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August 20, 2015 // 8:30 AM

The #1 Mistake Salespeople Make With Inbound Leads

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John McTigue recently interviewed my partner Rick Roberge and me, and this question came in about inbound sales: “What are the biggest mistakes reps make with inbound leads?”

While there are a lot of mistakes companies and salespeople make with inbound leads, the problems almost always start with the first engagement. After all, how you approach a lead is the beginning of the close.

But what is the most common mistake of all, and how can it be avoided? The number one mistake salespeople make with inbound leads is jumping into demos and presentations too soon.

Most salespeople tend to ask questions only until they find out enough to be able to present their solution. They talk about their own company and product more than they listen to the buyer’s understanding of the problem. However, the best presentations and demos have less to do with product knowledge and explanation and more to do with presenting the right information, at the right time, to the right person.

Salespeople who are always trying to close rather than understand if the prospect has a real problem they can help with will always take too big of a step with prospects. They also tend to “assume the sale,” as Rick would say. As a result, these salespeople come off to their prospects as pushy and aggressive and quickly burn through their inbound leads all the while saying “These leads suck.”

To fix this, salespeople must remember that it is not about them, their product, or how wonderful their company is. It’s about the buyer and their problem. Dig deeper with probing questions to uncover the real problem and the compelling reason the buyer has to fix it.

So if the answer to avoid the number one mistake with inbound leads is to ask more and better questions, which ones work best? Try some of these to start with:

  • How did the prospect find you?
  • What phrase(s) did they type into Google?
  • Who should be thanked for referring them?
  • What is their role in the company?
  • How did they get to this point in their career?
  • What did they do before?
  • What is their role in the decision making process?
  • Whose idea was it to start researching? Theirs or their boss'?
  • What happened that made them decide to start looking?
  • How are they solving the problem now?
  • Do they think they can fix it themselves?
  • What happens if they don’t fix it?
  • Have they bought this type of thing before? How did they do it?
  • Do they have a preferred vendor or resource?
  • Who else needs to get involved in the decision and when? What is their role?
  • What do they already know (as regarding the salesperson, the product, and/or the company)?

Does this mistake only happen with inbound leads? Unfortunately, no. The hard sales strategies and tactics of days past don’t work well with any type of lead anymore. Like it or not, the internet has changed the way people buy and will continue to impact buying processes.

No matter how they heard about you, buyers are going online as part of their buying process. It’s not really a matter of inbound or outbound leads anymore -- it’s allbound. So whether your leads are finding you at a trade show, from a referral, or online, salespeople are susceptible to the same mistake. The difference is that buyers no longer have to put up with pushy sales tactics. Salespeople are being forced to change and adapt, or become obsolete.

If you want to fix sales, fix the salespeople. If you don’t, individual salespeople's mindset weaknesses and skill gaps will scale throughout the entire organization, and eventually take a toll on customer retention.

Do you have a burning sales question? Send it to us. We will provide an answer, record it, and give you access to the library of recorded questions and answers that others have sent in.

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Topics: Inbound Sales Inbound Sales

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