Digital Sales & Marketing
Digital Sales & Marketing
Close

Free digital sales and marketing courses

Immediately start seeing better digital sales and marketing results with dozens (and counting) of free online courses inside IMPACT+.

View all free coursesView all free courses

Digital Sales & Marketing World 2021

The premier, hybrid event for growth-focused business leaders, digital marketers, and sales pros. Virtual passes are free for IMPACT+ Pro members. In-person passes on sale soon.

Learn moreLearn more Watch past events on demandWatch past events on demand

Digital sales and marketing services

Discover the full array of IMPACT services, including inbound marketing training, web design, paid media management, and more.

Learn moreLearn more
They Ask, You Answer
They Ask, You Answer
Close

Free They Ask, You Answer course

Learn the principles of the They Ask, You Answer by taking our most popular course, taught by Marcus Sheridan himself.

Take the course nowTake the course now

Hire a coach

Turn your company into a high-performing digital organization with our flagship coaching program, Digital Sales and Marketing Mastery.

Learn moreLearn more

Case studies

See dozens of examples of companies succeeding with Digital Sales and Marketing Mastery and They Ask, You Answer.

View case studiesView case studies

They Ask, You Answer, the book

“One of the 11 Marketing Books every CMO should read.” — Forbes

Learn moreLearn more Buy the bookBuy the book
Virtual Selling
Virtual Selling
Close

Virtual Selling Mastery

Equip your sales team with proven methods to connect with today’s buyer, shorten the sales cycle, and close more deals, faster.

Learn moreLearn more

Virtual Selling Summit 2021

Your one-day virtual selling crash course! Today, sales reps are struggling to sell remotely. Learn how to close more deals in a virtual world.

Register NowRegister Now
Video
Video
Close

Free video sales and marketing strategy course

Zach Basner teaches you the fundamentals of making video for sales and marketing work inside your organization.

Take the course nowTake the course now

Video Sales and Marketing World 2021

Video Sales & Marketing World 2021 is in the works. In the meantime, enjoy the 2020 event on-demand - free for IMPACT+ Pro Members.

Watch past events on demandWatch past events on demand

The Visual Sale, the book

Learn how to use video to ignite sales, accelerate marketing, and grow your business in a virtual world in this book from Marcus Sheridan and Vidyard’s Tyler Lessard.

Learn moreLearn more Buy the bookBuy the book

Master video inside your organization

Video is a critical component of any high-performing digital sales and marketing program, and is a key part of Digital Sales and Marketing Mastery.

Learn moreLearn more
HubSpot
HubSpot
Close

Free HubSpot sales and marketing courses

Taught by Carina Duffy, IMPACT’s lead HubSpot trainer.

Marketing automation mastery (with HubSpot workflows)Marketing automation mastery (with HubSpot workflows) Inbound lead generation and conversion optimizationInbound lead generation and conversion optimization Getting started with sales technologyGetting started with sales technology

HubSpot Training Day

Following INBOUND 2020, IMPACT and HubSpot co-hosted a full-day of deep dive sessions to help HubSpot users get the most out of the new features fast! On-demand access is free for IMPACT+ Pro Members.

Watch on-demandWatch on-demand

HubSpot training and implementation

Maximize your investment in HubSpot's marketing, sales, or service platforms with guided training and implementation services.

Learn moreLearn more
Web Design
Web Design
Close

Website Optimization Summit

Learn how you may be unwittingly undermining the money-making potential of your website and how to fix it! Watch the opening keynote for free on-demand inside IMPACT+.

Watch on-demandWatch on-demand

Website design and strategy services

Get a beautiful, user-friendly HubSpot or Wordpress website that is easy to update, consistently generates leads and revenue, and grows with you.

Learn moreLearn more

6 Ways Selling to Inbound Leads is Different from Outbound Leads

6 Ways Selling to Inbound Leads is Different from Outbound Leads Blog Feature

Tom DiScipio

VP of Product, Speaker, 8+ Years Sales & Client Success Expertise

August 17th, 2017 min read

With greater adoption and execution of inbound marketing programs, organizations are supplementing their sales funnels with more and more inbound leads.

By definition, inbound leads are typically better educated on your product or service when the sales process begins. Before having raised their hand, asking to speak with your sales team, they most likely completed some form of research on how you can solve their most pertinent challenges.

One of the most frequent concerns I hear from marketers (and even sales folks, for that matter) is their deal progression or close rates are not stellar. Marketing expects more of these warm leads to close, and sales expects these leads to be more qualified so they can be closed.

When boiling down the many variables contributing to poor deal progression or close rates, the roots of the issue almost always are sales team members treating inbound leads the same way as outbound leads.

