There’s plenty of data to show that inbound marketing -- when done right -- is a very effective way to generate leads. But for most clients, getting more leads isn’t the goal -- it’s just a means to an end. For your clients, the real goal (and arguably the only one that matters at the end of the day) is to sign more customers. More customers mean more revenue, and more revenue means growth. For the agency, the goal is also to help your clients sign more customers because more customers for them means greater client retention for you.

However, while the strategies you and your fellow agencies develop can greatly influence visitor-to-lead conversions, they have little ability to control or influence lead-to-customer conversions. At some point, the client’s sales team takes over and needs to close the deal. But unfortunately, many clients aren’t prepared to effectively work inbound leads, and as a result, those leads don’t actually turn into customers.

Inbound leads are not a slam dunk. In fact, closing inbound leads requires a completely different approach. In addition to fundamental sales skills such as the ability to qualify leads, ask insightful, valuable questions, and communicate a product or service’s value to the prospect, the most successful sales reps follow the inbound sales methodology and should be able to pass a sales assessment with flying colors. But perhaps most important of all, your sales reps must pay attention to prospects' digital body language.

What Is Digital Body Language?

Most sales reps are masters at reading body language. They go into a sales meeting and can tell, based on the way the prospect is sitting or their facial expressions, whether they’re likely to buy or not. Unfortunately, when sales reps first interact with inbound leads, they don’t have the benefit of being able to watch and observe the prospect in person. Instead, they have to rely on data to read the buyer’s "body language."

Digital body language is everything that prospects are doing online -- the sum of all activity undertaken by an individual, from page views to clicks to form submissions. Prospects might be able to hide behind their computer monitors and mobile phones, but their actions reveal key information about their interest and feelings. 

Think of it like their virtual facial expressions or posture. Sales reps need this data to accurately assess where the prospect is in their buyer's journey so that they can adjust their messaging and approach accordingly. 

Making the Data Accessible

The beauty of digital body language is that, unlike trying to read and interpret a prospect's physical expressions (a process that is highly subjective), digital body language can be objectively measured using data. With buyers spending so much of their time online, there is now a wealth of data available to marketers. By taking a look at just a few figures, sales reps can immediately understand where the prospect is in her buyers' journey, what she's interested in, and when she should (or should not) be approached by sales. Information like a prospect’s number of page views and conversions, the offers she is converting on, and the information she provides via conversion forms can be used to score and qualify leads.

Marketing automation and CRM tools make it quick and easy to gather the data needed. The key is that data needs to be made available to sales reps so that they can use it to read their prospects' digital body language and qualify leads.

And while making this available sounds simple, it's not. According to the 2014 State of Inbound Report, only 31% of respondents said they have access to their contacts' social media accounts, only 21% have access to their leads' website interaction histories, and fewer than 43% have contact information -- meaning nearly half of these respondents cannot even reach out to leads of their own accord.

The 5 Key Metrics of Digital Body Language

As an agency, you might not be able to sit in on your client's sales meetings, but you can ensure that their sales reps have the data and metrics they need to effectively read their prospects’ digital body language. Compiling this data -- and reporting on it regularly to sales -- is a good way to begin to bridge the divide.

Which metrics should you share with your client's sales team? Understand these five metrics to get started reading between the clicks:

1) Source of Leads

Understanding where leads come from helps inbound sales reps begin to determine whether those leads are qualified. Whereas direct traffic indicates that prospects have come to your site specifically, a visit from social media might just be due to an interesting article that one of their friends shared or via a LinkedIn group of which they are a member.

In addition to understanding where your leads come from, sales reps can use historical data and customer close rates by source to determine which channels yield the leads that are most likely to turn into customers.

2) Site Visits

Did a prospect view your client’s site just once? Or does she come back daily or weekly? Obviously, sales reps can interpret frequent site visits as increasing interest on the part of these visitors. Ensuring that your client’s reps are using an email tracking tool so they can be notified when a lead revisits the website is a good way to make sure the reps are aware of lead activity and can act on this information quickly.

3) Pages Visited

Similar to site visits, increased page visits can indicate increased interest on the part of a prospect, especially if prospects are visiting pages that indicate that they are closer to the point of sale. Examples of pages that bottom of the funnel leads might visit include those relating to pricing, content offers, or content on how to begin a relationship with your company. To make sure sales reps know when a lead is crawling your client’s website, consider building a workflow that sends out internal notification emails to reps any time a prospect or lead has viewed a certain number of pages on your site. (For example: We currently have this set up to notify us when a visitor has looked at 30, 60, or 90 pages).

4) Forms Submitted

Not only do the types and quantity of the forms submitted indicate interest, but when designed properly, forms should help your sales reps understand who these contacts are and what specifically they are looking for. Think of the information gained in these forms as a type of icebreaker -- a launching point for relationships with prospects.

5) Email Opens and Clicks

Knowing whether a lead is opening emails (and which ones they are opening) is also a good indicator of a person's interest and likelihood to buy. But opens aren’t enough. Having insight into what links prospects are clicking on can tell a sales rep even more about a prospect’s pain points and her stage in the buyer’s journey. Conversely, if a lead has opted out of email, that is a critical sign that she may not be a good fit.

Using Digital Body Language to Close Deals

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to how sales reps can use lead intelligence to read digital body language, there is also little doubt that reps should be using it to progressively qualify their leads. This is a key step in the inbound sales methodology. Only by examining the digital body language of a lead or prospect will a sales rep have the tools they need to effectively work -- and close -- inbound leads.

Using the data provided by your marketing automation tool, start by determining what the commonalities exist between the leads that have converted into customers. With a tool like HubSpot’s Reporting Add-On, you can easily determine how many times, on average, a lead converts on an offer before becoming a customer, what (and how many) pages on the website they view, and which channels (organic, email, social, etc.) have the best conversion rates.

Gather these metrics and review them with your client's sales team. Provide the reps with the data they need to read their prospects’ digital body language and have those sales reps test your theory. You should see lead-to-customer conversions increase and in turn, client churn decrease.

You can learn more about how Digital Body Language can help your sales reps improve their prospecting process and close more inbound leads in John Shea’s free Digital Body Language webinar hosted by the Inbound Sales Academy, the first and only inbound sales training program, teaching business how to sell the way that people want to buy. 

Do your client's sales reps measure their prospects’ digital body language? Let us know in the comments below!


Originally published Nov 17, 2015 9:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017


Marketing and Sales Alignment