When we hear the word ‘inbound’, we instantly think of inbound marketing. The concept of inbound marketing was popularised by the software publisher Hubspot, a specialist in the field since 2005. Although it became widespread in France starting in the 2010s, inbound marketing has also been accompanied by its commercial counterpart: inbound sales, a way of steering a company's sales strategy in inbound mode.
What is inbound sales?
The philosophy at the core of inbound sales is that it is better to attract a customer without forcing a sale and without overexposure to advertising, simply by piquing their interest. With the proliferation of online content, buyers no longer need to contact a sales team directly to make a purchase decision. As such, sales teams must evolve and transform their entire sales strategy to serve the potential buyer, personalising the sales experience according to the context and the prospect.
The inbound sales methodology consists of developing a sales process that will help the prospect along the buyer’s journey (awareness, consideration and decision). Inbound sales is a sales methodology, but first and foremost it is a philosophy that places the customer, rather than the company, the salesperson, or the product, at the centre of an ultra-personalised sales process.
The differences between inbound sales and inbound marketing
Inbound sales focuses on prioritising the needs, problems, and goals of each customer. Rather than closing a sale as quickly as possible by pushing the customer to their limit, inbound salespeople take the time to meet with customers, interact with them and accompany them through the buying process. Analysing the buyer's online behaviour at the three different stages will help the salesperson provide a personalised solution to the customer.
The advantages of inbound sales
Inbound sales is the logical continuation of inbound marketing. What makes the inbound method so successful is this way of understanding the customer in both the marketing and sales departments. Bill Gates said that ‘the winners will be those who restructure the way information flows in their company’. And that’s exactly the point of inbound!
- More qualified and better-researched leads
- Costs under control: according to Hubspot, generating a lead costs 61% less with inbound marketing than with traditional marketing methods
- Monitoring and measuring KPIs
- Better collaboration between sales and marketing
- Increased perception as an expert in the market
- Tips and best practices for implementing an inbound sales strategy
Define your personas
Start by segmenting your target market by type of company, then focus on the profiles of the people you want to target. You can segment companies by industry, size or geographical location, and people by role, title, function or behaviour. Take a look at the people involved in the purchase. What are their roles? Are they the same from one sector to another?
Work on your buyer’s journey
Thanks to the buyer’s journey, you know why your customers buy. This journey is made up of three steps :
Awareness: buyers identify an issue or opportunity.
- How do buyers describe and learn about their goals or issues?
- What are the consequences of buyer inaction?
- What factors do buyers use to decide which objective or challenge to prioritise?
Consideration: buyers evaluate the approaches and methods available.
- What types of solutions do buyers consider?
- How do buyers learn about different types of solutions?
- What is the process by which buyers decide which solution is right for them?
Decision: buyers create a list of offers and choose the best one.
- What criteria do buyers use to evaluate the available offers?
- Who should be involved in the decision? How do their views on the decision differ?
- Outside of procurement, what additional needs (implementation or training) are there?
Share personalised content
Your goal is not to sell your product, but to accompany your personas through their awareness journey, and to educate them on their goal or issue to build your credibility. To do this, take an inventory of your existing content. Review the blog posts, eBooks, webinars, presentations and case studies your company has developed.
Align marketing and sales (sMarketing)
Selling is the responsibility of both sales and marketing, which should be under the same manager. With the advent of the digital age, customer journeys have changed a lot and salespeople are no longer essential to defining needs. Instead, the role of the salesperson should be tailored to the progression of the prospect along the journey.
- Qualification of incoming prospects: this task is carried out by market response representatives, who are responsible for identifying commercial opportunities among incoming requests.
- ‘Cold’ sales prospecting: this activity is carried out by sales development representatives, whose mission it is to detect projects with target customers.
- Sales finalisation: this is done by the account executive, who is more senior and whose job it is to finalise the sale (customer meetings, sales proposals, negotiations, etc.).
- Customer loyalty: a customer success representative should follow up with the customer once the sale has been made, to ensure that he or she is satisfied and to make additional sales.
Explore social selling
The aim of social selling is to use personal networks to sell, both online and offline. This approach also has a counterpart for buyers (social buying), which uses digital platforms for purchases. Sometimes sales take place even without the need for a salesperson.
Social selling includes a number of practices, such as identifying conversations in discussion groups, content marketing and storytelling (white papers, videos, infographics, webinars, customer cases, etc.). The first thing to do is to start with a digital maturity audit of your team, followed by an audit of LinkedIn and Twitter profiles. That will give you a snapshot to date, allowing you to set collective and individual objectives.
The role of marketing is then essential, as they will need to properly script conversations and storytelling according to the different social networking sites, and to deliver personalised content that generates inbound requests.