I’ll spare the discussion around the difference between the two, but the truth is that inbound leads require a dramatically different approach. Relying on standardized scripts and pitch tactics just doesn’t work to keep them as engaged as outbound leads, simply because they’re more educated, and therefore, have more control in the process.

Below I share six strategies we use in our sales process to advise inbound leads on how they can best solve their personal and organizational challenges.

These strategies are universal and can be used by any level salesperson within any type of organization to improve their opportunity to close ratio.

 

1. Have a Consistent Sales Story

One of the questions most often asked in the sales process is, “So… What do you do?”

In thinking about the answer YOU would give, think about how others in your organization might answer that question. Would the answer be the same or different than yours? Most answers will differ depending on who is asked.

While simple in concept, this is often where a company’s sales team fails to align what they’re saying (the sales story), and what marketing is saying (the value proposition).

The effect that the buyer might feel from hearing these different stories is the same one might get from clicking on a poorly performing Facebook Ad. It has compelling text and a beautiful image relating to something the buyer may have had their eye on for a while, but when they click through and get to the landing page to fill out the form, it doesn’t align with the original ad. A feeling of deception might set in. They’re just not going to convert.

According to HubSpot’s sales training, building an effective sales story means you’ve helped your buyer understand the following three things:

  1. The “Why:” The problems you address (why the prospect is talking to you) and for whom.
  2. The “How:” The solutions you use to address those problems (and the primary benefit).
  3. The “What:” The thing that makes you different than the competition.

Here’s an example of what an effective sales story might sound like with those principles in mind:

“We work with small to mid-size manufacturing companies who are looking to expand into international markets but are struggling to navigate the complexities of the localization process. We help them understand how best to approach and execute this transition with regulatory and localization strategies. We’ve done this before for other growth-oriented manufacturing companies and would be eager to share some insights with you.”

2. Use Questioning to Influence Behavior

Well-performing salespeople have a strong ability to help prospects understand that for their problems to be resolved, they MUST change their (or their organization’s) behaviors. After all, it’s why prospects reach out in the first place – what they’re currently doing hasn’t been working and they may not necessarily have a strategy (or the right strategy) moving forward.

I define “helping a prospect” as asking them the right type and amount of questions so they’re able to understand what they must do on their own.

A common fallback for salespeople is “telling” prospects why moving away from the status quo is necessary. I call this “defaulting to pitch.”

When was the last time you changed your behavior after someone told you to do it? As Stephen Covey would argue, real, lasting change happens from the inside out, not outside in.

Building trust with inbound leads isn’t about how much you know or how well you can communicate your product or service to the prospect. Inbound leads have already done a healthy bit of that research and are looking for a guide, not an audiobook.

Therefore, the foundation of any inbound selling approach must hinge on probing, thought-provoking questions that allow prospects to draw their own conclusions.

To do this, there are two commonly known, primary techniques that if applied, will help salespeople align better with how inbound leads want to be engaged.

The Five Whys

The Five Whys technique borrows a note from the playbook of the best salespeople/questioners on the planet - children! In an effort to understand deeply, children will continue to ask “Why? Why? Why?” until they’ve gotten to the root of their inquisition. Keep in mind, it doesn’t necessarily just have to be a “why” question - it should be phrased in a way that uncovers a true need.

In an example, IMPACT-style, sales application, it might sound something like the following:

Salesperson: “So, why did you decide to reach out us?”

Buyer: “We desperately need to redesign our website.”

Salesperson: Why do you want to redesign your website?”

Buyer: “Well, it’s not really on-brand for us. We just completed a year-long, internal rebranding project and this is the final piece to pulling it all together.”

Salesperson: “Oh awesome! So why else? Are there other reasons you need to redesign the site?”

Buyer: “I think performance is another important reason we’re undertaking this project. It sounds pretty obvious, but we’d like our site to produce more leads for us.”

Salesperson: Why is that important to you, or the company as a whole?”

Buyer: “Well, we just finished onboarding and ramping up three additional sales people, and they’re ready to sell! It’s critical that we’re able to leverage their capacity and build pipeline. We think the website has been an untapped resource for us up until this point and we believe it could be a better source of leads for us.”

Salesperson: How many leads do you think your sales team could handle? What objectives have you set around that number, if any?”

Buyer: “Hmm… great question. In our last meeting with the VP of Sales, she spoke of the ideal state being that each salesperson should be working X number of opportunities in any given week. If we were to work backwards on that, it means we’d probably have to generate between XX leads each week.”

Salesperson: “That makes good sense. So what do you think would happen if you’re not able to reach that lead goal?”

Buyer: “Tough to say exactly, but it wouldn’t reflect all that well on me since I’m owning demand generation here. I do know that our team is trying to invest more heavily in product R&D and not having the new business to support that would ultimately slow our growth there…”

The 3 Levels of Understanding

Using the “5 Why’s technique” is a lead-in to the level of understanding a salesperson can achieve with a given buyer. Reaching these deeper levels, positions the salesperson as an advisor and can create a much greater amount of trust on behalf of the buyer.

