prospects are.

Step 3 – Convert Leads into Customers

You can earn the trust of people seeking your company’s solutions and build strong relationships with them by supplying the right information in a timely manner. Salesforce Einstein Conversation Insights, a novel AI-enabled tool allows you to thoroughly analyze interactions with prospective clients to gauge the urgency of meeting their needs and identify their concerns. This’ll help you come up with an appropriate response to convince the prospects of the suitability of your solution, leading to inking of deals.

I’d like to conclude by saying proper use of cutting-edge AI tools coupled with a robust, customer-centric inbound sales process is bound to deliver success. At Solunus, our team of veteran technologists works with you to unleash the tremendous power of cutting-edge Salesforce solutions to provide a 360-degree view of your potential customers’ needs and maximize your selling efficiency. The team has rich experience in enhancing business workflows and developing solid reporting frameworks to facilitate effective use of data to meet your revenue goals.

Hope you liked this post. What do you think about inbound selling? Let us know your thoughts in the comments box below.

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About Solunus

Solunus is a leading Salesforce consulting company, based in Dallas, TX, USA. Our proven ‘needs-first’ approach coupled with our unrivaled expertise of the Salesforce platform enables us to provide the perfect solution to help you deliver delightful services to customers and achieve rapid growth.