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5 Steps in the Inbound Sales Process

Chapter 2
5 Steps in the Inbound Sales Process

Today’s buyers are digital buyers. An estimated 2.1 billion people in the world shop with computers or mobile devices. What does this look like in practice? An estimated 87% of all purchases today begin with an internet search. Whatever you sell, your target market is online. 

Right now, they’re opening a search engine on their laptop or phone, about to type in a question.

Step 1: A searcher becomes a visitor

The inbound sales process starts with marketing. You can’t really succeed with inbound sales without marketing’s help.

(If you’re stuck thinking that marketing can’t really help you accomplish your sales goals, you’re in the small minority. According to LinkedIn, 87% of sales and marketing leaders believe that alignment between their teams is essential to business growth.)

It’s marketing’s job to produce the content that gets a searcher to your website. This means creating helpful, thorough, optimized content that answers the questions potential customers are asking.

So, whether your potential customer is searching Do I need nanny insurance? or What is managed IT services?, they end up on your website.

Step 2: A visitor becomes a lead

You’ve accomplished the first step. The potential customer knows your business exists — and has begun to connect your solution with his problem.

Next, the visitor must become a lead. This happens when they fill out a form to enter your database.

To get this information, you need to offer something in return. Chances are, this person is not ready to book a call with your sales team. But maybe they sign up for your newsletter, download a guide or ebook you offer, or sign up for a webinar.

Maybe it’s The Homeowner’s Guide to Foundation Repair or 10 Ways To Get Your Lawn Ready for Summer.

He downloads the guide, and you collect his name and email address.

Step 3: A lead becomes a prospect

Now the fun begins. A few things can happen once a visitor becomes a lead.

  1. Because he’s a known contact, you can track his activity on your site. You can see if he opens the emails you send. You can see if he keeps coming back to read content on a certain topic. Each bit of data gives you a better idea of his needs.
  2. You can score him as a lead. If you see he’s taken certain actions, he might be ready to talk to the sales team. You can determine what these actions are. He’s either sales-qualified or he’s not.
  3. If he’s not yet sales-qualified, you can enter him into an email nurture series that keeps him engaged with your brand, offering helpful or promotional content to move him closer to a future sale.

Start your lead qualification process by analyzing a lead’s engagement with your website and marketing content.

Here are some common factors that could indicate sales-readiness:

  • Viewing a high number of pages, especially recently.
  • Visiting specific pages related to a particular product or service.
  • Downloading free decision-stage content, such as demos, consultations, and trials.
  • Opening and engaging with emails.
  • Returning to particular pages multiple times.
  • Reviewing bottom-of-the-funnel offers, including consultation requests, live demos, and free trial offers.

A CRM like HubSpot allows you to track and monitor sale-qualifying behaviors that you choose and set up. You can use lead-scoring formulas to determine which leads get fast-tracked to your sales team.

Step 4: A prospect becomes a customer

When a prospect enters the inbound sales process, the focus should be on education. Unlike traditional sales, inbound sales is all about the buyer's needs and concerns.

You integrate your sales strategy with the natural buyer's journey instead of trying to work against it.

With inbound sales, you share all of your knowledge with prospects to help them make educated decisions. 

The inbound salesperson is seeking to earn their trust and respect, and ultimately, their business. Some businesses are uncomfortable with this strategy as it "gives away our secrets," but this is a misconception.

In today's market, transparency and information are in high demand and highly rewarded. If your brand is slow to adopt this approach, you will have competitors that aren't, and that's where your prospects will look instead.

Focusing on the needs of the buyer

With inbound sales, your reps always research leads before meeting with them. Your sales team should know exactly what pages of your site they viewed, which ebooks they downloaded, and which videos they watched. Before the first sales contact takes place, your team should have a good idea of what they’re struggling with and what they’re looking for.

As a result, the sales conversation should be totally different — focused on your buyers and their specific situations.

Not only is this a more personable and thoughtful approach to a sales strategy, but it just makes sense. By identifying the problems that your lead is facing or the goals they want to achieve, you can position your brand as the solution in your sales conversation. Without knowing this information beforehand, or identifying it early in the conversation, you can't set your brand apart as the clear choice for them.

Step 5: A customer becomes an ambassador

Your inbound customers have not been talked into buying. They’ve been guided through a process of education and transparency.

Their eyes are wide open when they buy, which minimizes buyer’s remorse and frustration. 

Your customers should be ambassadors for your brand. They’ve enjoyed the buying process because it’s moved at their pace and focused on their needs.

When someone in their network needs what you sell, they’ll recommend you. If they’re in a position to be a repeat buyer, you’ve got their business.

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