Due to the proliferation of marketing materials on the internet, the modern buyer is no longer dependent on salespeople for necessary purchasing decision information. Inbound salespeople see the need to personalize the sales experience to the buyer's context.
Meanwhile, inbound sales teams recognize they must transform their entire sales strategy so they're serving the buyer.
Inbound Sales Methodology
Inbound sales organizations use a sales process that is personalized, helpful, and directly focused on prospects' pain points throughout their buyers journey.
During inbound sales, buyers move through three key phases: awareness, consideration, and decision (which we’ll discuss further below). While buyers go through these three phases, sales teams go through four different actions that will help them support qualified leads into becoming opportunities and eventually customers: identify, connect, explore, and advise.
It may be helpful to have a thorough understanding of how inbound sales differs from traditional sales, so we’ll discuss this below.
Comparing Legacy Salespeople to Inbound Salespeople
- Are unaware of which buyers are active in a buying journey
- Use cold outreach and lead with a generic elevator pitch to qualify on budget
- Transition into presentation mode when a buyer expresses interest
- Deliver the same presentation every time and offer discounts to motivate buyers to purchase on their timeline
- Prioritize buyers that are active in a buying journey
- Build trust by participating in the buyer's online conversations and lead with personalized messaging and advice
- Transition into exploration mode when a buyer expresses interest
- Personalize the presentation to each buyer and adjust the sales process to the buyer's timeline
Building a Sales Process Around the Buyer's Journey
To implement an inbound sales methodology, you need to build a sales process centered around the buyer’s journey and its three key phases.
What are the stages in the Inbound Sales model?
Buyers move through three stages during inbound sales: awareness, consideration, and decision.
During the awareness phase, clients identify a challenge or pain point that they are currently experiencing in their day-to-day lives that they want to find a solution for and what it might look like.
It’s essential to have a well-rounded understanding of your buyer persona when interacting with buyers in the awareness phase so you understand how what you offer addresses their needs.
In consideration, buyers understand their issue and want to find a solution. They pursue different avenues or offers that will solve their unique challenge.
As a salesperson, speaking to buyers in the consideration stage involves understanding the types of solutions a prospect may be looking to and the pros and cons they’ll weigh. In addition, you should understand how your offer sets you apart from competitors. Having this information makes it easier for you to present a value proposition when you connect with buyers.
The decision stage is the final stage, as a buyer has chosen a solution to their pain point that they believe is the best possible option for meeting their needs. If they choose your product, it’s because you’ve successfully connected with them, presented a value proposition, and shown them that your offer is the best fit solution.
As buyers go through the three stages of inbound sales, salespeople have four distinct actions that mirror the buyer's journey: identify, connect, explore, and advise. Below we’ll give a brief overview of each action and discuss what salespeople should do during each stage.
The 4 Inbound Sales Actions
Identifying the right business opportunities from the start is often the difference between a thriving business and a failing one. Knowing what to look for helps you create a predictable, scalable sales funnel, which is why it’s imperative to have a thorough understanding of your buyer's journey.
Inbound salespeople connect with leads to help them decide whether they should prioritize the goal or challenge they’re facing. If the buyer chooses to do so, these leads become qualified leads.
When exploring, inbound salespeople aim to learn more about their qualified leads’ goals or challenges to assess whether their offer is a good fit. During this stage, it can also be helpful to learn the other solutions a prospect is browsing so you can better present a value proposition that sets you apart.
When advising, your end goal is to convey to the prospect that your solution is uniquely positioned to address the buyer’s needs and help them solve their pain points.
Let’s discuss how the different inbound actions relate to the inbound buyer's journey stages.
What to Do During Each Stage of the Buyer's Journey
1. Identify: Awareness Stage
As a sales rep, being successful in this stage begins with acknowledging that most prospects are already in the awareness stage of the buyer's journey before they engage with you.
Given this, it’s important to:
- Conduct research: Leverage technology to help you understand more about your buyers, like setting up Google alerts or asking for introductions on LinkedIn. It’s also important to focus your efforts on active buyers.
- Prioritize active buyers: Active buyers should fit your ideal buyer persona and take action like providing contact information via conversion form, opening a sales email, or viewing product pages.
2. Connect: Consideration Stage
Inbound Sales leaves behind the tradition of cold calling and leaving voicemails with generic elevator pitches. Instead, when connecting with prospects in the consideration stage, you want to lead with messaging personalized to the buyer's context and what you’ve learned about them during the awareness stage, like their industry, role, interest, shared connections, etc.
When connecting, you should:
- Define personas: Understand the unique perspective of the individuals you’re attempting to reach. A valuable way to do so is to segment your market by the types of companies you regularly target and define the different personas of the different types of people you target.
- Define sequences for each persona: How will you reach out to prospects? Does your persona prefer being contacted by phone or email? How many times will you reach out before you give up? You want to develop a communication strategy for each of your prospects based on your understanding of who they are.
- Define content for each sequence: Buyers in the connection stage are fresh out of the awareness stage where they’ve just decided to pursue a solution to their needs. Given this, your goal isn’t to immediately sell them on your product or provide a demo. Instead, your goal when connecting should be to deliver the right educational content that will help them learn more about their issue and how it relates to your offer.
When you’re ready to initiate outreach, begin with advice or a surprising insight that directly relates to your buyer and is likely to capture their attention.
3. Explore: Consideration Stage
When exploring, you want to learn more about your leads, their challenges, and the solutions they’re exploring. After you’ve initiated a connection, guide an exploratory conversation that gives you more information about your prospect. You can:
- Tailor your focus to the prospects' challenge: People usually don’t make changes unless something impedes their process. Use the small yet powerful wording adjustment of “challenges” instead of saying “problems.”
- Connect goals with challenges: Ask prospects about their goals and what is standing in the way of them. Listen for an acknowledgment that they don’t have a good solution and are afraid they won't achieve their goals.
- Share plans that fit the prospect’s timeline: Introduce your product and clearly show how it can help the buyer solve their challenge and meet their goal. Ideally, you’ll have a value proposition that uniquely positions your solution against competitors.
- Discuss budget: The final aspect to understand is how much your prospect will invest in a new solution. Aim to get a well-rounded understanding of their budget and desired timeline.
4. Advise: Decision Stage
Traditional salespeople stick to a generic script and can fail to represent their offer as a solution to their prospects' specific needs.
Inbound salespeople speak to the prospect's desire to understand how your offerings will specifically help them with their pain points, not a general pitch. As an inbound salesperson, you bridge the bag between the generic messaging on your company’s website and the unique needs of your buyer. Here are some additional tips:
- Provide a recap of what you’ve learned: When advising, your conversations should begin by restating where the prospect is now and the insights you’ve gained from your earlier discussions, such as a challenge your prospect has or a goal they want to achieve.
- Suggest ways to achieve their goals: Craft a customized presentation that connects their goals and challenges to your offering and shows exactly how they’ll benefit from your service.
- Confirm budget, authority, and timeline: Based on what it takes to set up their account and implement your solution, work backward to determine when they need to sign your contract. Outline a timeline that meets the buyer’s deadline.
After advising your prospects, they should be successfully on their way to making a final decision.
A New Sales Methodology
The Inbound Sales Methodology covers every step of the buyer’s journey traveled on the road from stranger to customer and each corresponding salesperson action. The new methodology acknowledges that Inbound Sales doesn’t just happen -- you do it. And, you do it using tools that help you personalize the sales process to appeal to precisely the right leads, in the right places, at just the right time in their buying journey.