Whether you’re just getting started with inbound marketing or you’ve already established a consistent pipeline of inbound leads, getting your sales team on board with inbound methodology is a critical step in aligning your sales and marketing efforts.
After all, if your sales team fails to adopt inbound best practices, your hard earned inbound leads could simply be going to waste.
In this post we’ll address six ways you can encourage your sales team to embrace an inbound focused sales mentality and engage in more meaningful conversations with inbound leads.
1) Get everyone on board with inbound.
Often when organizations adopt an inbound marketing methodology, their sales and marketing teams become more closely integrated than ever before. As these two teams come together around one common goal -- to attract traffic, convert leads, and close customers -- it's critical that both teams understand how the inbound marketing methodology works, how it will impact their sales processes and strategies, and how the two teams will collaborate moving forward.
The Inbound Marketing Certification is a fantastic (completely free) on-demand course track that covers the basics of inbound methodology. We highly recommend that everyone involved in your inbound marketing strategy, including colleagues in sales and business development, complete this introductory training. With everyone on the same page you can collaborate in a much more informed and productive manner.
2) Clearly define your funnel & the ownership of leads.
As you are likely well aware, not all leads are created equal. Some leads reach a purchase decision rather quickly, some leads will never become customers, and some leads will spend months deliberating product features and pricing.
In order to focus your sales reps' time on the leads that are the most likely to convert into customers, put both marketing automation and internal processes in place to manage the lead follow-up.
As a team you will need to outline how you will aim to qualify leads throughout the inbound marketing process, define which type of leads should be nurtured via marketing automation vs. direct sales outreach, and identify what a hot lead looks like.
In general, most inbound marketing teams tend to follow a fairly similar model for transitioning leads from marketing automation to direct sales outreach:
Top-of-the-Funnel: Owned by Marketing
These leads are in research mode. They may have downloaded an ebook or whitepaper about your product or service category, but they have not started to compare one vendor over another. These leads can be nurtured through marketing automation until they show signs of moving further down the marketing funnel.
Middle-of-the-Funnel: Owned by Business Development
MOFU leads have typically shown continuous interest in your product or service and may have began to evaluate things like product features, free demos, and pricing. Leads that meet this criteria should be flagged for direct follow up from your BD team.
Bottom-of-the-Funnel: Owned by Sales
Leads that have reached the bottom of the funnel have typically visited numerous pages on your website, downloaded a wide spectrum of content offers, viewed your pricing page, and maybe even directly requested to speak with the sales team. Leads that reach this stage should be handed off directly to a senior sales representative to be closed.
As you begin to convert more inbound leads you will need to find the appropriate balance of lead quality vs. quantity that allows your sales team to consistently hit their quotas. If Marketing feeds the sales team too few leads, sales will blame their misses on a lack of leads. If Marketing feeds the sales team too many low quality leads, sales will quickly discredit the value of inbound leads altogether.
Clearly defining how you will transition leads from marketing automation, to qualification, and ultimately to direct sales outreach is a crucial step in optimizing your inbound marketing funnel. This pass of the baton is the most common place for sales and marketing teams to blunder.
3) Ditch the pitch. Instead, focus on providing value.
Besides basic contact information like first and last name, email address, and phone number, there is a tremendous amount of contextual lead intelligence being collected throughout the inbound marketing process.
You can gather a lot of insight based on the website pages that a prospect has viewed, the content they have downloaded, and the information they have provided. Using this insight sales reps can prepare highly tailored, solutions-driven call scripts and follow-up messages, even before they have ever spoken with the prospect.
For instance, an inbound lead followup message may sound something similar to this:
It’s Jesse from Kula Partners. I noticed you downloaded our ebook -- How to Create a Comprehensive Inbound Marketing Plan. I had a quick look at your company’s website and have a few tips on how you can make it more inbound focused. I’ll email you a few of these tips right now, but please feel free to give me a call if you’d like me to walk through them.”
In the follow-up email I will typically provide a few suggestions on how they can improve some aspect their online marketing. This might be a quick SEO tip, a way they can improve their conversion rate, or a link to another downloadable resource.
There are a few reasons why this is such an effective lead follow-up strategy:
- The followup message is very personalized.