Looking again at the HubSpot sales playbook, there are 3 levels of understanding regarding the buyer’s true needs. Here’s what that looks like in context with the example above:

Level 1: Broad and Vague

“I need to redesign my website.”

Level 2: Quantifiable and Specific

“I need to create XX opportunities per week to make sure the sales team is operating at the right level.”

Level 3: Quantifiable, Specific and Personal

“Doesn’t look good on me because I own the department, and it reduces the company’s ability to invest in R&D.”

Digging this deep is crucial to identifying the true challenge that the product or service must solve for. At the same time, it creates a very personal level of awareness for the buyer that promotes the inside-out transformation they must go through to make a purchasing decision.

3. Make Them Talk 70% of the Time

In typical outbound selling, the salesperson speaks as much as or more than the buyer. This is generally due to the buyer’s lack of education around your company or product, which by default, turns the salesperson into a lecturer.

As mentioned above, most modern or educated buyers, however, have researched and discovered your company or product and don’t want to be lectured or “pitched to.”

In fact, the majority of these buyers (inbound leads) have more on their mind than you might think, and they want nothing more than to tell someone.

As a salesperson, it is imperative that the buyer is granted the runway to whole-heartily express their goals, challenges, plans, and timelines in great detail.

To do that, the salesperson needs to do two things:

  1. Default to questioning versus telling as mentioned in point 2.
  2. Several times throughout the call or meeting, mentally estimate the amount of time the buyer is talking in comparison to make sure the ratio is favoring the buyer’s time.

Encouraging the buyer to speak is mutually beneficial as it creates greater rapport, promotes empathic listening, and allows the salesperson to extract the juicy, proposal-winning content, which altogether, dramatically increases your chances to close.

4. Stay Away from Specifics (When Possible)

One of the major things that can negatively alter the course of the sales process is the transition from a high-level to a low-level conversation. In other words, the conversation goes from a discussion of the overall goals and vision for success (the “why”) down to the actual tactical or specific things that would be done (the “what”).

While digging into the tactics might be an inevitable part of a sales conversation, it’s important to be aware of the multiple challenges it might create for the salesperson:

  1. The buyer will begin to lose perspective of the overall reason they came to you.
  2. Tactics give the buyers more ways to compare to competitors line-by-line and buy based on price versus the total value of what is being sold.
  3. Decision makers don’t usually care about the tactics - they are buying the total business impact of the product or solution.

To solve for or even prevent these challenges in inbound selling, the salesperson has to be able to consistently tie the tactical elements back to the overall solution. This means when the buyer goes in deep on a specific tactic, the salesperson engages fully, then acknowledges those tactics from a higher-level perspective.

Increasing your sales conversion rates involves keeping the buyer in an objective or goal-focused conversation, which creates greater alignment between the buyer advocate (the person sales is typically speaking with initially) and the person ultimately signing the contract.

5. Don’t Sell through Email

One of the most detrimental activities impacting sales conversion is attempting to “sell” through email.

Salespeople who are typically accustomed to working outbound leads leverage email as the right hook - the one piece that will lure the buyer into bed, but even in outbound selling, email open, click-through, and response rates are decreasing as both inboxes AND buyers become smarter.

When working inbound leads, salespeople must use email for what it is: A correspondence and confirmation tool that can also aid in closing, but is not the conversion or closing mechanism.

Sales emails lack emotive context and can sometimes be seen by buyers as lazy or dismissable in comparison to other things in their inbox.

Consider the number of emails you receive in a day... Consider a time when you may have been involved in a buying process and the appreciation you had for a salesperson that chose to speak with you over the phone.

Increasing the sales conversion rates with inbound leads starts with this understanding.

6. Teach Them One, Remarkable Thing

Now, I’ve saved the best strategy for last.

Teach the prospect or buyer one, remarkable thing they didn’t know prior to the conversation.

Remarkable means they lean back in their seat, and say, “Whoa… I hadn’t thought about it like that before.” You know the reaction I’m talking about. 

via GIPHY

There is no greater catalyst for a prospect to build trust or confidence in a salesperson than that salesperson assuming the role of a mentor, coach, or advisor. It’s what will separate one salesperson from the three or four others the prospect is engaged with.

For the purposes of this article, I hope point #7 is the one thing you take away :).

Key Takeaways

Selling successfully to inbound leads requires salespeople to reevaluate their approach to the conversation. Educated buyers no longer have the same “need” for a salesperson and as a result, the role of a salesperson must change to a consultant or advisor.

