Inbound Sales Process From Qualification To Closing

Inbound sales helps you generate high-quality leads already showing interest in your products. Here’s what you can do to ensure these leads convert into sales.

inbound sales process

We’re living in an information utopia. For every customer problem, a solution is waiting right at their fingertips— it’s just a search bar away.

Now, customers know exactly what they want. Sales tactics across all industries had a major shift. Instead of aggressively pushing products, we let our customers come to us.

This is done through inbound sales. It’s all about creating high-value content, offering solutions to pain points, and building relationships with our audience.

But how do we set ourselves apart with the internet congested with information? We’re here to help you get through that hurdle! In this guide, we’ll cover the following:

  • What are inbound sales?
  • Inbound vs. Outbound sales
  • Understanding the buyers’ journey
  • How to build your own inbound sales process.
  • Closing inbound sales leads.
  • Mistakes sales reps should avoid with inbound leads.

What are Inbound Sales?

“Build it, and they will come” is the central premise around inbound sales—letting customers come to you. In doing so, you’re attracting leads already interested in your products and services. So, how do we get these inbound leads?

You can use several strategies, but most revolve around content marketing. Some of the most popular inbound tactics include:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Social media advertisements
  • Pay-per-click (PPC)
  • Influencer marketing
  • Paid advertisements

The main goal of inbound sales is convincing your customers that your products or services are the ultimate solution to their pain points before ever hearing from a sales representative.

For example, if you’re selling gardening services, you could write articles about common garden issues. You post it on your website, social media platform, and in gardening communities online. It gets a bit of traction.

But, if people want in-depth information, your site offers a free eBook or infographic they can download in exchange for an email or phone number. From here, a sales rep can try to close a sale.

Are Inbound Sales Better Than Outbound?

inbound vs. outbound

Short answer—it depends.

You’d need both inbound and outbound sales to scale your business sustainably. Although inbound sales are great for finding interested leads, filling your pipeline could take a while.

You must balance your sales and outbound strategies like cold email campaigns. Both inbound and outbound strategies can even supplement each other.

For example, you’re sending a cold email to a prospect. But instead of asking for a meeting in your CTA, you link to an article you wrote about how you solved “x pain point.”

The prospect clicks on it, gets valuable insight, then gets interested in your other articles. From there, it’ll be easier to connect and personalize sales follow-ups.

Remember, there will always be cases where one strategy performs better. It's up to you to decide which one fits your business better.

Understanding the Buyers’ Journey

The buyer’s journey defines every inbound sales process. Here’s a look at the three main stages they go through before purchasing a product or service.

Awareness

During the awareness stage, potential customers can view your offerings through inbound content marketing campaigns.

These customers are trying to find the best way to solve their problems. Chances are, they’re considering several solutions similar to yours.

Consideration

Here, customers are comparing your products/services against competitors. They’re considering the pros, cons, price, and even reviews.

This is where inbound sales shine, as you can provide the necessary content to guide customers into swaying your way.

Decision

Customers have vetted their options at this stage and are ready to buy. Sales representatives should be able to easily address concerns of inbound sales leads and provide insight into your product's unique selling points.

Building Your Own Inbound Sales Process

inbound sales strategy

After understanding the buyer’s journey, we can confidently build a sales process around it. As a rule of thumb, your inbound sales process should support the buyer’s journey at every stage.

Supporting the buyer’s journey helps align all your efforts, from content marketing to closing the sale. To make your sales process, use the following framework:

Identify

Developing your inbound lead database is the first step of the process. Finding these leads becomes much easier once you establish a solid lead capture page.

You could also identify leads that show interest in your products via social listening, profiling, and using your ideal customer profile.

But, the priority should always be leads that gave their contact information consensually through a form field on your site (lead capture page).

Connect

With a robust lead database, you can start reaching out. Depending on your industry, you could start your outreach through social media or phone calls. However, the most consistent and professional approach would be through email.

Before reaching out, ensure that you’re communicating with the right person. Use your buyer persona to help identify the decision-makers you’re trying to sell to.

Explore

The explore stage helps you and your leads know more about each other. The goal is to build a relationship, understand pain points, goals, and offer solutions.

But to establish a strong relationship, you need to build rapport first. Doing so makes it easier to know the ins and outs of your lead’s organization.

Try to figure out their internal needs and time frames. Here’s a quick checklist you can use:

  • Does your product meet its internal needs?
  • Does your leads’ organization have the budget to buy your product?
  • Does their purchasing behavior align with your sales cycle?

Advise

The advise stage shifts the focus of your team from salespeople to advisors. Here, your representatives offer personalized recommendations, guides, or solutions to leads.

You must provide immediate value beyond offering generic information anybody can find online. Look into your leads’ unconsidered needs and how your products can be the solution.

Closing Inbound Sales Leads

closing inbound sales

Now that we’ve established a system for inbound leads, all that’s left is to close the sale. Closing inbound sales leads is easier since they’re already interested in our products.