- It is relevant to the actions they have recently taken.
- The message provides value instead of asking the prospect for their time or money.
- It is timely -- I try to follow up with inbound leads as soon as possible if not immediately.
- The message responds directly to known pain -- if they didn't have some level of pain they wouldn't be researching the subject.
- If you are tracking who opens your emails, you can quickly gauge a lead's level of interest and engagement in the sales process.
For most sales reps this is a big departure from the typical cold sales pitch. Instead of immediately trying to force the prospect into a qualifying call or make a transaction, the idea is to work toward becoming a trusted adviser.
4) Get savvy with social research.
While the lead intelligence gathered during the inbound marketing process will certainly help you identify a lead’s potential pain points, doing a little further research on the prospect's website and social media profiles can really help to focus your messaging.
Before I follow up with an inbound lead I like to spend 5-10 minutes finding out as much as possible about the prospect’s role and responsibilities. This initial research is as much out of respect for the prospect's time as it is for my benefit. Typically I try and answer a few of these questions:
- What is their role within the organization?
- How long have they been with the company?
- Who do they report to?
- Does their career history reveal any insight on their skill set?
- How did they find our website?
- Which website pages and resources have they viewed?
- How many times have they come back to our website?
- Do we have any common interests or connections?
When you make the first connection over the phone with an inbound lead and you have already done this background research, it’s much easier to gain their respect, capture their attention, and engage them in a meaningful conversation.
5) Arm your sales team with content.
Besides converting leads on your website, content can play a big role throughout the sales process. If you have the proper plan in place and you have created a solid collection of resources, your sales team can be using your content offers to:
- Gauge a prospect's level of engagement in the subject matter.
- Shorten the sales cycle by proactively addressing common objections or questions.
- Increase customer lifetime value by educating leads on the potential benefits of advances features or complementary products and services you offer.
In order to use your content offers to the full extent, your sales team needs to know which pieces you have produced, what issues they address, as well as how and when to use them in the sales process.
By providing your sales team with library of content offers, including a brief description of the content offer, how it is intended to be used, and who the target audience is, you will get your content in front of the right people at the right time. For example:
Role in marketing funnel: Top of funnel
Content format: Whitepaper
- Why inbound rather than outbound
- An intro to Inbound Marketing Methodology
- A brief explanation of the various digital marketing tactics involved with inbound marketing
- Marketers who are new to inbound methodology
- Director level and above looking for a quick but informative synopsis of inbound marketing
- Not necessarily involved in executing inbound marketing but interested in understanding the business strategy and potential results
Middle of funnel infographic
Content format: Infographic
- How we use various tactics to achieve big results
- Focuses on revenue and ROI rather than marketing metrics & jargon
- Highlights huge PPC cost savings and improved lead generation results
- Prospects who are evaluating Kula Partners vs a competitor
- Prospects who are asking why Kula?
- Prospects who are not seeing the PPC results they had expected
Role in marketing funnel: Bottom of funnel consultation
Content format: Free consultation + customized strategy document
- This is a customized strategy document
- The prospect will be required to attend a one hour strategy call
- The deliverable is an inbound marketing plan overview
- Highly engaged in the sales process
- Has decided they want to hire an agency to help with their marketing services
- We have established:
This library of resources could come in the form of a private internal only page or a public facing resources page.
6) Integrate your sales and marketing efforts.
Last, but certainly not least, your sales teams needs to have the tools to make this all possible. Your reps should know when leads are on your website, when they have opened emails, and when they have engaged on social media.
If you haven’t integrated your sales and marketing platforms, you're putting your sales team at a disadvantage. Here are a few apps, tools, and integrations that will help your sales team be better inbound sellers:
- Email Tracking
- CRM / Inbound Marketing Platform integrations
- Lead revisit notifications
- Social email plugins like Rapportive
- Social monitoring
As you adopt a more inbound approach keep in mind that the “inbound mentality” is all about providing value instead of causing interruption. Give, give, give, get. Forget about making “just touching base” calls and sending “just checking in emails” and start addressing your prospect’s pain points by delivering informative, solutions-driven content.
Originally published Sep 8, 2014 11:00:00 AM, updated September 08 2014