Many people attribute underperforming sales to underperforming salespeople, but this is not always the case.
Oftentimes, sales people just have underperforming leads. If a lead is unaware or only marginally interested in your product, even the best sales person can't sell.
Sales efficiency will then suffer, confidence will wane, and the situation can quickly spiral to the bottom line.
But where do better leads come from?
Traditionally firms resort to “outbound” marketing: prospecting efforts like cold calls, interruptive advertising, and brute force email marketing (spam).
To increase sales, they think they have to increase contacts and to increase contacts they think they need to hire new salespeople, buy email lists, and pay for expensive television timeslots.
But the outbound marketing process has three huge problems:
- First, it is marketer and seller-centric (as opposed to consumer-centric).
- Second, it is expensive!
- Lastly, it is less effective and less efficient.
The inbound methodology is a better way.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound is a concept that refers to consumer-centric marketing, sales, and customer service in the digital space.
“Inbound” distinguishes itself from “outbound” by focusing on publishing content that consumers will opt-in for voluntarily rather than pushing content en masse in hopes that someone may be interested.
Generally speaking, inbound is a four step process:
Step 1: Attract strangers to your website by publishing exceptional and industry-relevant content they are interested in.
Step 2: Convert visitors to leads by offering “value for value” propositions.
Step 3: Turn leads into customers by nurturing marketing quality leads (MQLs) into sales quality leads (SQLs) - gradually introducing visitors to higher level, more sales-relevant content as they prove their interest by repeatedly opting in.
Step 4: Delight customers by utilizing closed-loop integration between your marketing and sales teams (SMarketing) and by aligning your team’s incentives around happy customers. Turn your customers into promoters by repeatedly over-delivering.
Inbound success is built around buyer personas.
Buyer Personas are fictional representations of your company’s probable customer.
Persona development focuses on things like common behavioral patterns, goals, “pain points,” and demographic information for the audience most suited to your product or service.
The goal of inbound is to “walk” your buyer persona along the three stages of the buyer’s journey: awareness, consideration, and decision.
The biggest problem with outbound marketing is that the majority of a sales department’s time and energy is spent pursuing potential customers that may not even be aware of the company’s product.
According to a survey Hubspot reported in 2013, nearly 80% of website visitors are not interested in buying a product when they first visit a site.
Another 16% are considering a purchase, and only a mere four percent arrive with intent to buy.
It takes time to travel the buyer’s journey.
Accordingly, it is important to focus our energy on providing content to people that are interested in consuming it.
Great content keeps website visitors coming back to your site time and again.
Integrating website diagnostics with specific types of content views and downloads allows the inbound team to segment leads into various categories.
Only in categorizing leads of various quality can the marketing team know confidently that they are handing off time-worthy potential customers to the sales team.
In the absence of sales quality leads (SQLs) the company’s salespeople are taking shots in the dark. Focusing sales efforts on SQLs allows a company to scale back on its salespeople by drastically improving the efficiency of those sales personnel that it does retain.
The difference maker is not so much the salesperson but the lead they are working. Starting with high quality leads “tees up success” for the sales department.
Similar to how bad leads can cause a downward spiral for the sales team, working from a baseline of high quality leads can have the opposite effect - higher confidence and ultimately, more conversions.
The days of unwelcome conversations, e-mail spam, and outbound sales calls are becoming extinct as the internet allows consumers to shop on their own terms or not at all.
Often, the fault lies not with salespeople, but with an outdated traditional model for marketing and sales.
Firms that insist on traditional inside and outside sales are fighting a losing battle and worse, it’s costing them big money to do so. Inbound is the cure.