Article

Inbound sales: Meaning, steps, and proven tips to succeed

Inbound sales is a sales strategy meant to attract and retain high-quality prospects who want to convert. Here's everything you need to know.

By Donny Kelwig, Contributing Writer

Published January 28, 2022
Last updated March 8, 2022

The simplest sales are made when the customer already knows what they want.

Inbound sales are a unique way of selling to customers because the leads seek you out rather than getting roped into the funnel through cold calls or emails. This selling technique involves some extra effort toward the start of your sales funnel, but once you understand the process, it can become an invaluable selling tactic for your team.

What is inbound sales?

The main focus of most sales tactics includes reaching out to clients to convince them they need your product or service. But with inbound sales, the clients come to you.

By using marketing and advertising to target your clients’ needs, they’ll find the value in your product or service without direct contact from sales reps. Then, once the lead is interested enough to reach out, inbound salespeople are available to connect with them and learn more about their pain points to determine whether the company’s product is a good fit for them.

This sales technique gives clients a reason to buy before they ever hear from someone at the company. It also gives salespeople more avenues to guide their clients through the sales funnel, instead of pushing them through as quickly as possible.

Inbound sales process steps

Marketing obviously plays an enormous part in the success of inbound sales, meaning there’s a lot of upfront effort being made just to get people interested. But once a lead has shown interest in your product or service, your inbound sales team can follow this four-step sales process framework.

  1. Identify

    The first step is to identify your potential buyers. Prospects can come from sources such as website forms, referrals, and social media. These channels help give your potential clients a sense of what you can offer them, but they also show you who’s willing to take the next step.

    You should know where most of your potential buyers are congregating, so make sure your marketing team is targeting them there. Then, set up workflows that let you know the instant a prospect expresses interest from one of those sources. When you establish a line of communication, these prospects turn into leads that you can help on a more personal level.

  2. Connect

    A lead may have any number of reasons for being interested in your product or service. That means it’s your job to connect with them and learn more about the specific challenges they’re facing. You could research them as an individual or get a sense of their pain points by comparing them to others in similar positions.

    Are they struggling to keep up with their workload? Do they work in a field with a lot of information to organize? Are they underperforming in the workplace and need a solution? By finding out as much as you can about their challenges and goals, you’ll be able to point them to the product or service that will suit them best.

  3. Explore

    Just because you understand their problems doesn’t mean your product is the solution. Now that you have a sense of what your client is looking for, you need to explore the available options provided by your company. Without this step, you risk selling something that isn’t right for the client—which means that even though you closed a deal, you’re likely going to encounter an unhappy customer in the future. This could have negative repercussions in the long run.

    Establish a method for getting leads to explain their pain points in detail as well as a clear process for matching those pain points to a solution. In the exploration stage, make sure you’re not promising more than what you can deliver—even if it means the deal is dead. If your product isn’t the solution to their problems, there’s nothing more you can do for them. However, if your product can help them achieve their goals, you can continue to guide them through your sales funnel.

  4. Advise

    Once you identify your client’s pain points and determine whether your product is a good fit for them, you can begin to leverage this information to close the sale.

    This is where the extra effort from inside sales begins to pay off. When you begin a sale with a cold call and a sales presentation, your buyer finds it hard to identify with simple product descriptions and selling points.

    However, when you put in the research and find out crucial information about your buyer, you can properly advise them about which steps will improve their lives. By connecting their challenges to what your product has to offer, you provide more value to your buyer, and any closing techniques you use will become more potent.

Inbound vs. outbound sales

Outbound sales are a more aggressive approach to selling. It involves cold emailing, cold calling, and other forms of outreach that usually come across as annoying to the average person. These messages build client interest and make them want to learn more before they even hear about your product or service.

You can imagine this process as fishing without bait on the hook. It takes very little effort to get your line into the water, but once it’s there, it can be hard to find a fish that’s willing to latch on. Meanwhile, inside sales is more like fishing with bait on the hook. It takes longer to cast your line, but you’re much more likely to get an interested fish to bite.

Inbound sales make the process smoother once a client shows interest in your product. By specifically targeting your customers’ pain points, you can give them a more enticing offer and close a sale easier.

Companies can’t solely rely on one of these tactics alone, though. Inbound sales and outbound sales both have a special role, especially when you’re selling to businesses.

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Does B2B inbound sales differ from B2C?

B2C inside sales cater to an individual’s needs, while B2B sales require you to target the pain points of an entire team.

It isn’t that difficult to determine an individual’s needs. Sometimes you can intuit their pain points by examining previous clients in the same field or demographic. Other times, leads will engage with content that gives you insights into the challenges they’re facing. Therefore, B2C inside sales mostly hinge on how well you can connect with a single individual, which is something most of us do in our everyday lives anyway.

While B2C sales require only one signature to get started, B2B sales require a team of people to sign off in order to count the deal as closed. So if you’re selling to a business, you need inside information about the problems that the company is facing as well as insight into who will need the most convincing.

