When Outbound Sales Falters, Focus on Inbound Sales

One of the most difficult hires a small business owner makes is an outside sales person. According to Dr. Bradford Smart in his book, Topgrading, just 25% of all sales people are high achievers, which means 75% range from pretty good to bad. This challenge of identifying outstanding outside sales people has existed forever and today it’s becoming increasingly difficult to even find people interested in an outside sales position. So, not only is this role tough to fill, it’s exponentially more challenging to fill spots with outstanding producers. All this to say, your inbound sales efforts better be awfully strong, and when the consumer comes to research your company, you need a strategy for converting and nurturing. 
We’ve spent a lot of space in this blog writing about how marketing has changed. Well, so has sales. In fact, you could argue that an inbound sales strategy has become more vital than an outbound sales team.
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Think of yourself as a consumer. Do you research products online before reaching out to a sales person? According to HubSpot, 85% of consumers will thoroughly research online before they even make contact with a sales person. And more than half surveyed want to speak to a sales person after they’ve narrowed their search to a shortlist of options.
And still, a majority of businesses have not created an online experience that attracts prospective customers and provides information that will help them make a buying decision. Imagine if your company operated like a retail store and your prospects came into your business and there were no sales people "on the floor" to help answer questions and move people closer to a purchase. Chances are you’re missing out on some opportunities. 

"Inbound sales is a comprehensive strategy that blends psychology with technology and empathic human interaction."

So, in a climate where it’s difficult to hire outside sales people, more challenging to find excellent sales people, and an inside sales strategy is non-existent, where do you start to flip this? Here are some thoughts:

Answer questions with quality information

When people come to your website to vet your business, make sure you have authentic and relevant information to answer their questions. If you don’t have a blog, create one! It’s the easiest way to add this information without re-designing your website. 

“Sell” your valuable information in exchange for social currency

We all have information that we don’t want to “give away” online and would rather have prospects "talk to someone” first or “come in and visit” before sharing things like pricing, and product or service differentiators. The only problem is, these buyers may still be in the “research” phase. So, offer the information as a download on your website in exchange for an email address. Your best prospects will pay in social currency for information they covet. 

Follow-up tactfully

This is where your inside sales team jumps into action, tactfully. Once you have a new email address, one of your inside sales representatives needs to reach out to the prospect. How quickly this occurs in relation to the download event depends on the product or service you offer. Just remember, how quickly and the method (phone, email, social media) can either draw in the prospect or chase them away, so proceed thoughtfully.

Stay in touch

Once you have the prospect's email address, don’t be afraid to use it. In fact, be sure to check back with the prospect through calls from your sales team and with scheduled emails. Again, be tactful and deploy a marketing automation solution that will ensure that the right emails are going out at the right time.

Hire customer service professionals

We may think of our sales team as a mix of inside and outside sales people, however, more and more today, your  sales team should behave more like customer service than sales. Empathy may be the most important quality for this person; someone who understands where the buyer is on their journey and is able to help move them deeper into the sales process. 
Remember, this isn’t the inside sales team of the 1970’s and 80’s. Inbound sales is a comprehensive strategy that blends psychology with technology and empathic human interaction. For as complicated as it may seem, it’s really no different than the way business has been conducted for decades. It’s just a matter of understanding how to leverage digital capabilities to accomplish the same objectives.