But, if we’re not careful and become too aggressive, we can easily lose potential customers. To avoid these issues, here’s a quick guide on how to close inbound leads more consistently:

Research

Before doing outreach, invest time in researching each lead. Get to know more about them and their organization. You could already find a ton of information on sites like LinkedIn.

Even the most basic information can help you personalize your outreach. Plus, it's best not to prepare for calls or emails, so you’re not going in blind.

Quick Response

According to studies, vendors responding first to leads have higher chances of converting. Don’t make the mistake of waiting days or weeks to contact your inbound leads.

Automate your sales process and set up notifications and alarms so the relevant sales reps can get into outreach asap.

For example, you can send an automated welcome email after a lead downloads an eBook or case study from your website via a form.

Or, a sales rep can be notified and they can do a quick research on the prospect and send a personalized email themselves asking for a discovery call.

Ask the Right Questions

After setting up a meeting, ensure your sales reps know how to ask the right questions. Instead of pushing your product, make your prospects open up about their needs.

You can start by asking something like, “What motivated you to get in touch with us?.” Questions like these can sometimes get you all the information you need to help you close the sale.

When you ask the right questions, qualifying leads further down the sales pipeline becomes streamlined and optimized.

Qualify

Only some leads that get in touch are qualified to do business with you and vice versa. You need to consider:

  • Your prospect's organizational goals
  • Their internal pains
  • How their pains affect reaching their goals
  • Their timeframes
  • Budget
  • Who the decision-makers are.

If you’re communicating with someone in an organization that’s not the main decision-maker, you can ask, “Aside from yourself, who else do you think we need to involve in this call/email.”

Remember, most organizations have different stakeholders. Make sure you’re communicating and tailoring your sales strategy for each one. Once your prospects are qualified, prepare for the next steps.

Set Up Next Steps

Qualified prospects are sales-ready and primed for your account executives (AEs). Give a quick rundown on how your solutions address your prospect’s pain points and how they can help them achieve their goals.

Then, ask your prospect if it makes sense for them to process to the next step. When things are going well and there’s already talk about the next steps, always set up meetings on exact dates. If prospects say, “We’ll update you soon," try to get a specific date.

However, things don’t always go smoothly. You also need to learn how to handle objections. If prospects say things don’t make sense—let them explain why. You need to be quick in addressing these concerns.

But don’t make it feel forced. This is one of the most common mistakes sales reps make when trying to close a sale with inbound leads.

Common Mistakes Sales Reps Make With Inbound Leads

You can’t always guarantee a sale. But you can make closing sales easier and more consistent by avoiding these common mistakes:

Poorly Qualified Leads

Inbound sales are great for generating qualified leads passively. However, not all leads are created equal, and further qualifying and segmenting these leads go a long way.

This is why there should be an emphasis on making the most out of discovery calls. Sales reps must fully understand their prospect's pain points and if the product fits them.

If not, they’d just be wasting time. So, during those crucial first communications, ask the right questions and listen actively to qualify leads as best as possible.

Focusing on Leads Without Buying Power

Selling products/services involves communicating with multiple stakeholders, especially in SaaS or B2B. Even if you’re making good progress, it won’t matter if leads don’t have buying power.

You could hope the person you’re communicating with convinces their boss or other executives to buy your products. But, if you want to be more consistent, you must find these decision-makers asap.

Unfortunately, many sales reps spend unnecessary time and resources speaking to the wrong individual. You don’t want the conversation to end with “Love your product! Let me see what my boss thinks and I’ll get back to you.”

Talk with the final decision-maker before discussing quotes or pricing in this situation. This will give you leverage when negotiating.

Pushing Products

Inbound sales are about asking the right questions—not selling products immediately. You have to meet leads on where they’re at in their buyer’s journey.

Pushing your products, trying to book a demo, or scheduling a meeting too soon might come off as aggressive. Make sure that it's all about your customers, not your product.

The harder you push, the more resistance between you and a closed sale. But, you do want to stay top-of-mind. So, remember to send follow-up emails and nurture leads further.

Not Being Ready for the Next Steps

Don't let sale-ready leads slip right from your fingertips. This is what happens when you don’t have a system in place to secure deals.

You must be specific about the next steps when dealing with bottom-funnel leads. Clarify everything that involves the final quote, onboarding, and everything in between.

Send a friendly follow-up if a prospect doesn’t respond after your demos or when you give the final quote.

And if they don’t respond still, it’s best to remove those prospects from your list so you can focus on the next one.

You win some; you lose some. What’s important is staying consistent with your sales process and iterating on it continuously to improve and scale your business faster.

Key Takeaways

Inbound sales is an excellent strategy for generating qualified leads that fit your buyer persona and ideal customer profile. To make the most out of this sales strategy, remember the following:

  • Understand your lead’s purchasing journey.
  • Build your inbound sales process around the buyer's journey.
  • Do research and respond quickly when you get a new inbound lead.
  • Ask the right questions to further qualify the lead for the next step.
  • Avoid common mistakes like poorly qualifying leads and pushing products.

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