The Zendesk Sales Trends Report 2021

Sales organizations are increasingly turning to digital and remote-enablement technologies to deal with a shift in the market. Read more about it in the Sales Trends Report.

B2B inbound sales tactics involve marketing to a specific person or group of individuals who have buying power within the company. That could include executives, buying teams, or even CEOs. Once you have their attention, they can bring your value proposition to the rest of their team and urge them to buy your product or service.

If you’re using inbound sales tactics when selling to a business, your focus must be flexible enough to account for several opinions and priorities, while you only need to focus on one individual in B2C. But no matter who you’re selling to, don’t forget that the human connection is a vital part of the process. People in business still have professional ambitions and personal goals—and there’s no harm tapping into those when trying to sell to individuals within a business structure.

Inbound inside sales

Inbound sales relies heavily on connecting with your client. When you’re speaking with your client in person, you can read their facial expressions and listen to their tone of voice to help you tailor the conversation. However, inbound inside sales is a different story.

Inbound inside sales involves interacting with your client remotely. Whether you’re on the phone or on a video chat, you’re always in a different location than your client. These situations can make inbound inside sales more difficult because you don’t have the typical tools for connection that you would otherwise have in person.

Inbound inside sales professionals often make use of video functionality to add a more personal touch to remote sales. Now that more people are getting used to conversing via video chat, using video to build connections remotely has started a new wave of inbound inside sales approaches.

4 tips to make your inbound sales more effective

  1. Establish clear buyer personas

    Buyer personas are imaginary people that fit the ideal description of someone willing to buy your product. What do they want most from your company? What are their values? And most importantly, what’s the best approach to prove your worth to them?

    It’s critical to understand who your audience is because if you don’t, any attempted connection will fizzle. Do in-depth research on the type of people you’ll want to target and build a buyer persona based on those findings. Consider factors like what their job is, how big their company is, what goals they might have, and what problems they face on a daily basis.

    Once you have a strong sense of your ideal customer’s wants and needs, it’s time to figure out how to keep them interested in your solution.

  2. Guide leads through your sales funnel

    Most forms of sales involve pushing your client through your sales funnel as quickly as possible. That usually stems from incentives like monthly quotas—goals with dates attached that add on a little pressure. But there’s little need for rushing inbound sales.

    The lead has already proven their interest by coming to you, which means something is inspiring them to act without you doing anything. That doesn’t mean you can just sit back and expect the sale to make itself, but it does mean that your approach should be to guide rather than push. Pushing will scare away leads who like to act on their own initiative, whereas guiding them will provide a sense of control. You’re simply there to walk them through the steps if they have needs or questions.

    For example, if an HR representative expresses interest in your HR management software, there’s no reason to push to close the sale early. You’re more likely to close the deal by focusing on building a good connection, delivering all the relevant content they need to make an informed decision, and delivering carefully strategized touchpoints that don’t cross the line into pushiness.

    This is the perfect opportunity to educate leads about why your product or service solves more problems than anyone else can offer. Once they understand the value of your product or service, there isn’t much more you need to close the sale. You can even give them a demo or trial run of your product to drive home the overall value that you bring to the table.

  3. Determine who’s actually buying your product or service

    Your buyer persona is one thing—the people actually purchasing from you might be very different. Learning who your clients are isn’t an intuitive process, which means that besides trying to sell to them, you should also be taking steps to learn more about who they are and what they like.

    Examine your existing customer base and identify trends or patterns, especially among your highest-value customers. You may find that a large portion of your customer base has an interest in another area that you’ve never marketed to, which could open up a whole new territory for your marketing efforts.

  4. Personalize the buying experience

    Inbound sales is all about building a connection that leads to the resolution of your lead’s problem while also creating a healthier bottom line for your company. By doing everything you can to create a personalized and pleasant buyer’s journey, you can accumulate a happier and more loyal customer base, which is vital for growth and smooth business sailing.

    In inbound sales, the focus is always on the lead’s needs and challenges. That applies not only to the product or service you’re providing but also to how you close the sale. To personalize your approach to each lead, research every avenue at your disposal to learn more about them. Check out their social media sites, LinkedIn profiles, and other sources to uncover more details. You may find a piece of information that clicks the relationship into place.

inbound sales

Keep track of your inbound sales clients with a robust CRM

Juggling that much information—and then using it in a way that’s profitable—requires organization. Without a robust CRM to store, access, and share all that data, you’d be left to manually enter it all into spreadsheets.

With Zendesk Sell, you can keep accurate tabs on every aspect of your clients such as pain points, messages, and sales funnel positions—all in one place. You can also log and record calls to reference later so you’re never left relying on memory to call up important details.

Request a demo of Zendesk Sell today so you can seamlessly organize your information and build profitable relationships with incoming leads.

The Zendesk Sales Trends Report 2021

Sales organizations are increasingly turning to digital and remote-enablement technologies to deal with a shift in the market. Read more about it in the Sales Trends Report.

The Zendesk Sales Trends Report 2021

Sales organizations are increasingly turning to digital and remote-enablement technologies to deal with a shift in the market. Read more about it in the Sales Trends Report.

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