At IMPACT, we’ve found that the 6 best ways to improve selling efficient and win rates are as follows:

  1. Have a Consistent Sales Story: Make sure the language and message to the buyer is consistent between marketing and sales
  2. Use Questioning to Influence Behavior: Buyers don’t want to be told what to do or why they should change. They need to figure that out for themselves. The best way for a salesperson to help the buyer do that is through questioning.
  3. Make Them Talk 70% of the Time: To the Buyer, it’s not a sales process, it’s a buying journey. Therefore, the entire experience should be about them - their goals, plans, challenges, and timelines. Salespeople - get them talking!
  4. Stay Away from Specifics (When Possible): When a sales conversation shifts into the specifics, it can become a rabbit hole that pulls the salesperson away from the main levers that help to close deals.
  5. Don’t Sell through Email: Email is, unfortunately, a place where important messages go to get missed. For the content and language that’s essential for moving a deal forward, salespeople should lean on direct communication.
  6. Teach Them One, Remarkable Thing: If a salesperson does nothing else besides bring the level of education of the buyer up one notch, it becomes a differentiating and winning factor for that salesperson.
Want to learn more about digital sales and marketing?

Master digital sales and marketing when you join IMPACT+ for FREE. Gain instant access to exclusive courses and keynotes taught by Marcus Sheridan, Brian Halligan, Liz Moorehead, Ann Handley, David Cancel, Carina Duffy, Zach Basner, and more.

Sign up for free
Take a peek

Access hundreds of FREE courses and keynotes

Free Course
Digital Sales & Marketing Framework for Today’s Buyers
By: Marcus Sheridan
View Course Preview View Course Preview
Free Keynote
A New Way to Compete & Win
By: Brian Halligan
View Course Preview View Course Preview
Free Virtual Keynote
How To Genuinely Feel Confident, Be Likable, And Build Trust On Camera
By: Liz Moorehead
View Course Preview View Course Preview
Free Keynote
The Future of Marketing is Conversational​
By: David Cancel
View Course Preview View Course Preview
Free Deep Dive
HubSpot On a Budget: Getting Started with HubSpot Starter Hubs
By: Courtney Caldwell
View Course Preview View Course Preview
Free Course
Assignment Selling: Content is Your Greatest Sales Tool
By: Marcus Sheridan
View Course Preview View Course Preview
Free Keynote
The Big, Bold, Brave New World of Marketing​
By: Ann Handley
View Course Preview View Course Preview
Free Course
Investing in Incredible Digital Sales and Marketing Results
By: Chris Duprey
View Course Preview View Course Preview
Free Course
How To Show Your Content Makes Money With HubSpot Marketing and Sales Hubs
By: Liz Moorehead
View Course Preview View Course Preview
Free Virtual Keynote
The Visual Sale
By: Marcus Sheridan & Tyler Lessard
View Course Preview View Course Preview
Free Keynote
Marketing Tech: What’s Now, What’s Near and What’s Not Anytime Soon?​
By: Dharmesh Shah
View Course Preview View Course Preview
Free Course
Inbound Lead Generation & Conversion Optimization
By: Carina Duffy
View Course Preview View Course Preview
Free Virtual Keynote
Fundamentals of Videography: You Can Be a Great Videographer Too
By: Zach Basner
View Course Preview View Course Preview
Free Deep Dive
The Ultimate Customer Service Toolkit for Any Budget
By: Andriti Gulati
View Course Preview View Course Preview
Free Course
6 Topics Subject Matter Experts Need to Address
By: Kevin Phillips
View Course Preview View Course Preview
Free Keynote
Fanocracy: The Power of Making Business Personal​
By: David Meerman Scott
View Course Preview View Course Preview
Free Keynote
The Power of Pillar Content
By: Liz Moorehead
View Course Preview View Course Preview
Free Keynote
SEO for the Future
By: Franco Valentino
View Course Preview View Course Preview
Free Course
Fundamentals of Social Media Marketing
By: Stephanie Baiocchi
View Course Preview View Course Preview
Free Deep Dive
A Practical Guide To Video Graphics
By: Colton Trcic
View Course Preview View Course Preview
Free Session
How To Get Your Community To Know, Like, And Trust You With Video
By: Marki Lemons Rhyal
View Course Preview View Course Preview
Free Course
Video Sales and Marketing Strategy
By: Zach Basner
View Course Preview View Course Preview
Here Are Some Related Articles You May Find Interesting

Want to Contribute Content to impactplus.com? Click Here.

IMPACT+ Sign Up
A FREE online learning community with on-demand courses, hundreds of expert-led sessions, thousands of your peers ready to support you, and much more.
Check it out
Hundreds of courses and recorded keynotes, completely FREE
Check it out
Access hundreds of digital sales and marketing courses and recorded keynotes, completely FREE